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A guide to responsible travel in Thailand

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As the world finally begins to focus on promoting sustainability and environmental considerations, travel and tourism are sectors that have received a certain amount of attention, writes Danny Young.

There is a wealth of information online which is aimed at promoting sustainable and responsible tourism, offering helpful advice on ways to travel and organising which travel agents and tour operators offer environmentally-friendly trips.

However, this article has been created to provide specific advice for travellers visiting Thailand. A popular tourist spot for holidaymakers and backpackers, almost 25 million travellers visited Thailand in 2013 alone, according to statistics published by the Thai Ministry Department of Tourism. However, in cities like Bangkok, often credited as one of the most polluted places in Asia, the opportunities for tourists to help the cause are numerous.

The positive impact of tourism is undeniable. Like all popular tourist destinations, Thailand has a booming hospitality and leisure industry. What’s more, the World Travel and Tourism Council identified that in 2013, 12.4% of jobs in Thailand were part of the tourism industry.

However, the negative consequences of heavy tourist footfall in any nation are equally inescapable. If you’re choosing to visiting the amazing Land of Smiles, discover how you could be more responsible in your exploration of this magical country.

How to get there

One of the biggest challenges for governments around the world is the task of offsetting the carbon footprint produced by flying. One way this is achieved is by promoting carbon offsetting to passengers.

Some airlines, including Virgin Australia, working under the programme outlined by the Australian government, highlight this as an additional option to passengers making a booking. Take a look at the carbon-neutral factsheet which the airline offers to its customers, to get a better understanding of the concept behind carbon neutral flying.

Virgin Australia operates routes to Thailand from a selection of Australian cities, although other airlines from around the world are adopting this strategy, including United Airlines and British Airways.

Your role in Thailand

Once you arrive in Thailand, it’s worth considering what you’ll be doing during your stay, besides soaking up the beautiful culture.

There is a wealth of volunteering opportunities available, with everything from teaching to conservation work with animals open to enthusiastic volunteers. Though most people secure a volunteer position before they depart, situations are constantly changed and positions open up regularly.

Thailand is part of the ASEAN community, a group of 10 Asia countries which was created in 1967 to promote unity and trade between the nations. The official language of this union is English and as a result, there are many opportunities throughout Asia for English teachers on both long and short-term positions. Not all schools require teaching experience or qualifications, especially in rural areas where native speakers are unusual visitors, and you stand a good chance of securing a position if you can show evidence of having a bachelor’s degree. Ajarn.com lists some available positions.

Teaching is by no means the only chance to experience working with Thai people and local communities. VolunteerThailand.org offers volunteer placements for people interested in working in children’s homes, assisting with the construction of houses and gardens for under-privileged families, or working with the country’s animal population.

Where to stay

If you’re travelling to Thailand purely with the intention of relaxing and unwinding, you’ll still be able to contribute to the efforts to reduce carbon emissions and damage to the environment. Eco-friendly hotels are springing up around the world and provide a great base from which to explore to new destination responsibly. Often making use of technology that reduces water and energy consumption, as well as focusing on local produce and labour in the running of the hotel, such establishments are becoming increasingly popular with conscious travellers.

Don’t assume that you’ll be spending two weeks living in a tent or wooden shack either. Options like the Fern Paradise Resort, just outside of Chiang Mai, combine luxury accommodation in the style of a boutique hotel, with innovative solutions such as alternative energy sources and food recycling, to offset the damage of tourism to the environment.

Rural destinations such as this are popular with walkers and hikers, although again, this provides an opportunity to engage in sustainable tourism. Lots of trek organisers work in co-operation with conservation authorities and foundations, such as the Asian Elephant Foundation, to help travellers do their bit for the local wildlife during their stay. Take a look at TigerTrailThailand.com; in addition to working with such organisations, the company also honours a strict responsible travel policy, which strives to conserve natural resources and have a positive impact on the environment.

Responsible travel isn’t just about respecting the country that you’re visiting. It’s also about making a valuable contribution to the environment and the nation, even if you’re visiting for a short time.

Danny Young is the features editor for online electronics retailer Ebuyer.com. His work focuses on technology, travel and industry events. As a journalism graduate from Sheffield Hallam University in 2011, Danny went on to work with a number of organisations including the BBC, Sony, the Commonwealth Games and the Times of India.

Further reading:

Life changing travel and travel changing lives

UNESCO and UNWTO team up to promote sustainable tourism

When on a responsible holiday, do as the locals do

Responsible tourism means helping communities to thrive

Sustainable tourism: people power and destination stewardship

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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