2020 has just began and climate change is already a topic that is on everyone’s minds - from Australia’s devastating bushfires to Thailand’s plastic bag ban, it is clear that we should all do our part as everyday consumers to help out in any way possible.
As explorers of the globe, our travel habits are definitely not restricted when we try to be as eco-friendly as possible - from reducing our carbon footprint to our choice of holiday experiences.
#1. Choice of travel
Undoubtedly, the environmental impact of air travel is one worthy of concern - with its production of carbon emissions predicted to make up 25% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050 as the travel industry is set to grow substantially. For those conscious of their travel footprint - fret not, there are plenty of ways for you to overcome this complication of aviation emission.
For one, did you know that flying a long-haul flight emits less carbon emissions than a domestic flight? This is because taking off and landing uses up more fuel than simply cruising. For shorter flights, these actions take up a greater proportion of time. In addition, this also means lower emissions produced for direct flights, as compared to multi-leg ones.
Travellers flying economy class, as compared to business or first class too emit less greenhouse gases in total. Since there is more space per seat in the luxury classes, each passenger naturally accounts for a larger amount of the pollution produced by the plane.
There’s plenty we can do with these 2 bits of information - before choosing to fly domestic in larger countries like Australia or within Europe, why not opt for a train travel experience or a scenic road-trip along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road?
Both choices produce considerably less carbon emissions as compared to air travel (a London to Madrid train journey would emit 43kg of CO2 per passenger but 118kg by plane). Of course, this is dependent on many varying factors. For one, the type of train travelled on - if it is an electric train or one fuelled by diesel. And if the car used is a hybrid/ electric car or a traditional diesel/ petrol car. Regardless, by measuring the carbon emissions produced through train or on the road travel, aviation remains a hopeful last resort in your mode of travel options.
For those whereby air travel is indeed the only viable option (let’s try and grow beyond flight shaming!), do choose to **fly with either eco-conscious airlines** (such as home grown Singapore Airlines and their corresponding efforts to develop sustainable fuel and reduce wastage onboard) or flights with planes that are more fuel efficient (such as the newer Airbus and Boeing models).
#CTSGtip: When searching for flights with CheapTickets.sg, you can check out which plane model you are flying onboard as well.
#2. Quit single use plastic
Single use plastic items is a top favourite amongst travellers due to its space saving factor and easy disposal. However, there is no need for this article to explain to you why plastic is harmful to the environment - we all know it is. 40% of plastic produced is used only used once and as a non-biodegradable material, it finds its way to our overflowing landfills and oceans.
Individually, there are many ways in which we can adopt a more environmentally friendly travel lifestyle and below are just some of the many examples:
Bring a water bottle: Most popular tourist attractions and airports have water coolers and refilling our bottles is always better than repeatedly purchasing a disposable bottle of beverage whenever you are thirsty.
Use your metal/ bamboo straw (or just say no to a straw!): Almost all drinks ordered are paired with a straw, even when dining in. Yet, it gets thrown in the trash literally after a few minutes of use. If you own a reusable straw, it is light, compact and easy to carry around - there’s simply no reason why you shouldn’t include it in your travel pack.
Use lunchboxes or reusable cutlery: Trying out local street food is a huge part of our travel journey (Singaporeans are renowned foodies after all!) but they often come in disposable food packets or with plastic cutlery.
Bring a reusable bag: No trip is complete without some shopping done so do use a reusable bag whenever possible to help reduce usage of plastic/ paper bags.
#3. Changing your hotel habits
Many hotels are actually switching their provided amenities to ones from more sustainable sources or without packaging. Some of these include providing soap and shampoo in the form of soap bars rather than in individual bottled ones. Therefore, it does help if you choose to stay in hotels that are committed in being eco-conscious as it indicates support for their efforts (which are often not as profitable) and overall, aids in your journey to be a more eco-friendly tourist. Here are some ways you can change your hotel habits:
Switch off the lights, TV and air-con when you leave the room: This helps to reduce energy wastage and consumption. Take a shower instead of a bath: It is oh-so-tempting to relax in a bath while in a fancy hotel but save both water and energy by having a shower. Wash your own clothes: Hotel laundry services usually wash each guest’s load of clothes separately, even if it is just a couple of items. Conserve water and energy by simply washing your clothes while you shower and hang them up to dry. After all, you will be out and about exploring the city and a few clothes hanging up in the room would not inconvenience you as much.
#4. Using safe sunscreen
When heading out to the beach or even for outdoor activities, it is always wise to apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn and peeling skin. However, did you know that chemicals found in sunscreen actually kill or bleach coral? This happens as the run-off from sunscreen when we are in the water possesses toxic chemical compounds that either accelerate coral bleaching, damage coral DNA or even threaten coral reproduction. Sadly, no sunscreen is 100% totally harmless to coral and marine life but we can still look out for brands that do not use ingredients that have been scientifically proven to be more toxic than others: Oxybenzone & Octinoxate are the top ingredients to avoid - opt for sunscreens that are ‘Oxybenzone-free’. Water resistant sunscreen brands are recommended since lesser ingredients and compounds will be washed into the ocean. Alternatively, you can try to reduce the amount of sunscreen you apply by investing in quality sun protective clothing and diving suits with a UPF rating. This way, the clothing can prevent sun rays from penetrating the fabric. #CTSGTip: Apply your sunscreen 15-20 minutes before going into the water to ensure that the lotion is absorbed in your skin, thus reducing the amount being washed away.
#5. Ethical wildlife tourism
The horror stories and dark truths of wildlife parks is no stranger to us all. As wildlife tourism continues to grow, we should definitely keep in mind what constitutes as ethical wildlife tourism and show our support accordingly.
Responsible wildlife tourism does exist and if done well, can act as a strong economic incentive for wildlife conservation by acting as a major long-term source of jobs and income for locals. In many developing countries, particularly in Africa, wildlife tourism is the primary reason why significant wildlife populations still exist.
As such, when paying for these animal adventure experiences, it is our responsibility to ensure that the so-called conservatories and sanctuaries are indeed what they claim to be. For one, Ben Pearson, Senior Campaign Manager for the Australian branch of international animal welfare non-profit World Animal Protection states “if you want to see wildlife on holiday, the best thing you can do is to find somewhere to see it in the wild. The next best option is seeking out a legitimate sanctuary that offers observation only, so the animals are free to display their natural behaviors”