By Jessie James, Gaia Intern
When making a major decision, do you ever consider its environmental impact? For many people here at UCSC, the answer would be yes. And, seeing as we are all young, adventurous college students, many of us will most likely be traveling at some point in our time here. I know that I am constantly worrying about the consequences of my traveling. As much as I have enjoyed my vacations, I cannot help but feel guilty about the negative environmental impacts that my actions have caused.
Unfortunately there are few ways to make travel zero-impact, especially when traveling long distances. However, there are steps that can be taken to lessen the negative consequences of those travels.
1. Buses and Trains
If traveling alone, the bus is the best method of travel. Buses emit 50% less carbon than hybrid cars and 75% less carbon than air travel. Trains are the second best method of travel for trips under 1,000 miles. Trains produce an average of 0.21 g of carbon per passenger mile, much better than the 0.35 kg produced by cars or 0.48 kg for airplanes. Their efficiency is partially due to the fact that they, along with busses, are a form of group travel, meaning that by taking a train or bus you personally aren’t adding any carbon to the atmosphere.
This method of transportation is practically equal with flying in terms of fuel inefficiency, depending on the type of car, distance to be traveled, and the amount of people you’re travelling with. To reduce the negative impact, carpool when possible. If you don’t know any people going to the same place that you are, there are many ways to find some. These include websites such as Ridejoy, Zimride, eRideShare, or Ridester, and even Craigslist (which has a ridesharing section).
When you need to fly, there’s usually no way around it. I mean, you can’t just take a bus to Papua New Guinea. But, you can purchase a carbon offset for your flight. Carbon offsets allow you to put your money towards something that reduces the amount of carbon in the atmosphere or produces clean energy. There are a multitude of things that fall under this category, including building wind turbines and helping reforestation. The average price to offset one ton of Carbon is $18.15. However, it is important to remember that offsetting your carbon emissions does not erase the impact of the carbon that was released, and is not a free pass to burn greenhouse gases.
At Your Destination
Try to find an environmentally friendly hotel at your location. The best way to go about this is by visiting the hotel’s website or calling them directly. Then you can find out if they are locally owned and or operated, and their environmental policies. However, there are also certifications that hotels, and tours, can earn by acting in environmentally conscious ways, such as Green Seal or Green Leaf. In addition, try to reuse towels as much as possible, and bring your own toiletries and cups rather than using the disposable ones offered by the hotel.
2. Act Locally
Shop and eat local! Not only is this the most environmentally beneficial way to behave, but it will also give you a better sense of the culture that you are experiencing.
3. General Guidelines
Try to walk or take public transportation over renting a car, eat mostly organic, take shorter showers etc. Do everything that you would normally do here in Santa Cruz. If anything, take more precaution in a foreign location, as it is unlikely that you will understand the environmental status of the location in its entirety. What might be harmless in Santa Cruz could be catastrophic in other locations.
So, next time you are going to travel, keep these tips in mind. Maybe instead of choosing to fly home for winter break you’ll take a bus. Maybe next time you go on vacation you’ll stay at a Green Seal certified hotel. Travel is an experience that I believe everyone should participate in at every opportunity. However, we must recognize the negative consequences of our actions, and work to counteract them. And if everyone adheres to guidelines such as these, we can all make travel much more environmentally friendly.