Travel and Transportation

An often overlooked issue in environmental awareness is travel. Everyone knows that recycling, driving as little as possible, conserving water and energy, and generally reducing our consumption are important when it comes to the environment, but when one thinks of environmentalism, the idea of travel rarely comes up. In truth, our travel choices create as much of an impact as whether or not we decide to purchase disposable products. Travel includes everything from local transportation to vacationing across the world.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the global impact of the biofuel market, and how it has lead to the same deforestation, land, and food issues as fossil fuels. It is vital to know what the possible impact of any alternative choice may be. Biodiesel, created at home, is a much better choice than purchasing commercially produced biodiesel from companies such as Archer Daniels Midland, a company that is responsible for planting a monocrop of oil palms in Borneo, or British Petroleum, which is in the process of snatching a vast spread of land in Mozambique, also for the purpose of planting crops to produce biofuel. Anyone can find information on producing biodiesel at home on the internet, but one helpful site is http://www.journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_make.html. Granted, not all cars run on diesel. Another simpler way to reduce the amount of petroleum gas used is to take public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk as much as possible. Hybrid and purely electric cars are available now. One such company that produces electric cars, trucks, bikes, and scooters can be found here: http://www.zapworld.com/. The Xebra, their sedan, costs just over $11,000. That's less than many conventional cars.

In regards to travel, one excellent option is looking into ecotourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES, for short, which can be found at www.ecoutourism.org) offers a directory of locations that provide eco-friendly travel options, as well as a plethora of advice on how to save money, travel in an environmentally friendly fashion, and still have luxuries and convenience available.

Advice from their website on energy-saving tips for travelers:

10 things you can do to conserve energy when you travel

1. Fly Wisely:
Air travel is often the most energy consuming aspect of your travel. Plan your trip so that you minimize air travel, and choose, whenever possible, to stay longer in a destination instead of making many short trips.

2. Travel Light:
Pack only what you need, and don't bring things that will become waste. By reducing the weight of luggage travelers can significantly cut green house gas emissions.

3. Book Responsibly:
When choosing your hotel, tour operator, or other service providers, select ones that have good sustainability practices. Look for information on the company's environmental initiatives; strategies, save energy and minimize waste; involvement in sustainable tourism certification program. A good place to start your search is Ecotourism Explorer.

4. Before You Leave:
Turn off lights and unplug household appliances that can be left unplugged while you are away.

5. While You Are There:
Turn off all the lights and air conditioner/heater when you leave your room, and unplug unnecessary appliances.

6. Greener Way To Get Around:
Utilize public transportation (bus, train, city car, etc.) and alternative modes of transportation (walking, bicycle, non-motorized vehicles, horse, camel) as much as possible. It's a more sustainable way to get around, and also a healthier and more enjoyable way to get to know the place you are visiting.

7. Eat Local:
Reduce your 'food miles' by choosing local. Visit a local farmer's market, shop at a locally owned grocery store and choose locally owned restaurants that buy local. Locally produced foods are a tastier and more sustainable option.

8. Save Water:
Use the minimum amount of water needed for a shower/bath, don't let water run while shaving, brushing or washing, and check if the hotel has a linen reuse program - if so, reuse your towels and bed sheets by placing the card to indicate you don't wish to have them washed every day, if not, request hospitality staff not to change them every day.

9. Charge Your Trip Sustainably:
Whenever possible, utilize options that do not require batteries. Buy rechargeable batteries for your essential travel items such as cameras, razors, and flash lights.

10. Offset the Unavoidable Footprint:
Contribute to a credible carbon offsetting program to support conservation, renewable energy, and other energy saving projects.

Not only is ecotourism beneficial for the environment, but it can also help stimulate local economy. Many ecotourism groups offer tours to areas where vacationers' interests can help create jobs - one of the guidelines offered is to ask what percentage of a lodging's employees are local. They suggest that for food choices, travelers should visit local farmers' markets, thereby also reducing "food miles," or the distance that food must travel.

At the bottom of this blog post, I have included several websites that people interested in ecotourism may visit for further information.

www.ecotourism.org - TIES (contains guidelines, tips, and suggestions for people interested in ecotourism, as well as a directory of locations that they offer tours in)

http://www.untamedpath.com/Ecotourism/what_is_ecotourism.html (information on ecotourism and what it is, also offers information about tours they offer, including South America and the Galapagos Islands)

http://conserveonline.org/workspaces/tncecotourismprogram/publications (provides information and resources for promoting ecotourism and educating people on the benefits of it; home site also contains information on how ecotourism generates funds for conservation, reduces threat to local wildlife, benefits local communities, and a link to the above-mentioned website)

For further information on Biodiesel and other biofuels, stay away from websites such as www.nbb.org and www.biodiesel.org, as the main members of the society are CEOs of companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and others that are responsible for the deforestation and land-snatching I mentioned previously.

http://www.biodieselcommunity.org/ (provides great information on creating biodiesel and the equipment necessary)

Posted by Claire Craig-Sheets

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