At a time when the ecological and social crisis is in a critical phase, more and more travelers are trying to reinvent their way of discovering the world.
While some wonder if it would be better to stop traveling completely or to privilege local tourism, others are trying to find solutions to compensate their carbon footprint.
But how to offset it? And above all, what are the steps to take to do one’s best?
Start by evaluating
It is necessary to understand that each object or service we consume, as well as its life cycle, has its own carbon footprint that will have an impact on climate change.
This is why, before being able to reduce and compensate the greenhouse gas emissions of an object or service, it is important to evaluate it first. This allows us to self-reflect and make better decisions when taking action.
You can calculate your daily consumption and/or calculate the footprint of a trip with the help of free online apps. Here are some examples:
Once you have gained some perspective on your own habits, you will be able to start making lasting changes.
Of course, as with any new habit, in order for it to take root over time, you should go at your own rhythm and step by step.
To help you, you can read the article ‘Successful transition to a healthy environment’ on our website. In the text that follows below, you will find all ecological concerns and tips to keep in mind when traveling. First and foremost, to reduce your ecological impact, start by traveling less and THEN learn to travel better, i.e., choose the train as much as possible, and when flying, choose direct routes and companies that have a real commitment to the environment (KLM for example).
To compensate, yes, but how?
Finally, the question of compensation comes to mind, which is very controversial.
Rightly so, since planting trees, for example, is an uncertain solution in the long-term. The urgency of the ecological crisis is a short-term emergency, but a tree will take between 20 and 30 years to grow if it is not torn down in full swing by a natural disaster. This is only one example of the many threats a tree faces. It is therefore very important to reduce our impact on a daily basis before thinking about offsetting it. There is no point in buying carbon credits if you are only going to spend four days in New York at a 5* hotel (which changes your sheets and towels every day and includes three spas) and take cabs between each visit.
So how do you go about it?
By financially supporting a greenhouse gas reduction or sequestration project, but not just any project.
To ensure that it is a good offset and not “greenwashing” (which is a marketing or public relations process used by an organisation to give itself a misleading image of environmental responsibility. Wikipedia), it is important to look at several factors:
- The project must be additional, i.e., it cannot exist without the financial contribution provided by the carbon credit and the emissions prevented cannot have been possible without this project.
- It must be measurable, i.e., the actions implemented must follow a rigorous methodology to quantify the amount of CO2 emissions avoided.
- It must be permanent, i.e., prove its efficiency for at least 30 years.
- The project must be verified to prove that the emissions are real and in accordance with the project monitoring plan.
To help you, here are some of the most successful ones:
As you can see, it is essential to evaluate and reduce one’s impact on a daily basis before considering offsetting and choosing the right place to invest one’s money in carbon credits.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AND ETHICAL CHOICE
A sustainable trip must be prepared in advance because the choices you make beforehand will last you throughout your stay. These choices must be made with a conscious mind and contemplation of the balance between individual well-being, ethics and personal resources. Keep in mind that you are doing your best and listen to yourself. You will be bringing back memories for a lifetime in your luggage, make sure they’re not restrained. Moreover, a healthy planet is the result of healthy humans, both physically and mentally. So, if you are feeling “eco- anxious” while preparing for your trip, remind yourself of all the things you are doing rather than focusing on what you are not doing or could do better.
Feeling ready? Here are a few tips to help you prepare and have an unforgettable experience that reflects your values.
The preparation of the trip
- Choose destinations with few tourists. Most places are not ready to receive so many tourists at the same time, and suffer extensive damages to the local ecosystems as a result.
- If you can, travel during the off-season. As mentioned, it is important for destinations to have fewer tourists at any given time. It will also be more economical for you.
- If you don’t like to plan your trip by yourself, work with a local agency. When a new land welcome you, it’s important to contribute to its economy as much as possible.
- Buy insurance with groups like World Nomads which donate funds to local charities.
- Choose an airline with a real commitment to the environment and prefer direct flights.
In the suitcase
- Get a filtering water bottle to save on plastic, plus you’ll save money in the long run.
- Also bring cloth bags, reusable straws, and a few garbage bags for your own, and other people’s trash.
- Choose non-polluting products such as eco-friendly sunscreens, solid soaps…
- If you are handy and a bit of a seamstress, collect fabrics to make tote bags and offer them to the locals you meet to raise their awareness.
