Tread Lightly on Mama Earth: ways to lower your travel footprint

Tread Lightly on Mama Earth: Ways to Lower your Travel Footprint

Happy Earth Day! Here is a little story about tourism and it’s impacts on the earth… When I used to live in Vancouver, I used to walk the seawall almost daily. In the summer when everyone flocked to English Bay for a day or afternoon at the beach the local public garbage cans along the way would get so full as would Davie and Denman Streets, two arteries leading straight to those glimmering Vancity shores.

I often wondered if everyone brought their own cup or grabbed their own to go containers from home for their delicious Persian Grill schwarma or Hime sushi platter, maybe the cans wouldn’t get so full. Though the beaches are full of both locals and tourists alike from about April to October, in Vancouver, the waste increase just seems huge during those months.

Maybe if we all made one or two little adjustments to the way we travel we could protect Mama Earth from the ill effects of the not-so-green impacts of our collective travel habits. Here are five ways to reduce your impact when you plan your next trip on our truly beautiful Mama Earth.
Offset your air travel. If you’re in Canada try visiting less.ca. This website allows you to offset your next flight’s carbon offsets by investing in low carbon projects in Canada and around the world. For example to offset a flight from my local airport (Sandspit) to Vancouver, it would cost $9.17 that could be invested in dispensing chlorine tablets in Uganda, wastewater treatment in Thaland or landfill gas management in Fredericton. https://www.less.ca/en-ca/flights.cfm

Bring your own dang cup. Or to go container or plate/cutlery. Gah. We’ve all seen the photos of the plastic gyre or photos of turtes with little plastic bags hanging out of their mouth. Doesn’t it make you think, “what are we doing to this precious earth?” An easy way to lower your waste is to ust bring a coffee cup or water bottle and a to go container. Imagine how much throw away waste you could avoid. LC Hunter of Birdgehls has a really great round up of things to pack in order to go plastic free.

Ways to lower your travel footprint: Plan a Staycation

Plan a staycation. Leaving Haida Gwaii means taking a big boat or a plane. So a great way to avoid a big carbon footprint is to explore my own backyard. Masset, is one of my favourite places to staycation. It has endless sandy beaches, some pretty yummy eateries and is just over an hour drive away so it feels like I’m heading out somewhere far away(ish).

Ride the train or take the heel toe express. One of my favourite trips was when I visited a friend in Queens, NYC in 2006. Because she had to work the week I was there, I ended up walking all over Manhattan, Harlem, Queens and Brooklyn between subway rides. What a way to see the city. Before you go research transit costs, maps, websites. Or grab a city map, or download maps in your phone for easy heel toe navigation. Make Earth Day every day and find out the closest park to have a picnic at while you explore – make a day of it.

Tread Lightly on Mama Earth: Ways to Lower your Travel Footprint
Photo: Stephan Valentin/Unsplash

Find out what food is in season. Eat local. Eat fresh. Find out what fruit and veggies are in season and don’t have to travel 1000s of miles to be on your plate. Grab some snacks from the local farmer’s market or farm stand. Be an adventurous eater and try to eat locally grown/made delicacies as much as possible. In the US you can use the Seasonal Food Guide to find out what’s fresh. In Canada, Sobey’s has some great regional food guides on their website, like this beauty about Western Canada.

How do you lower your environmental footprint when you travel? I’d love to hear your tips or hacks in the comments below. 

16 thoughts on “Tread Lightly on Mama Earth: ways to lower your travel footprint

  1. Great article! We recently made a big life change to reduce our carbon footprint and come September will be moving onto our 38′ sailboat to travel the world by wind and live off solar power! Obviously not everyone can make such a drastic change but tips like these help!!

    1. Amazing. That is a big change. Where I live there are a lot of people who visit and are doing just that. Good on you!

  2. I really need to be better at bringing my own cup to coffee shops. I have my own tumbler but always forget to bring it! I always feel so guilty when I use a paper cup and the sleeve. I need to do better!

  3. The husband and I are avid travellers, and we try to travel in as environment-friendly a way as possible. The tips you have suggested here are great! Thank you for this very informative post. 🙂

  4. I have recently watched an interesting documentary about a new travel method, much like bullet trains in Japan, but much faster. They are proposed to work with the power of magnets and the trains would be underground. Can you imagine not having to fly a plane and go from LA to NYC on your lunch break? 😀 This is what has been proposed, and the technology is there. Among with other sustainable energy sources, this information is being suppressed by big corporations, being lead by oil companies that don’t want to release this information to the public or they will lose their source of income from fossil fuels. Anyhow, very interesting topic and I feel the more people are educated, the more we can make a difference.

    1. So interesting Kreete! I had no idea about this magnetic train technology. Maybe one day it will be the norm.

  5. Great ideas, especially eating fruits and vegetables that are in season. We are trying to teach our kids (slowly!) about responsible tourism. I like our National Parks’ emphasis on Carry In Carry Out, and we try to abide by these ideas when we travel.

    1. Love this Lance! Kids are so good at taking cues from a young age. My little is constantly picking up garbage – “No littering!”

  6. Thought provoking and whilst not being of a “flag waving” nature, there are some things like you have mentioned that are very easy to do and that can have a considerable impact. One of the biggest things I think people can also help with is looking after their rubbish. I seriously don’t understand how people think it’s ok to just leave their stuff around.

  7. Hey, great article and very useful information. I think it’s incredibly important that we all think about lowering our carbon footprint in all aspects of life.

    Carbon offsetting is an interesting one. I’ve always been dubious of it and after going to a international conservation forum a few months ago all of the guest speakers also cast doubt on carbon offsetting. This was mostly due to the fact that most of the carbon calculators majorly underestimate the amount of carbon being used so as to not put off potential customers with high prices. Also, as 99% of the companies are profitable organisations, some with no expertise in conservation, it’s difficult to know where you’re money is going and if it’s going to be of any conservational benefit.

    As CO2 from passenger planes is such a huge contributor to greenhouse gases it’s best to avoid flying unless it’s a must. We committed to this last year. We’re still going to India but we’re cycling!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on carbon offsetting. Some elements to consider for sure. As for cycling around India – good for you.

  8. loved the blog . i am in the process of focusing more on sustainable travel these days. it was great to read . i just ordered my keepcup . its very motivating so see blogs like yours. And must say your photos look great !..

  9. I love the idea of traveling locally. As long as you don’t go too far away. Some of my adventures can be a couple hours away and then i turn back and go home the same day. While I don’t mind the time spend, I feel guilty of the resources I’m waiting. So this year, we decided to camp at those locations and spend a little more time there to explore.

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