The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
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‘Sustainable travel’, ‘eco-travel’ and ’ethical travel’ are all-to-common buzzwords that are bandied around and applied to destinations and businesses without any real thought as to what sustainable travel actual means. And with many so-called ‘eco-resorts’ falling far short of even the broadest definition of sustainable, how does a traveller decide where to go and what to do? Navigating the minefield that is ‘sustainable travel’ can mean trawling sites filled with conflicting or misleading information and searching through resorts that all call themselves ‘eco-this’ or ‘eco-that’ - without actually getting any closer to learning more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint when traveling.
So to help our guests learn more about what they can do to minimise their environmental impact when on holiday, we have put together a brief guide - a primer on carbon footprints, carbon offsets and travelling smart.
For many divers and travellers, sustainability and minimising the environmental impact of their holiday is as important as finding the right resort or the best season to visit. But what exactly is sustainable travel? What can an individual do to ensure their carbon-footprint is kept to a minimum?
Consider a return flight from the UK to Bali, Indonesia, and back again. Using a standard carbon calculator, each passenger will be responsible for an equivalent of over 3 tonnes of carbon emissions. No matter how many taxis that are then shared, or plastic bottles refused, there is no way to directly offset the huge amount of carbon produced from these flights. So does this make the notion of ‘sustainable tourism’ an oxymoron? If looked at from a purely ecological point of view, then yes, it is - air travel on its own can never be sustainable. But the purpose of sustainable travel is in fact to make a positive impact on the destination and the local inhabitants, without damaging the natural habitat or cultural heritage. It is helping to conserve the reefs we love to explore, supporting resorts that are making a difference and ensuring we keep our impact to a minimum. And when combined with the means to offset the carbon you were responsible for when flying, travel can and should be considered sustainable.
At ZuBlu, we believe it is possible to make a positive impact when traveling - one that has the potential to outweigh the carbon-cost of a flight in the first place. Travellers can vote with their wallets and book at resorts that adopt sustainable business practices or preserve the local environment. They can volunteer with marine conservation organisations or participate in reef cle
Estimates vary, but it is believed that the airline industry is roughly responsible for 2-3% of all, human-caused climate impacts worldwide - a hugely significant contribution. And whilst the industry continues to evolve and make significant improvements to its planes, the carbon-cost of a flight will always be the single overriding factor when a traveler considers their carbon footprint.
It is actually quite difficult to compare and contrast different airline companies when it comes to carbon-cost rather than the monetary-cost of a flight, but travellers can keep a few things in mind when making a booking:
So if you want to minimise your carbon footprint, book a direct flight in economy with a carrier that is always busy, has a strict policy on extra baggage and has a high seat density. Budget airlines do surprisingly well in this respect and should always be considered when booking flights.
The dive industry is one of the most environmentally-sensitive sectors in travel and there are many dive operators, resorts and dive centres that are making significant steps to conserve their local environment and ensure their business is as sustainable as possible. But information about what these companies are doing is often hard to come by and it can be difficult to compare different places.
This is where ZuBlu comes in. Travellers can use the ZuBlu search platform to explore incredible destinations and amazing experiences, but also learn about what different resorts are doing to support the environment and reduce their environmental impact. When we first start working with a resort, we examine their sustainable business practices and commitment to conserving the environment using a simple system we have devised in conjunction with ClearOceans. We then display the results using five icons, each one linked to a particular broad area we call our ‘Green criteria’ – environment, economic, experiences, marine and social. We display one of these green heart icons if the resort in question is making significant efforts or contributions in these areas, giving our guests an at-a-glance understanding of what a resort is doing to minimise its impact on the environment and manage its business in a sustainable manner.
As part of our commitment to the environment and conservation, we donate a percentage of our income to projects that are working to conserve the environment in the destination we feature on our site - direct support that helps conservation in the local area, rather than being lost in an excel spreadsheet of a vast global NGO. We believe this direct support is a more effective way of bringing sustainable practices into the dive travel business.
So you’ve booked your flight and found your perfect resort - now what? Your flight is the biggest contributor to your carbon footprint when traveling, so the next step is to use a carbon calculator and determine how much carbon you are responsible for and then offset this amount.
There are lots of different calculators, but all look at the carbon-cost per passenger kilometre travelled - the ‘carbon intensity’. Different modes of transport have very different ‘carbon intensities’ - with large container ships and fuel-guzzling cars at the bottom of this carbon-scale, and electric cars, hybrid buses and mass transit systems at the top. There are plenty of sites that offer a simple way to calculate your carbon footprint and a means to offset this - you simply enter your flight details and a suggested equivalent is calculated that you can pay then and there. Some organisations offset carbon by planting trees, others directly support projects that reduce carbon in other ways - by supporting research or providing green energy in developing countries for instance. The different options might seem confusing at first but it is worth spending some time browsing through the different sites and finding one that appeals to you the most. And don’t forget to offset your carbon from the flight!
Here are a few suggestions of sites with both carbon calculators and the means to offset your carbon from a flight:
As well as offsetting the carbon-cost from your flight, there are plenty of other ways you can reduce your impact whilst traveling.
Sustainable travel is about making a positive impact on the destinations you travel to - both in terms of the environment and the people that live there. As well as reducing your carbon footprint when you are traveling, you can also do what you can to support conservation and social development programmes, either directly by volunteering or by making donations. The ZuBlu site lists many different organisations that work in the areas we feature - ones that are making a difference to protect the reefs, jungles and cultures we have been lucky enough to experience. We believe our guests can be ambassadors for sustainable dive travel and as such, we encourage them to learn more about conservation activities in the destinations they travel to and, if possible, consider supporting these projects.
A recent study on the environment and tourism highlighted the paradox that is sustainable tourism - it can be “both a destroyer of nature and an agent for its conservation”. We believe that by giving our guests the ability to make more informed decisions about where to travel, as well as the means to support conservation in their destination of choice, we can ensure sustainable travel remains an agent for conservation.
Most travellers today travel with a smart phone or tablet and there are some useful apps that will help you reduce your impact as you travel. Here are a few of our favourites, along with some great sites we love to recommend: