Over the years, sustainability has become an urgent issue for all of us to tackle. On an individual level, many people are already taking steps to reduce energy consumption. We install sliding doors and energy-efficient windows not just for appearance or security, but for thermal control.
But are you working on sustainability in every aspect, or practicing it selectively? A lot of people across the developed world continue to resist going green in many impactful behaviors. And travel is one area that could use further improvement; our trips, whether for business or leisure, account for 8% of global emissions.
Even though the pandemic has stalled the travel industry, the effect will only be temporary. Gradually, we’ll resume traveling one way or another. And when we do, it’s vital to come back with a different approach. Here’s how you can change the way you travel in the post-pandemic world.
Common best practices
Broadly defined, practicing sustainability is a matter of considering inputs versus outputs in the context of limited resources. It’s not a problem to buy hand-crafted products, for instance, because human labor is renewable.
However, once fossil fuels get involved, as they frequently do, the balance shifts. Not only are they a nonrenewable resource, but their consumption harms the environment. It needs to be offset or minimized. Similar issues arise when it comes to the sourcing of various goods you purchase or consume during your travels.
Regardless of the reason for travel, most travelers have some basic needs and behaviors in common. We need transportation, accommodations, food, and water. We visit specific locations and make non-essential purchases. Each of those areas is an opportunity for us to practice sustainability.
You might have limited options in some respects; for example, it’s hardly feasible to travel over land by horsepower or over water on a sailboat. But you can buy products that have been sourced, produced, and sold locally, minimizing the overall transportation involved. And you can book your lodging at green-certified hotels to reduce your impact.
The pandemic factor
These days, it’s impossible to discuss the travel industry without considering the implications of the pandemic. And while travel restrictions have lowered our carbon emissions and reduced our environmental impact, they have also created pent-up demand.
People have badly missed traveling during a lockdown. As many as one-third of Americans expressed intent to travel within three months of restrictions being lifted. Airlines, hotels, and other companies within the industry are offering significant discounts to entice customers back and make up their losses as soon as possible.
Travel won’t just come back sooner or later; it might surge in spite of lingering concerns about the coronavirus. How can this change affect our sustainable practices?
Early signs show that as people start hitting the road again, they are seeking out adventure experiences. Tying into this emerging trend can be a great way to practice sustainability.
It means going to remote destinations instead of major tourist attractions, and entails more personal effort; you need to hike up a mountain to enjoy the view. Adventurers are more likely to travel light and bring their own supplies, leave no trace, and take nothing but pictures.
As the industry seeks a return to normal operations, continuing to prioritize domestic travel and local experiences will also help. The option to camp out or rent RVs as an alternative accommodation will give you control over the matter of sustainable lodging.
Changing your focus
Eventually, however, full-scale international travel will return. And when it does, every prospective traveler should seek to question each journey. Is this trip essential?
Travel isn’t only an expression of our modern freedom, but a means of enriching our lives. It’s unreasonable to expect that everyone who can travel would deny themselves this pursuit. But our focus has to shift from quantity to quality.
Now might be the best time to start contemplating your bucket list. Are those destinations or experiences you’re dreaming of driven by hype or peer pressure? Evaluating what you’ve most enjoyed in the past can give you an idea of what kind of travel you should prioritize in the future.
With several top attractions now investing in virtual tours, people are discovering alternative ways to experience far-off destinations. Do you need to stand in front of a masterpiece in the Louvre? Perhaps visiting it on your device, while reading further about the artist and his works, will satisfy your craving for art tourism.
By emphasizing what’s truly essential, you can cut down on the less rewarding experiences. Combined with other best practices, you can make a big contribution to the future of sustainable travel.