5 Ways to Be a More Conscious Traveler
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” -Miriam Beard
For the conscious traveler, one of the biggest challenges to overcome is justifying the carbon cost of flying. Planes are typically the fastest, most direct mode of travel, but they also expel more carbon into the atmosphere.
The conscious traveler, trying to be mindful of their environmental impact, may think it is best to stay home.
The truth is that there are many other carbon-reduction methods that are easier and more effective than canceling your flight. These tried-and-true principles are guaranteed to reduce your environmental impact and make you a more mindful traveler.
Based on the comprehensive carbon-reduction methods of Paul Hawken’s Drawdown, these five tips are more effective than giving up air travel and will guide you toward hotels and destinations that are working to actively improve the health of the environment. They could even help you change your daily habits for the better.
1. Turn Off the Air Conditioning
Tropical destinations are a popular choice for travelers, with sunshine and sparkling ocean waters serving as major attractions for most.
The problem with these locales is that their gorgeous surroundings come with a major drawback: high temperatures. Your response may be to sit back in your room and turn up the air conditioning, but conscious travelers should pause before they do so.
The truth is that air conditioning (also referred to on Drawdown’s website as “Refrigerant Management”) is a massive contributor of greenhouse gases—and reducing the use of air conditioning chemicals in favor of natural cooling methods is the number one ranked solution to reducing carbon emissions.
You can reduce your impact by turning off the air conditioning in your room, and many hotels are already working to solve this problem. Playa Viva, in Mexico, doesn’t have AC but instead creates a natural flow of air by utilizing the venturi effect to efficiently cool the rooms. If your hotel hasn’t caught up yet, turn off the air conditioning and take a dip in the ocean, or chill out in the shade while you listen to the waves.
2. Enjoy a Plant-Based Diet
It’s no secret that plant-rich diets are good for your health, but did you know that it’s fourth on Drawdown’s list of effective carbon-reduction solutions? According to Drawdown’s website, switching to a vegan diet could cut emissions by 70 percent, and even going vegetarian could lower emissions by 63 percent.
So what does your diet have to do with your travels?
By staying at hotels that serve vegan and vegetarian menus, you can easily reduce your environmental impact over the course of your trip. In Costa Rica, Finca Luna Nueva is a leader in organic, regenerative cuisine, proudly providing vegetarian and vegan meals for guests. As an added benefit, a plant-based diet is a guaranteed way to improve your personal wellness, along with the environment.
3. Help Girls Go to School
Have you ever considered the impact your education has had on your life?
Education is a powerful thing, even more so for underprivileged young women around the world. Drawdown’s website predicts that a combination of educating girls and providing access to better family planning will help to reduce the global population and enable women to be more conscious caretakers of the environment—thereby reducing carbon emissions by as much as 51.48 gigatons by 2050.
Keep this in mind when you pack for your next journey, and support hotels likePlaya Viva and Hamanasi Resort in Belize that have partnered with Pack for a Purpose. The organization makes it easy to directly contribute to the education of students around the world. All you have to do is make a little room in your bag for an extra book or some much-needed school supplies, and you can help ensure that the next generation of students (and girls in particular) have what they need to succeed.
4. Protect Undeveloped Rainforests
The phrase “Save the rainforests” has been chanted by activists at environmental protests for decades now, but it is no less relevant today than it was when the first environmentalists rallied behind it.
Though it is common knowledge these days, tropical rainforests serve several important environmental functions, beyond producing oxygen. Drawdown’s page on tropical forests states that “...trees, soil, leaf litter, and other vegetation absorb and hold carbon,” and that untouched rainforests are essential for “...supporting the water cycle, conserving soil, protecting habitat and pollinators, providing food, medicine, and fiber…”
Your role in this is simple: support hotels and resorts that do more than pay lip service to environmental tourism. Hamanasi Resort is doing just that. Situated in the midst of threatened coastal rainforest habitat, the resort not only preserves the environment to attract guests, they have actively worked to reforest previously denuded property. In Costa Rica, Finca Luna Nueva is also reforesting biological corridors to encourage the return of large mammals like jaguars to the jungle.
5. Grow Your Own Dinner
Beyond eating a plant-based diet, cultivating your own garden and purchasing local produce can make a huge difference to the environment. Supporting locally-grown produce and reduced food waste can massively lower carbon emissions, in particular because most food waste occurs at the industrial level, according to Drawdown. From vegetables that are deemed “too ugly” to be sent to stores, to an overabundance of produce that doesn’t sell, finding ways to grow your food locally and utilize what you produce is a step in the right direction.
Destinations like Ibitipoca Reserve in Brazil and Tranquilo Bay in Panama are dedicated to closing the gap between supply and demand. These locations create a delectable menu based primarily on what they grow onsite to minimize waste, and make sure they compost anything that goes uneaten.
During your travels, try to patronize hotels and restaurants that serve local food, based on what’s available seasonally. Not only will it taste better, but you can savor the knowledge that your choice is actively reducing carbon emissions.
Encourage more hotels to follow the lead of these resorts, by looking for locations that go beyond conserving the environment, to actively regenerating it.
As you move through the world in a more conscious way, remember that it’s not about being perfect in your travels, but making the effort to support businesses and destinations that share your values.