Making travel “green” and respectful
October 19th, 2022
By Dr. Rachel Dodds & Dr. Richard Butler
Canada, especially British Columbia has recognized that we need to behave more responsibly towards our planet, our communities and local indigenous groups.
The question is HOW?
Understanding the problems is the first step forward but we all must make changes to contribute to the solutions. One area is travel.
Despite the negative impacts, travel can be a force for good as it creates employment, increases foreign exchange, helps different cultures understand one another and instills in us a sense of awe at seeing the unknown. Here are four reasons – and ways – you can travel more responsibly.
1. Tourism has a large contribution to the climate crisis as we must travel to get to where we wish to visit. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism is responsible for approximately 5% of global emissions and approximately 22% of all transport emissions. Did you know that one long-haul flight can generate the same emissions as driving a car for a year.
Remedy: Fly less. Stay longer. Try to take alternative forms of transport. You can also pack less – weight contributes to carbon emissions. An easy way to do this is use Google Maps or Skyscanner to determine your carbon footprint. It will also show you the least carbon way to travel.
2. Tourism sometimes does not consider local residents or indigenous cultures. Increasing numbers of people are visiting tourism and recreation facilities operated by indigenous peoples and there are some important things to remember when doing so. Many tourism sites on indigenous land are precious, even sacred, to the people who live there, and all visitors should be careful in the way they behave so that they do not offend the beliefs of the local people. Stories of naked tourists taking photos of themselves on sacred mountains or tourists mocking traditional ways of dress or behavior are not appropriate, nor in any way sustainable.
Remedy: Practice gratitude and respect and have patience. Wait for your welcome and remember you are a guest. For example, the off-the-beaten-path swimming hole may be a sacred site or traditional fishing hole. Do not wander off on indigenous land without permission and follow the rules of the local guides. Often different cultures have different ways of sharing their stories – when you are patient, you are often rewarded with a great experience but be mindful of how much attention your children have and whether visiting faraway places or listening to historical stories is appropriate for your children.
3. Tourism as an industry can be very water intensive. In many water scarce regions, where local people struggle to access water, some five star hotels can use as much as 1800 litres of water per person per day! This does include such things as swimming pools, fountains and laundry but it is still a lot. Recycling also isn’t enough. Many of us believe if we recycle, we are doing our part. Unfortunately, recycling is the last of the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse and then recycle) and even in Canada, only 9% of what is recycled actually is diverted from landfill.
Solution: Even small things help e.g., don’t have multiple or long showers and conserve water. An eight-minute shower uses approximately 48-64 gallons of water but a 15-minute shower uses approximately 90- 120 gallons. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Bring your own reusable coffee cup, water bottle and shopping bag
4. Don’t keep it to yourself. Traveling can broaden our minds and our horizons. The lessons of empathy and conservation and awe we may experience when traveling should be shared.
Solution: Share your positive stories and continue to support organizations when you get home. Share with your children, your parents and your friends how to make a more positive difference. Consider sharing this information with others or share Are We There Yet? Traveling More Responsibly With Your Children (BookBaby $20), a new book that outlines all these tips and more. This book has also just been nominated by USA Today Reader’s Choice awards.
Dr. Richard Butler has studied the field of tourism since the 1960s, is an international writer and researcher, and has published over 23 books on tourism and related topics. Dr. Butler has travelled widely, often with his children and, more recently, grandchildren, and is keenly aware of the excitement and delights of introducing the next generation to new countries. He is also aware of the value (and challenges) of aiding young people to become more responsible for the world around them. In 2016 he was awarded the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Ulysses Prize “for excellence in the creation and dissemination of knowledge”. He is an emeritus professor (University of Western Ontario), now retired and living in Prince Rupert.
Rachel Dodds is a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and the Director of Sustaining Tourism. She is a globally recognized expert on sustainable tourism and is passionate about providing solutions to make tourism more responsible.