Beta-Life Stories From An A-Life Future When It Changed Green Travel – Making Better Environmental Travel Choices

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Green Travel – Making Better Environmental Travel Choices

We hear the term “global warming” all the time. In recent months I’ve started reading travel stories about how Mount Kilimanjaro’s permafrost is melting, how ski resorts in the Alps are closing permanently for lack of snow, how glaciers in the Arctic are melting, how increasingly frequent and severe weather disturbances are disrupting tourism, and the stories go on and on. Some of these stories even encourage us to go now before some of these beautiful places are transformed or gone forever. Climate change is now a concern for world travelers.

Travel, of course, has environmental consequences. Long-haul travel involves the generation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with airlines being today’s most acute polluters. Furthermore, wherever we go, we consume food and other services and create waste. So what to do now?

As far as aviation emissions are concerned, there are some concrete things we can do. There are ways to offset greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel by purchasing trees that will be planted to offset these emissions. At Trees for the Future, your US$40.00 will actually pay to plant 400 trees that will help offset greenhouse gases. You also get a Global Cooling certificate and bumper sticker. On their website you can also see a list of partners, including lodges and bed and breakfasts that are powered by renewable energy sources.

The Rainforest Alliance actually provides a variety of information for eco-savvy travelers. They also offer tourism establishments a sustainable tourism certificate based on methods to reduce the use of water, energy and other resources and to improve waste management, handling and disposal. They even created a toolkit for best sustainable tourism practices available to small and medium enterprises in the tourism industry.

On their website, the Rainforest Alliance also advocates a number of general eco-friendly behaviors that we can all try to follow:

o Support the local economy by seeking out locally owned lodging and dining establishments, locally grown foods, and locally made goods and crafts.

o Sponsor green hotels that have managers’ programs that conserve water and energy

o Stay on hiking trails. Clean up your own dirt and dispose of waste properly. Keep distance from wildlife.

o Travel by public transport as much as possible.

o Avoid vehicles with two-stroke engines such as jet skis, scooters and certain boats, which emit large amounts of pollution.

o Be culturally sensitive to local customs, greetings, dress codes and eating habits.

o Treat others with the same respect you would ask for in your own community.

Other eco-certification programs for tourism operators and tips for eco-savvy consumers include the following websites:

– Terra Choice

– Green Globe 21

– environmental preferences

– Green Seal

– Global Ecolabeling Network

– Climate neutral network

Another interesting website is Future Forest: it advocates a “carbon neutral” lifestyle to neutralize our impact on the environment. Future Forest has been proving people with various environmental gifts since 1997. You can donate a tree, for example, for $10.00. You can even plan a carbon-neutral wedding with the forest of the future.

One neat thing about their website is that they offer a really cool carbon emissions calculator that lets you calculate your expected flying or driving emissions. I thought I’d check it out, so I entered some hypothetical data for a flight from New York City to London, England.

Immediately I found out that this flight would produce 1.22 tons of CO2. The calculator tells me that if I dedicate 2 trees, I can make this flight carbon neutral. Alternatively I would be able to provide 2 energy efficient light bulbs to a small community in the developing world. Both options will be £30. I also checked out their carbon emissions driving calculator. If I travel 400 km (250 miles) per week in a car with an engine size between 1.4 and 2 liters, I will produce 4 tonnes of CO2 per year, which would require 5 trees to offset.

In addition to planting trees, you can also buy “carbon offsets.” A “carbon offset” is actually an investment in a project or action aimed at eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. Offset projects are many and may include tree planting or reforestation, building retrofits (ie installing more efficient heating/cooling systems) or wind energy projects.

According to the Better World Club website, it works like this: You can book a flight through Better World Travel – members and get a free carbon offset for their US domestic flights ($11 value.) If you book a flight over the Internet, another Travel agency or airline, send them a tax-deductible donation to offset the CO2 emissions from your flight. ($11 for domestic flights or $22 for international flights.)

So the good news is that there are ways to balance our environmental impact even when we travel.

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