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Ecotourism & Sustainable Travel

Fighting Climate Change With Travel Carbon Offsets

Travel enriches our lives, but also leaves a carbon footprint. Help preserve our planet by supporting carbon offsets for sustainable travel, protecting beloved destinations and reducing tourism’s environmental impact.

From the pristine beaches of the Maldives to the historic streets of Rome, travel brings us to awe-inspiring places and enriches our lives with unforgettable experiences. The diverse, far-reaching tourism industry promotes cultural exchange and economic growth, accounting for over 9% of the global GDP.

However, tourism also leaves behind a significant environmental footprint. As travelers jet off to remote destinations, cool off with air conditioning, or go on boating tours, greenhouse gases are emitted. Globally, tourism is responsible for approximately 8% of the world’s emissions, with transportation —particularly flights —accounting for the largest portion. International travel is on track to surpass pre-COVID levels this year, underscoring the need to adopt climate-friendly travel practices and clean up emissions already in the atmosphere.

Tourism’s vulnerability to climate change

At the same time, tourism is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Many of the world’s most popular destinations are at risk from rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and warmer temperatures. Tropical islands and beach destinations face threats of submersion or erosion. Similarly, ski resorts are experiencing shorter seasons due to diminishing snow cover. Coral reefs, the lifeblood of marine tourism, are being lost due to bleaching caused by ocean warming.

As natural attractions degrade, destinations become swelteringly hot, and tropical storms wreak havoc, local communities that rely on tourism income may struggle. Ironically, many destinations that are the least responsible for climate change will be the hardest hit. Addressing tourism’s role in climate change and implementing sustainable practices is not only environmentally friendly, it’s also essential from an economic and climate justice standpoint.

The role of carbon offsets in sustainable travel

The first step in minimizing tourism’s climate impact is making low-carbon travel choices, such as taking the train instead of flying or staying in a hotel that utilizes renewable energy. But even if you are intentional about your behaviors, it can be challenging to eliminate all emissions due to current technological limitations. For instance, hydrogen airplanes are still under development, electric vehicle charging infrastructure is unreliable, and the electric grids powering tourism businesses still run on fossil fuels.

Carbon offsets provide a straightforward way to mitigate the impact of unavoidable travel emissions. A carbon offset represents a reduction or removal of greenhouse gas emissions created by projects elsewhere in the world. By purchasing carbon offsets, travelers, businesses, and even destinations can neutralize emissions produced by activities like flying or driving.

How to offset your travel emissions

The first step to offsetting is measuring your travel emissions. You can do this online via a free tool like Sustainable Travel International’s carbon footprint calculator. Simply input details about your travel—such as flight routes, distance driven, or days on a cruise trip —to estimate your total emissions.

Once you’ve calculated your travel carbon footprint, the next step is to offset it by supporting verified carbon offset projects. These initiatives combat climate change by preventing future emissions or absorbing existing ones from the atmosphere. For instance, wind farm projects replace fossil fuel energy by generating renewable power, while projects that protect and restore ecosystems, like tropical rainforests and blue carbon mangroves, enhance natural carbon storage. Emerging technologies, such as biochar and direct air capture, are also making strides by removing carbon from the air and storing it for millennia.

Choosing high-quality offsets

When purchasing carbon offsets, it’s crucial to support high-quality projects that effectively reduce emissions. Look for offsets certified by reputable standards, such as the Verified Carbon Standard or Gold Standard, which guarantee that the projects are independently verified and create real emissions reductions.

It’s also important to seek out offset projects that improve local livelihoods. Many projects create additional community benefits by strengthening indigenous land rights, providing jobs and skills training, or improving sanitation and healthcare systems.

When you offset carbon through Sustainable Travel International, your contribution supports their Climate Impact Portfolio which is carefully curated to maximize impact. This includes a diverse mix of project types that meet rigorous standards and contribute to sustainable development, ensuring a comprehensive and credible approach to tackling emissions.

By offsetting carbon, travelers and organizations can address their carbon liability, preserving the planet and destinations they love for future generations.

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