- Travel light, the less luggage you have, the less polluting the flight will be.
- Avoid flying within the country, prioritize train, bus, carpooling…
- Challenge yourself by travelling on foot, by hitchhiking, by biking, and even tandem…
- Reduce your flights as much as possible, for example by traveling around your home or by reducing your habits (going away once a year or every two years).
- Travel longer if you can, adopt a slower pace of travel.
- Try home exchange. It is a very economical solution that will allow you to be part of a nice community, and your plants will be eternally grateful.
- Choose ecolodges (beware of greenwashing) rather than luxury hotels.
- Do some couch surfing. A concept that allows you to stay for free on someone’s couch, meet new people, and get access to the best advice from local inhabitants.
- Do workaway, woofing or eco-volunteering. This is the best way to enrich yourself, to contribute and to learn more about the culture of the country.
During the trip
- Save water, take cold showers if the climate permits.
- Reduce your waste, buy as little plastic as possible, use cardboard instead. When eating out, eat locally.
- Bring back souvenirs made in the country and encourage the local economy.
- Preserve the places, the fauna and the flora, pick up your waste and do not touch or feed the animals that you see.
- If you eat meat, do not eat protected species.
- Engage in ethical animal activities. Don’t ride on the back of an elephant for example, go observe it in its natural environment.
You are now ready for your next destination, don’t forget that you are doing your best, have fun and don’t hesitate to share your experiences with your friends and family, on social networks and to leave reviews online.
Extra Tips for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)Travel for people experiencing MCS can be a challenge. Planning in advance will help you find the healthiest accommodation, and greatly improve your travel experience.
What to ask for when booking a hotel room:
When calling a hotel to request accommodation, speak personally with both ‘Reservation’ and ‘Housekeeping,’ and stress that you are VERY allergic to perfumes, chemicals and mould. People don’t understand ‘sensitivities’ and may not take you seriously, thinking that you are ‘just sensitive.’
For maximum success, call at least two or three hotels and request the following:
- Look for a smoke-free hotel or a non-smoking floor. But be careful since smoke travels between floors and through the ventilation system.
- Even if you book at a smoke free hotel, you must still verify that your room has never been used by a smoker.
- Ask that perfume and air freshening dispensers be removed from the floor where the room is located at least one day in advance, if not more. Ask management to post a notice so that the next shifts of workers do not reinstall them.
- Ask for perfume and chemical-free sheets and towels. They must be washed several times in hot water with baking soda and a fragrance-free, eco-laundry detergent. Stress that you do not want any kind of softener or masking agent used and insist that the end product (sheet or towel) be odorless. Despite these precautions, bring your own sheets. Use large t-shirts over the hotel pillows or bring your own as a backup.
- Request that the room be aired out prior to your arrival. Make sure in advance that you can open windows for fresh air, especially if something is making you sick.
- Ask that all perfumes, perfumed soaps, shampoos, etc., belonging to the hotel, be removed from the room prior to your arrival.
- Ask that all robes or hotel clothing be removed from the closet and/or drawers.
- Ask the hotel to empty the fridge of hotel beverages and other products so that you can store your medications, supplements, etc.
- Ask them to remove all air fresheners from the room for a minimum of two days in advance.
- The staff should not use Febreze or any similar product to mask smells or odours, even if these products are supposed to be hypoallergenic, biodegradable, ecological and natural.
- Ask if there is evidence of mould in the bathroom.
- Ask if there are any water marks on the ceiling or the walls of the room or bathroom.
- Ask if pesticides have been used in the room and/or in the hotel. If so, which pesticide and when? And how many times.
- Have renovations been done, if so, what kind, when, and which products were used.
- Choose a non-carpeted room with wooden or ceramic floors. Be careful of floating floors that look like wood but have plastic in them. They emanate chemicals for a long time.
- Ask if you can see the room before checking into the hotel and whether you can cancel the booking free of charge if you cannot tolerate the room.
- For your safety, book a room at another hotel just in case this one does not work out – you can then choose the least toxic of the two.
- Call the hotel a few days before your arrival and confirm with the person who made your reservation and with housekeeping that the requested accommodations have been made.
- Be aware that in some areas of North America, bed bugs have become a serious problem in hotels.
HAVE A GOOD TRIP!