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5 Expert Tips for Minimizing Your Carbon Footprint while Traveling in Economy Class


Island nations in the Pacific are turning to tourism as a means of revitalizing their economies in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, this industry contributes to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and generates a large amount of waste, posing a significant risk to the islands.

Travel experts suggest ways for tourists to reduce their impact while on vacation. Although addressing the larger issue of climate change requires significant changes, individual actions still have an impact. Making small changes in perspective can help without sacrificing the quality of the trip.

Closer the better

The primary choices that tourists must make are their destination and mode of transportation.

“I advise traveling within your own region,” suggests Apisalome Movono, a senior lecturer in development studies at Massey University in New Zealand. “Instead of going to Europe, consider visiting the Pacific.”

As the distance to the destination decreases, the emissions required to reach it also decrease. For travelers from Australia, it is more eco-friendly to visit New Caledonia rather than French Polynesia. Similarly, a person from New Zealand could choose to travel to the Cook Islands instead of Hawaii.

The cruise industry produces significant emissions; one 2019 study said on a daily basis, a cruise ship can have carbon footprint greater than 12,000 cars. “The monsters in the room are cruise ships,” says Movono. “These are the big emitters in our region.”

Visitors can minimize their environmental footprint by selecting specific types of flights or opting for economy seating. The Iata provides a helpful tool for calculating and comparing the carbon footprint of various trips. Using information provided by airlines, the calculator monitors the amount of emissions produced by the type of aircraft, cargo, airplane layout, and the passenger’s choice of economy or business class.

According to Christian Schott, an associate professor of tourism at Victoria University of Wellington, if air travel is necessary, choosing economy class over business class is a more environmentally friendly option in terms of carbon emissions.

This is mainly due to the fact that business class travelers use up more space than economy class, leading to less efficient flights. According to Schott, one person traveling in business class produces an average of 3.5 times more CO2 emissions than in economy class.

Bar in the centre of Papeete, the capital of Tahiti

Is the use of offset schemes effective?

Several air and sea travel companies currently provide carbon offset options for environmentally-aware passengers. However, there are concerns about the accuracy of these programs. Research has revealed that numerous global carbon offset initiatives overstate their benefits and downplay potential negative effects.

According to Movono, there is often a lack of follow-up on promised reductions in travel emissions from offsetting schemes. Therefore, the most effective solution is to decrease the number and duration of flights.

If travelers choose to use offsets, Movono advises them to confirm their trustworthiness. Schott suggests that tourists should search for reputable local businesses that contribute to the well-being of communities.

Minimise your footprint

After a tourist reaches the Pacific, there are various methods to reduce their impact.

Kalara McGregor, a sustainability consultant and doctoral candidate at Griffith University specializing in sustainable tourism, suggests that travelers should consider staying at smaller hotels or tourism companies instead of large ones. Although big hotels may seem convenient and luxurious, they often use high amounts of energy and water for amenities such as air conditioning, swimming pools, and hot showers.

For many tourists, cutting out those amenities may be a stretch. Movono points to other indulgences that are easier to eliminate, like imported food, which create significant emissions when flown or shipped in.

He suggests experiencing the food of the region. It bothers me when someone travels from New Zealand to a Pacific island just to eat a lamb shank from New Zealand.

According to Schott, travelers can avoid using taxis or renting cars to minimize their impact on the environment. Some smaller islands can be explored on foot or by bicycle, while larger islands offer alternative modes of transportation that provide a more genuine experience for tourists.

“In Vanuatu, there are shared taxi services where you may ride with five or six other individuals. This is a more environmentally-friendly way of transportation,” Schott states. On the other hand, “In Fiji, there are efficient bus systems that operate on numerous large islands.”

Please be more conscious of the waste that you produce.

Numerous islands in the Pacific are struggling to manage waste. Due to their limited land area, there are limited options for waste disposal. Additionally, the constant import of goods contributes to the ongoing increase of garbage.

McGregor acknowledges that the waste problem is a major concern, but it is assumed that tourists desire such amenities and therefore must be provided.

According to her, tourists should be willing to forego excessive plastic packaging and instead opt for water bubblers and locally crafted souvenirs rather than cheap imported trinkets.

McGregor’s main message is for tourists to be proactive in their consumption and waste management. He suggests considering if they truly need to use and dispose of twenty water bottles per day, or if they could simply bring a reusable water bottle instead.

Make it count

According to Movono, all forms of tourism result in emissions. He believes that advising tourists to be environmentally conscious is contradictory. Instead, he suggests that travelers prioritize maximizing the economic benefits of their carbon footprint.

One suggestion from him is for travelers to explore beyond Denarau, a popular resort in Fiji. This can be done by choosing to support locally owned tourism businesses, which often employ local workers and use local resources. Another option is to visit lesser-known destinations such as Vanua Levu island in Fiji. This helps to boost the local economy and benefits the community in a more sustainable way, according to Movono.

McGregor agrees that in order to reach your destination, you have likely traveled a significant distance and produced emissions along the way. Once you have arrived, it is important to shift your mindset and consider ways to give back.

Source: theguardian.com