It pains our travel-lusting hearts to face the facts: no one is going to be traveling for quite a while. Coronavirus stay-at-home orders and worldwide lockdowns have changed virtually every aspect of modern human life. From the way we work our normal 9 to 5 to the way we keep in touch with family and friends, life is different. For anyone who had big summer travel plans, the disappointment and longing for normalcy is real. Most likely your days are spent staring at your refrigerator, scrolling through Instagram, and simply just trying to keep busy. For those of you who are scrolling through Instagram a little bit more than normal recently (and by a little bit I mean a lot) looking longingly at exotic locations that are a far distant dream, I have a suggestion. Maybe this period of time is a necessary pause; one that forces us to reassess and reevaluate what is important in our lives. I challenge you to take this pause to ask yourself how you will go green the next time you go on vacation. Even though you can’t put your toes in the sand just yet, let’s talk about ways explorers like yourself can soften your impact on the environment.
If you do a little research prior to booking your next vacation destination, you will discover there are a lot of resources out there to make better choices while traveling. For example, one of the staples of a vacation is purchasing a neat souvenir. But have you ever asked yourself what exactly was sacrificed to make those souvenirs? The true cost of a souvenir might shock you. A shell or piece of coral might look pretty on your mantel, but each shell taken from its natural habitat could have profound impacts on its surrounding environment. One pretty coral necklace might seem innocent enough, but the harvesting of shells and coral has been directly linked to a decline in marine biodiversity. Coral harvesting/poaching could cause these ecosystems to become extinct, resulting in thousands of species of fish and plants to also face the same fate. Devastatingly, reefs are sometimes blasted with dynamite to harvest shells and other wildlife. Therefore, collecting mementos from your favorite holiday destination might seem harmless enough, but this simple act of choosing not to buy will have a positive impact in the bigger picture.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, tourism produces 5% of the world’s carbon emissions. Ultimately, the greenest way to travel is not to. But the truth is that is not going to happen for the majority of people, and that’s okay. The next way to travel responsibly is to look out for certain labels. The Environmental Protection Agency’s program called Energy Star scores hotels on their energy efficiency. Each hotel has to submit a year’s worth of verified energy bills for review. To get their badge of approval, hotels have to meet minimum standards such as and recycling,linen-reuse, and to educate their guests about their practices. There is also something called Ecotel which is an independent environmental rating system for hotels worldwide. Ecotel sets the standard for waste, energy, and water management. The American Hotel & Motel Association stresses water and energy conservation and aims to raise consumer awareness.
As you can see, there are many options readily available at your fingertips to travel more sustainably. While you daydream your next vacation look into some of these options. Remember to take on the challenge, ask yourself which of these options (or the multitude of others out there) you can take with you on your next vacation. Wishing you safe and sustainable travels!