“Sustainable travel”: it’s a phrase that can feel like something of an oxymoron.
By its very nature, travel nearly always involves some sort of climate impact, unless it’s being conducted solely by bike or on foot. More often than not, if the travel is international, getting from A to B is facilitated by hopping on a kerosene-guzzling plane, which in turn spews out the equivalent emissions of some individuals’ carbon footprint for an entire year.
And yet, at its best, tourism has the potential for immense good – the power to redistribute wealth from some of the richest parts of the world to the poorest – on top of opening our eyes to new places, experiences, people, ways of life. In the wake of Brexit and in an increasingly divided world, with battle-lines scorched down the centre on almost any issue you’d care to mention, I feel more convicted than ever that expanding our horizons – and our minds in the process – is not just pleasurable, but fiercely necessary.
Stepping into the role of The Independent’s travel editor, I’m keenly conscious of the gap that needs bridging between these two seemingly conflicting stances – particularly following the latest IPCC report. It’s not a paradox that’s exclusive to travel; and yet it seems to be typified by the issue of holidays. After all, what could seem more frivolous while, simultaneously, representing one of the deepest joys of life: to wake up somewhere you’ve never been before and explore it afresh, with all the excitement and wide-eyed enchantment of a child?
It’s why I believe we have to start doing things differently if we’re to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem: to prioritise coverage of trips whose net positive effects outweigh the negative impacts; to champion companies that started taking steps to cut their carbon outputs and change the travel industry for the better long before “sustainability” became the latest trendy buzzword; to inspire and excite our readers to try something different when booking their next getaway, whether it’s adopting the slow travel ethos and taking their time, or intentionally frequenting local hotels and businesses to put their tourist pounds into the pockets of people who need it.
This is an excerpt from an article by Helen Coffey, originally published by The Independent.