In the recent months, as I’ve made strides toward living a sustainable lifestyle, I have been feeling extremely conflicted about air travel. Don't get me wrong, I love traveling but I think the impact of air travel doesn't come up in conversations related to sustainability and the environment half as much as it should. I say this based on a two facts - 1) the aviation industry is a rare one in that it is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuel and 2) a single domestic trip can create a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person (which exceeds the annual per capita budget in order to ensure we do not cross a global temperature of 2C.)
We often overlook this fact because we only look at the total contribution of the aviation industry (which stood at 2% as per estimates shared by the ICAO.) What we fail to take into consideration is that as more and more people across developing nations begin to participate, this estimate is expected to snowball to 25% by 2050.
On my recent weekend trip to Bangkok, I realised that it is nearly impossible to avoid air travel when traveling internationally or on a tight timeline. That said, this damage can be offset by being more conscious of our footprint through other aspects of our travels. Here are three simple ways you can reduce your carbon footprint while traveling.
1) Stay at an eco hostel
Staying at any hostel will help reduce your carbon footprint while travelling because you are sharing resources that otherwise would be dedicated to a single person (or two.) I was a bit skeptical about doing this because back home I enjoy living alone and can't imagine sharing my personal space with anyone. That said, the more I thought about it, the more the idea of me staying all by myself in a hotel room seemed wasteful.
I decided to go a step further and look for an eco hostel in Bangkok and I was lucky enough to stumble upon "The Yard Hostel" which is located in the hipster and well-connected Ari neighbourhood. Yard, literally means relative in Thai, and after you spend a few minutes with the super friendly and kind staff and guests, you will definitely feel the sense of community at this place.
Sustainability and greenery are definitely at the core of this hostel, which is constructed from shipping containers and reused materials and is lush green with plants, while offering silence that one might imagine impossible to find in Bangkok. There is an emphasis on conserving resources by sharing as much as you can and by avoiding waste. They even offer cycles for free so that you can explore the neighbourhood sans emissions. I can't believe I am saying this, but after staying at The Yard, I don't think I will ever stay in a hotel while travelling again.
2) Use transit and walk
During my stay I decided that I would not use a private cab to commute and committed myself to take advantage of Bangkok's well connected public transit system. This was a big move for me because I was traveling solo and didn’t speak the language. That said, I am glad I faced my fears because not only is Bangkok's transit system very well connected, it is also fairly easy to use. Based on instructions from the lovely staff at The Yard Hostel, I took the Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi Airport and got off at the last stop on the line - Phaya thai. From here, I got on the Sukumvhit line to get off on the 3rd last stop (Ari) which is the same neighborhood as my hostel and after a few minutes walking, I arrived at my hostel. I was able to use the same line combined with quite a bit of walking to visit all of the places I did (I ended up walking about 60kms in 3 days.)
3) Say no to single-use plastic
Lessons can often be learnt from mistakes and that is exactly what happened to me when it came to using single-use plastic on this trip - I totally messed up! Back home, there is a ban that has been introduced on single-use plastic in my state and most places will offer non-plastic alternatives by default or even exclusively. But in Thailand, the scenario was quite contrasting, with most shops and eateries still dominantly using plastic.I was able to overcome this in most cases but I'd be lying if I said I was successful all the time. So if you are planning a trip soon, I highly recommend carrying a basic kit that consists of cloth bags, reusable straws/forks/knives/spoons and maybe even a container or two. This should equip you you to avoid single-use plastic to a a fairly large extent.
Are you planning an international trip anytime soon? If so, which of these tips are you most excited to give a shot? Leave a comment.