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There’s been something playing on my mind… Even though travel is my biggest passion and I earn money from it, I’m starting to feel a stinging sense of guilt envelop me every time I board an aeroplane, or even look to plan a trip which involves air travel. Why? There’s a real smothering of hypocrisy that I hold my hands up to. While I am extremely uncomfortable about my carbon footprint it hasn’t actually stopped me flying – I flew over 10 times last year. Ouch. I know! There are many excuses that play out in my mind – it’s my job, if I don’t go, someone else will be in my place regardless, I don’t have the time to travel an alternate route, the fares are so much cheaper via air. As you can see, even though I am aware of responsible tourism, I’ve not exactly been a keen participant.

Why everyone should think about responsible tourism…

And yet as I list my excuses here in black and white, they seem even more flimsy, regardless that they are all viable and true. The alarming truth is taking one long-haul return flight generates more CO2 than citizens of some countries produce in a year. That makes for pretty scary reading when you consider there are nearly 4.5K flights taking off every hour across the globe.

And while I can ignore it for a time and continue to travel as I always have done, the sad reality is that my children and perhaps my future grandchildren will face a wholly different world.
So the question is what am I going to do about it? Well, there lies the problem. I’m genuinely at a loss. Is it feasible for me to not fly at all? I’m not sure I can commit to that promise.

Ways to reduce my carbon footprint

I do, however, believe that trying to adopt a sustainable travel ethos doesn’t mean I have to stop flying altogether. By becoming more self-aware and opting for destinations and accommodation that are paving the way for projects that respect the environment, its wildlife and the local people, hopefully, means that tourism will have less of a detrimental impact.

But what can I really do in the short term that will help? Here are a few ideas that I am going to try and embrace and perhaps you might do, too? After all, if we all do our bit, it will make a difference. And perhaps we can all travel with a clearer conscience.

Offset my carbon footprint

This is the one way in which I am most keen to make a change. It may not actually reduce my carbon footprint, but offsetting will help give back to the environment. Some projects involve protecting and managing forest lands and developing clean energy. I like the idea of planting trees – and I like this initiative from Trees For Life  – who have already planted more than two million trees in the Scottish Highlands. By removing CO2 from the atmosphere and locking it up, trees help to combat climate change. Recent studies have found that trees may be the best way to stabilise our climate. By planting a grove of trees which start from just £6 – I can add to my own small piece of forest every time we fly.

Choose sustainable tourism destinations

Overtourism is becoming a huge problem. I was flabbergasted by the number of tourists walking through Dubrovnik all day, every day when we were there last year. While the city is beautiful, the crowds were seriously offputting. Popular attractions all over the world are straining under the pressure from mass tourism – so perhaps it’s now the time to start visiting lesser-known destinations?  I am now more inclined to head to less crowded regions and discover some hidden gems. This may even lead to a more authentic experience… 

Opt for sustainable travel companies

Ethical travel companies are big business – and will only be more in demand as travellers become much more determined to make positive contributions to the environment and to local communities. Companies are doing much to help – from publishing the full impact of trips and suggesting the least damaging way to travel. Some are even offering no-fly trips and sustainable holidays where travellers can see the benefits to tourism in local areas and have a more immersive experience. Travel operators including Intrepid Travel and Much Better Adventures are giving back funds to local projects as well as being carbon neutral.

Other ways to be a responsible tourist

The biggest step to making a change, however small, is recognising the need to be a responsible tourist. For all people who have a passion for travel, it is in our interest to preserve the very places we want to go and see and to be held accountable. From travelling out of season – where there are far fewer crowds, taking shorter breaks and eliminating the need to fly, and choosing different modes of transport other than air travel – including trains and by coach, there are many options that could be considered before planning a trip. And it might end up being a much more rewarding experience.