Sustainable travel is a rising trend in the tourism industry and I feel like I want to express my own thoughts about it too. In Finland there has been a big buzz about the IPCC’s report about global warming and for a good reason! The environment is under big pressure due to our actions and now there are clear statistics showing that dangerous global warming levels are reaching us more rapidly than we thought.
I made a test about my own habits and the size of my carbon footprint and the result wasn’t the prettiest due to my travel kilometers by car and by plane. That made me think about my own habits and how to change them to be more environmentally sustainable.
During the past year we have seen evidence of how overtourism affects nature destinations like Boracay Island in the Philippines and Maya Bay in Thailand. If I remember correctly there were 5000 visitors per day visiting the famous Maya Bay in the Phi Phi islands in Thailand. The place was first closed for the summer season of 2018 but now they closed it until the coral reefs have recovered. I can imagine that the corals can’t handle that amount of long-tail boats buzzing in a small area. It was a good decision and I hope the reefs recover soon. In fact, blacktip reef sharks have returned to the area!
This year also Boracay was closed for six months due to the damage made by tourists. It has since been cleaned from rubbish and reopened under strict regulations. Repair works continue until December 2019.
Shutting down popular nature sights put me to think how odd is the behavior of tourists. First, we find a beautiful place that doesn’t have many tourists and then more and more people begin floating in. The spot then becomes a mass tourism destination which for example raises the costs of living and drives many locals away. Eventually even tourists start feeling uncomfortable because it’s too “touristy” and want to find something new.
But then again, it’s hard to be the first tourist in a new destination because the infrastructure and services aren’t good enough for most travelers. It’s a difficult balance between tourism and environmental sustainability.
We should try to explore more beautiful places than the ones that are crowded already. The sustainability is a hard one to retain because a beautiful place will eventually attract the crowds. I know I should be part of that change and I have tried to visit not only the most famous destinations but also destinations a bit off the beaten track.
Sustainable travel and the actions that I’ve done
The big question that lies is: can traveling ever be sustainable? Probably not but we can make it more sustainable with our choices. What makes me slightly happier is that air traffic isn’t the worst thing that creates emissions. It’s only 2 % of all emissions created worldwide (trust my word or try to find the report ;)).
I live in Finland and when I travel abroad from here I basically need to fly because we have the Baltic Sea surrounding us. That is one big thing that affects my carbon footprint. I try to then compensate my emissions in the destination by walking as much as possible, not only because it’s good fat burning exercise but it’s also more sustainable than taking a cab everywhere.
I’m not the best person to talk about environmental issues but I do understand that also my actions count. That’s why when I choose my accommodation I try to find hotels and guest houses run by locals. I try to make sure my money helps the locals and doesn’t go to more developed countries. I also don’t change my towels every day and I don’t stay in shower longer than needed.
Everyday life changes that I’ve made
Nowadays I eat less meat than before meaning that I also cook vegetarian dishes and sometimes have days completely without meat. Recycling is luckily very easy in Finland so I recycle most of my waste. What I especially like is that when you bring your bottles back in to the stores you will get some money back! At home I try not to keep lights on if I’m not in that room and I try to optimize the heating. Saunas are limited to only once a week max! 😉
I won’t quit flying that’s for sure but I could make more sustainable choices regarding my travels too. I will continue supporting the local entrepreneurs during my travels and eating local food.
What environmental actions will you make?