The phrase “environmentally responsible traveller” can sometimes sound like something of an oxymoron. After all, a quick look online will reveal the hideous amount of CO2 emitted by the average overseas flight, and even a drive into the Lake District or the Brecon Beacons will leave its environmental footprint.
However, there are ways to explore new locations that do not have to cost the earth. Here, we take a look at five ecologically friendly destinations that you might want to consider for a guilt-free travel adventure.
If you are serious about your eco-tourism, then a trip to the Galápagos Islands has got to be near the top of your list of must-see destinations.
To say that a place feelsas if it is on another planet is a well-worn cliché, but in the case of the Galápagos, it really fits. Situated more than 600 miles from the nearest civilisation, this volcanic archipelago in the Pacific is a designated national park, almost in its entirety. Tourism is, of course, important, but it is managed with ecology as the number one consideration.
As such, visitor numbers are strictly controlled, and accommodation facilities are among the most eco-friendly anywhere in the world, with water and energy conservation at the forefront.
There are a number of eco-friendly hotels, and it is even possible to camp, provided that you obtain prior permission and follow the rules by refraining from smoking, drinking, littering or getting too close to the wildlife.
Caving in Wales
Of course, we can’t all go jetting off to the Galápagos, so next, something a little closer to home. Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House in Snowdonia was among the very first in the UK to receive a platinum rating in TripAdvisor’s well-publicised GreenLeaders Programme, and as such, is deserving of a spot on our list.
The family-run guesthouse is powered 100 percent by renewable energy sources, and features two nearby hydro stations that are intriguing to visit. It also encourages guests to use the most eco-friendly means of transport, and has three electric charging stations for cars on site.
Your host, John Whitehead, is a qualified mountaineer, and the tallest mountain in England and Wales happens to be right on your doorstep. He is also an experienced kayaking coach, and can even supply caving gear. Just make sure that you have the rest of the kit that you need, particularly if you are a little rusty – a shoulder-centric support shirt, worn-in hiking boots and appropriate back posture support kit are absolute essentials.
Of course, if you have youngsters with you, mountaineering and caving might be a little too adventurous, at least for this year. Kinderhotels Europa provides a family-friendly alternative that is ecologically sound and still includes plenty of fun activities.
There are a range of facilities from which to choose, but if you’ve never given Austria a try, the hotel in Moar Gut is situated in a beautiful spot in the Grossarltal Valley. The hotel is based on sound ecological principles when it comes to renewable power supply and recycling processes, and there is so much to do that there really is something for everyone.
The young (and the young at heart) will be kept amused for hours with the soft play area, trampolines and swimming pools, while there is also a petting zoo on site. For the adventurers, the area is also fantastic for skiing, horse riding and mountaineering. And given that they throw in up to 70 hours of free childcare per week, there is nothing to stop you sampling a bit of everything, and also enjoying some adult downtime.
An African Safari
Nothing cries “conservation” more than contributing towards the preservation of some of the world’s most endangered creatures,and it really is the experience of a lifetime. These days, the vast majority of game reserves are strongly focused on conservation – after all, for them, it is a pragmatic choice, as well as an ethical one, as they rely on the survival of these creatures for their livelihoods.
As such, it seems harsh to pick out one reserve above another, but if forced to do so, Thakadu River Camp, located within the Madikwe Game Reserve close to South Africa’s border with Botswana, is hard to beat.
The camp is owned and operated by the local community, and runs an eco-tourism partnership with the reserve and an experienced tour operator. In case you think “river camp” sounds a bit Carry On Up the Jungle, rest assured that the facilities are second to none, and take glamping to a whole new level.
The tents have all the facilities of a good hotel suite, along with private balconies that overlook the Marico River. Best of all, it lies in a malaria-free zone, so there is no need to worry about the anti-malaria tablets.
A rainforest adventure
Let’s finish where we started, in the South America region. Everyone understands the plight of the Amazonian rainforest and the effect that deforestation is having on the entire planet. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to bear witness and contribute in any small way towards preserving this essential resource.
There are a number of eco-lodges that run organised treks into the rainforest, educating visitors and bringing sorely needed income to these remote communities. Again, it seems tough to single out just one, but on this occasion, Refugio Amazonas has to get a mention. Situated in the middle of the Peruvian rainforest, the 32-room lodge is certainly remote, but the facilities are incredible. Also, it has a strong family focus, providing a whole variety of activities for kids as young as six.
Best of all, it operates on sound ecological principles, and with the participation of the indigenous Ese-Eja tribe. It is truly an experience for the whole family that will bring memories to last a lifetime.
These are just a few of the eco-friendly locations around the world – where will you visit next?
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.