Travelling and getting around town
Getting around town
We all know that travelling by car is more damaging to the environment and our own health than using public transport, walking or cycling, yet most people still rely on their car for the majority of their everyday journeys.
For most people taking the car is convenience, for some it is a status symbol and others believe that it is better for their health because at least than they don't have to walk by all the traffic jams and inhale the exhaust fumes, they will happily shielded from it while contributing to the toxic air. However, according to a study conducted by the "UK's air quality and emissions news and information" site that tested nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, found that these were "on average 21% higher inside the vehicle with the windows shut than on the road outside". And this is especially bad news for children, who are more likely to suffer from asthma and other respiratory dieseases due to the exposure to air pollutants.
And if you need another incentive, a different study found, that working in an office can be as bad as smoking but already one hour of exercise a day can combat the risk.
It's holiday time and sure enough, the last thing you want is to worry about the environment when it comes to your hard-worked for days off from work. But have you ever even tried other means of travelling than by airplane? Flying emits a lot of Carbon dioxide (CO2) a major contributor to climate change so you might want to try out other options.
For example, many destinations in Europe can be quickly and more conveniently be reached by Eurostar (the train that connects the UK with mainland Europe through the Eurotunnel). E.g. it only takes 2.5 hours to Paris and you arrive right in the heart of each city, without having to worry about shuttle buses to the airport. Or take a coach, an even cheaper alternative, although usually more time-consuming. However, compared to taking the plane, you see much more of the country's landscape.
Here are a few tips for a more environmentally friendly holiday:
Avoid short haul flights and take a train or coach instead. Travelling by coach is the most environmentally friendly option as your carbon footprint is so much smaller than flying or driving your own car. There are many different coach companies offering tickets from the UK to all over Europe. For a good price comparison, use "check my bus". Or take the train and travel a bit more in style whilst seeing more of the countryside. Many train companies around Europe now use trains that are fuelled by renewable energy. The website Seat61 offers good advice for novices of this kind of travel.
If you need to fly, ensure that you take a direct flight only, as a most fuel is used for take-off and landing. Also make sure that you choose an airline with high occupancy rates and which have the most efficient aircrafts.
Offset the carbon footprint of your journey by planting a tree through Trees for Life or through the World Land Trust. Use the carbon calculator to see what impact your journey has on climate change.
Stay at an eco-friendly hotel or guest house. There are a few directories and websites for "green hotels", but it seems easiest to just check by country. So wherever you want to go, enter in your internet search engine e.g. "eco hotels in UK" and many different websites will come up like the ecofriendlytourist.com.
Use an environmentally friendly travel company. The Ecologist compiled a list of the 10 top eco tour operators or use the Ecotourdirectory, the ecofriendlytourist.com, the Responsible Travel company or as usual, search the internet.
Be careful what you buy, especially when it comes to souvenirs. Some souvenirs are made by using endangered local animals and could even be illigal. Therefore, avoid anything made from animals and plants: coral, tortoise-shell, ivory, horns, teeth, leather, bones, feathers, and any other body parts.
Make sure that your activities don't produce any harm or damage. Inform yourself first, before you embark on any activities that are conducted in pristine environments or have to do with animals. Nowadays it is so easy to keep informed so if you are for example in Thailand and planning on riding an elephant, first research the activity by entering it in your internet search engine, e.g: Is riding an elephant in Thailand harmful? There you would have found out that riding an elephant in Thailand does harm the animals, so then you could look for alternatives and you might have found an visit an elephant sanctuary and your whole trip would have become more meaningful. Or if you want to go scuba diving to see some corals, first check out what the impact is and how to mitigate it. You see, the list is endless but it is also so easy to check out the do's and don'ts of every activity.
Eat local food but if it is meat or seafood, inform yourself what exactly you are eating. For example, shark fin soup might be a delicacy and luxury item in China, but that doesn't mean you should try it. Many types of sharks are endangered and usually fishers just cut off the highled priced fin, leaving the shark, which is still alive, to sink back into the water where they die a horrible and pointless death, as shark fins don't even have any nutritional value and it is so cruel, that even Gordon Ramsey is appalled. It is estimated that about 100 million sharks die each year just for shark fin soup. Or take foie gras, which involves the force-feeding of ducks and geese, which amounts to animal cruelty. Apparently it can be produced without the force-feeding, so just ask.
Essentials: Pack light, the less you take with you, the less fuel has to be used up to mave it from one place to the next. Buy a reusable water bottle or if you go to a country where it is not advisable to drink the tap water, buy a water bottle with in-build putrifier, e.g. from Lifestraw. Take a shopping bag with you, so you don't have to use plastic bags.
- Explore your own country or city. Isn't it strange that we are happy to explore every nook and cranny of a foreign city, check out all their churches and museums, the beaches and restaurants but when it comes to the city or country we live in, we are somewhat docile. I have lived in London now for a good 12 years but I have still never been to many of its attractions but I am determined to change that and also to see more of the UK, which has some beautiful patches of nature and many nice beaches to offer. If you have a friend or partner you frequently travel with, get a "Two Together Railcard" and enjoy a 1/3 off rail fares for one year
- Why not try out a cycling holiday? This way of travelling might not be everyone's cup of tea but I can assure you, it is the most rewarding and eco friendly way. I once travelled from London (via a ferry to the Netherlands) to Germany this way and it was simply awesome. People are somehow much friendlier towards you when you travel by bike and you actually experience a country in a much more intimate way. If you are new to this and a bit anxious on going by yourself, use a cycling tour operator like Skedaddle or Exodus (or any other advertised on the internet). The below picture is from a cycle holiday in France, around Lake Annecy , the road you see is for bycicles only so you have this beautiful vista safely to yourself.