For many of us, travelling is about enjoyment, recreation and freedom from structures and regulations. Holidays take us to very special places, but our enjoyment brings with it a responsibility; we need to be aware of the affect our actions have on our fragile environment, not just during travel, but also at the office and at home.
A dilemma for all of us is the negative impact on the environment from aeroplane and car emissions. However, it is difficult to travel and explore our wonderful world without cars and planes.
Take action: buy carbon offsets
Carbon offsets are becoming an increasingly popular way for individuals and businesses to participate in solutions to global warming. The basic idea of a carbon offset is to calculate your personal contribution level to the global warming problem from such activities as flying or driving. This contribution is called a carbon footprint.
You can balance out your carbon footprint by contributing to emission reduction projects and offset your share of the carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming) emitted from your flight or car journey by reducing the amount emitted elsewhere.
Your purchase pays for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through projects such as tree planting schemes to recreate natural forests and prevent deforestation; renewable energy projects, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and biofuel; energy conservation projects aimed at reducing the overall demand for energy and methane projects, using the methane from farms, landfills and other industrial waste to create energy. By funding these reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, you balance out, or offset, your own impact by an equivalent amount. Carbon offsets help you take personal responsibility for the environmental consequences of your travel activities.
Please consider compensating for the carbon emission of your flight and car by donating to a carbon offset scheme such as: The Carbon Neutral Company
TouchingNature.co.uk is a member of Sustainable Travel International, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing education and outreach services that help travellers, travel providers and related organisations support environmental conservation and protect cultural heritage, while promoting cross-cultural understanding and economic development. To find out more about Sustainable Travel International and their projects please visit their website.
Take action: whilst driving
We have compiled a list of driving tips to help you reduce your carbon emissions, and save you money:
The warmer the car’s engine the more energy efficient it is, so when you first start your car get moving as soon as possible.
Change up through the gears as quickly as you can using gradual acceleration.
Keep your revs low, try to change gear before they reach 2,500 rpm (petrol), or 2,000 rpm (diesel).
Keep in mind that a speed between 55 – 65mph as this is usually the most energy efficient.
Turn off the engine when you are likely to be stationary for more than a minute or two, for instance in a traffic jam or at road works.
Avoiding heavy braking and sharp acceleration saves fuel and reduces the likelihood of accidents, so keep your distance from the car in front and drive carefully.
Under-inflated tyres can cause excess drag which uses more fuel (3%), so check your tyre pressure regularly.
Try to avoid using air conditioning; apart from playing havoc with your complexion, it also significantly increases fuel consumption.
When not in use, remove any exterior carriage such as roof racks and bike carriers as they create drag and increase fuel consumption.
Avoid getting lost and being caught in congestion by planning your journey before departure.
Take action: walk responsibly
Walk in each other’s footsteps: stick to the paths and avoid making your own mark on the fragile landscape. The slightest deviation from the paths can cause irreparable damage to the landscape and ruin the experience for others in the future. Don’t side-step a muddy puddle; get your money’s worth from those expensive walking boots!
Small is beautiful: walking in small groups rather than larger ones helps keep the landscape beautiful. The fewer the people, the less the damage, and smaller groups are easier to manage. Paths have more time to repair themselves if only a small amount of feet trample them at a time.
Litter: always a sticky subject; the best solution is to assume there will be nowhere to put litter and you may be carrying it around all day with you, so ensure you have a plastic bag to carry all waste in until you return to your hotel. Even biodegradable materials, such as food scraps, take a long time to break down, and encourages scavengers.
On the subject of human waste; never miss a chance to use the toilet. If you must go outdoors, dig a hole 5 inches deep (10-12 cm) and at least 25 metres from any trails or water. This encourages decomposition and eliminates the likelihood of any unfortunate encounters for other walkers. Cover the hole and take any paper home with you.
Flora and fauna: you are visiting the home of the native plants and animals, so treat it as you would anyone else’s home. Try to be aware of where you put your feet; take your litter home; try to keep the noise to a minimum, the animals aren’t used to noise and it will frighten them; do not try to take an animal or flower home as a souvenir – that’s what the camera is designed for.
Look but don’t touch: historical artefacts, preserved architecture and protected landscapes are to be enjoyed by all, so leave everything as you found it so that the next visitors may benefit from the same viewing pleasure that you had.
Take action: give back to the places you visit
Social responsibility: buying locally made crafts and products helps support the communities that you visit and allows them to maintain their unique and unspoilt traditions. This, in turn, will make your stay that much more special and you will also benefit from local wisdom and learn more about the area.
Do as much research as you can before you arrive – the more you know about a country, its culture and people, the quicker you get “under the skin” of a place.
Learn a few words of German (or any other local language).