As people’s appetite for experiencing the world has grown over the last decades, so has our consciousness over our environmental impact as individuals and explorers. This desire comes as no surprise, as recent research estimates that the travel industry accounts for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Since traveling is here to stay, however, perhaps one solution to at least minimize our favorite activity’s carbon footprint is to find alternative ways of carrying it out. Here are seven tips for visiting cities around the world while keeping your sustainability concerns at bay.
These first three recommendations are handy before booking your trip. The following four ideas come into play once you reach your destination.
Take Trains Over Planes
Consider traveling by train or coach for distances that allow for these greener means of transport. Often flying seems faster, but when you take into account the hours it takes to get to and from the airport, as well as the two hours you need to be there in advance, time adds up.
It is often the case that you can reach your destination within the same time (or plus/minus a couple of hours) with one of these alternatives.
Travel Less Frequently (But for Longer)
While we’d all love to get away every couple of months, it would be reasonable to sacrifice the frequency of travel to save the planet. Instead, stay in one place for longer and explore other cities or areas nearby.
Do some research, and you’ll surely discover places that would have otherwise not been on your radar. This tactic somewhat lowers the pollutants that would be emitted on a completely different trip.
If those tickets haven’t already been booked, consider visiting off-season. Most countries’ highly touristic months are in their respective summer seasons: between June and August or December and February, depending on the hemisphere. This puts a significant strain on local resources and the city’s general environment.
Spring and autumn months are not only more comfortable temperature-wise but also quieter and more manageable for the local industry to accommodate your needs and give you the best experience possible. Besides, this also increases your chances of finding great and affordable accommodation downtown (see following tip)! Win-win.
Book Accommodation Downtown
This strategy might seem like an obvious one, but staying just walking distance away from the main sites and activities is an impeccable way to avoid taxis, buses, and other smog-inducing transportation.
Not only are historical monuments and museums typically just a stroll away, but so are a plethora of top-notch restaurants and bars! If the center is where it’s at, that’s where you should aim to be.
Use Bikes and Scooters
Bikes and scooters have gained popularity in most cities across the globe. You can rent a bike or find a wide array of city bike tours. Additionally, as city scooters like Lime and Bird have truly exploded in the last couple of years, you can easily grab one to get around and cover greater distances.
If you’re determined not to leave any corners of the city unseen, cities tend to have excellent metro systems, which are cleaner than any ground-level means of transport
Visit Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants
While most countries still have a huge meat-eating culture, vegetarian and vegan alternatives have flourished everywhere in recent years. Naturally, food is culture, and you’ll want to get your hands on some of the local classics that might contain meat. But consider doing some research and hitting some delicious and less carbon-emitting hotspots for a few of your meals throughout your stay.
Shop From Sustainable Brands
Another inherent part of city trips is shopping! Who doesn’t like to return home with that special item they bought on holiday, or even a few gifts for a loved one who stayed behind and followed the adventure on Instagram? The good news is, so many new exquisite brands have turned to sustainable and local sourcing! A quick search will give you an idea of where those shops and boutiques might be in the city you’re visiting.
All in all, there are many great ways to both enjoy exploring new places and taking in the history and culture, while making more sustainable choices. It simply takes a little bit more effort, planning, and research. The environment is worth it.