Tourism is an industry that is rapidly expanding. Each year there are new airlines being made and new destinations available to visit. This fast paced industry, alongside its habit for exponential growth, is leading to a rather dirty industry. Tourism is in the top 5 export categories in 80% of the worlds countries, that’s a lot of CO2 for one industry and quite frankly, it’s one of the biggest concerns the tourism industry is facing. Tourism is producing too much CO2 it can be environmentally happy with.
Tourism is responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions and of course, the main culprit for this is air travel and other forms of the transportation sector. However, air travel generates the largest proportion of carbon emissions, with reports of up to 75% while other land transportations such as coach and rail contribute 13% (UNWTO).
The traveler rarely ever stops to think about how much CO2 it will cost to get them to their destination and I don’t blame them. Its the little things that are sometimes the most shocking such as a measly cup of coffee emits 21 grams of CO2 to produce, package, make and consume, and we aren’t even talking about lattes or cappuccinos. So with that In mind, how much CO2 would it cost to board an 80,000kg Boeing 737 that reaches heights of up to 38,000 feet and travels at speeds of 500 mph for hours on end. A short journey from London to Amsterdam (One way) produces 0.11 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide which is 110,000 grams, that’s a lot of cups of coffee. Something to think about next time you travel.
Some aspects generally go unnoticed in regard to your CO2 footprint in tourism. For example, when you arrive at your hotel (if you’re a hotel kind of person), all your traveling is done and you’re ready to relax, you would be inclined to think that all your CO2 contribution is over and you can finally stop worrying about the damage you have caused to the world. I’m afraid that just isn’t the case, the accommodation sector accounts for 20% of emissions from tourism.
These can come from obvious factors such as central heating (or cooling), but even aspects you wouldn’t even think about such as pools, the maintenance of bars and restaurants and the daily cleaning of guest rooms. It just seems all doom and gloom because you can’t even go to the local theme parks and water parks or any other activities without contributing to the entertainment sectors 3.5% of CO2 emissions in tourism. A lot of things to be cautious about, but who wants to worry about these things when you’re on vacation?
There is actually a lot more you can do to reduce your tourism carbon footprint because after all, everyone loves going on holiday. There is some niche schemes available to help travelers compensate for their carbon emissions, a process called Carbon Offsetting. Carbon Offsetting Is a process where you calculate the amount of CO2 your holiday will produce (predominantly transportation) and then donate money to remove the equivalent through planting trees and/or upgrading equipment infrastructure.
Another way of reducing your carbon footprint is to simply fly less and take trains. Sometimes train transportation is actually better as there is less hassle at the airports, you can move around more freely and there’s rarely a limit on luggage, but of course the only down side are the extra hours it would take to get to your destination. However, a little phrase I always tell myself, “Don’t count the travel time, make the travel time count”. That will make the long haul journey seem a part of your holiday.
Credit: William Wand – The Figure Head