Travelling abroad can leave a significant carbon footprint. We spoke to Climate Pact Ambassadors Anna Staszewska and Jesus Iglesias to discover how we can enjoy our holiday while reducing our impact on the planet.
What is ecotourism for you?
Being green is not about owning a lot of things, but about appreciating nature and people. This is the same for tourism. Ecotourism is about creating memories you will keep by respecting and appreciating what is around you instead of thinking about what you can buy and have.
What impact can ecotourism have?
The carbon footprint of global tourism is huge. It’s about 8% of total emissions, and so is the ecological footprint – a tourist’s footprint is larger than a resident’s because they use more water and energy, and make waste and noise. This leaves a huge margin for improvement.
Ecotourism helps the local economy by supporting small, local businesses as opposed to globalised franchises. It benefits from the beauty and ecosystem services provided by urban forests, rewilded rivers and restored wetlands which also capture carbon, protect against flooding, reduce pollution and benefit biodiversity and local communities.
What tips can you give to people booking a holiday to make their trip eco-friendly?
First, I recommend you visit local sites by public transport like the bus or train. Even better, cycle there from your home. If you plan to travel by plane, check the websites of different airlines to see if they say they are working on reducing their carbon impact.
Usually, we don’t think of visiting cities as ecotourism but it can be. We can buy local food and locally-made souvenirs. We can respect and learn from local traditions and ways of life.
Check accommodation websites to find places which are more sustainable. For example, do they harvest rainwater, limit their energy use or maybe have a garden where they grow vegetables for their restaurant?
You could also think about visiting areas that have been affected by disasters like wildfires. These areas need our support.
Once on holiday, how can a tourist behave in an eco-friendly way?
Use less water, only use air conditioning when absolutely necessary, don’t rush, avoid crowds and tourist traps. Use local guides, walk, cycle, take public transport. Enjoy the geography of the place you are visiting.
Listen, observe, appreciate the traditions of the place, learn eco-responsible practices you could replicate or tell people about.
How do you make your behaviour as eco-friendly as possible?
I am always thinking of new ways to be eco-friendly, for example by not eating much meat and when I travel for a conference, I try to combine it with a holiday to reduce the amount I travel. This summer I am staying local – I will go kayaking on Polish rivers so I can feel the connection with nature.
Can you give an example of ecotourism?
The Climate Journey provides responsible walking or cycling tours across cities and rural landscapes. In Malaga we go up a mountain where we can see the impact of sea level rise. We can also see the areas of the city with fewer trees and green spaces that are mostly poorer neighbourhoods. That way we also reflect about the connection between social injustice and the climate crisis. We visit urban gardens, eco shops, neighbourhood associations and cultural centres. We also talk to migrants who may have arrived because of the impacts of climate change.
We show people it is joyful to take collective action – you can have a good time.
Do you have any other eco tips?
If you think green, you behave green. But it is also important to change a little at a time. It’s easier to make it if you take small steps – a bit like going on a diet! If 1,000 people take one small step, things will be better.
- Publication date
- 12 August 2021