Courtesy of Tim Higgs
You’re entering the summer travel season and you’re thinking of getting yourself lost in a wilderness of beaches, beers (or other more tropical drinks if that’s your thing) and beautiful sights and sounds.
Who can blame you? I myself am planning my very first trip to the Philippines for this June.
Great controversy has arisen over travel as a source of great pollution, but it needn’t be so black and white. There are a number of things you probably already do at home that simply need to be added to your list of considerations while on vacation.
After all, it would be foolish of us to assume that you, an expatriate, would simply give up traveling because we say so. Nope, not realistic, so here’s some ways to make your traveling experience better for your soul and mother earth:
Choose companies you purchase from wisely. It’s always a good idea to support local economies. They are more connected to the environment and the money you spend goes directly to the people you’re meeting. That being said, please try to ensure that the companies you choose to give your money are worthy of your money.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do they litter like we’ve all seen some Taiwanese companies do?
Do they take local wildlife into consideration?
Are they friendly and open to learning from you as much as you would like to learn from them?
International companies sometimes are good for the simple fact that they’re held to international standards. You know you’re intelligent, think it through and strike your own balance.
Hosteling International, perhaps the best known hostel company has its own environmental charter adherence to this charter varies by country, but at least there is a stated quality standard set out by the company. Any violations can be reported to head office.
When choosing a tour group, opt for Eco Tourism operators wherever possible. These are groups that make it their specific focus to make YOUR visit less of an impact on THEIR environment. Something worth paying for and often just as cheap (in not cheaper) than most other tour operators.
Mode of transportation.
We all know how crappy flying is for the environment, but living on an island that’s more than a day’s ferry ride from the next country means it’s nearly a necessity. It sucks, but it doesn’t have to completely suck.
When you’re in a country choose train or bus over flying when you’re going between regions. It’s slower, yes, but you experience significantly more of the country than you would flying over it.
When traveling in the city, use the public transit or try renting a bicycle. It makes for a much healthier and adventuresome vacation, PLUS, you actually get to know the city you’re staying in instead of relying on psychotic taxi drivers.
If you need to fly, the least you can do is pay to offset your carbon footprint. A few airlines, like British Air, are making this an option during ticket purchase, but most you have to seek out an offset company by yourself.
If you’d like to help out Taiwan you can offset at Climate Neutral Group. They’re currently helping with a wind energy project in the north east of Taiwan. Offsetting with them will help invest in Taiwan’s shift to green energy.
If you want to choose from a broader range of locations (like your home country) then go to the Carbon Offset Projects homepage. Here you can choose projects all over the world you can learn about and know where your offset dollars are going to help. This site also offers a ranking system so you can know how reliable the company is that you’re sending your money to. Very important when you’re paying for peace of mind.
Again, offsetting is not a solution. But it’s an excellent way to give a boost to the development of green business. The only permanent solution would be a permanent change of behavior and infrastructure.
Aside from the above, you’ve probably also developed your good habits enough that all you need to do is export them to the country your visiting.
Don’t litter, buy recyclable products where possible, bring your own chopsticks, and don’t waste other people’s energy just because you’re not paying for it.
In fact, try picking up a little bit of garbage while locals are watching and sit back as their impression of foreigners changes right before your eyes!
Be a good citizen of the planet, no matter which country you’re in and you’ll feel much better about your adventure!