How do I reconcile my passion for travel with my ecological lifestyle? It’s a relevant question that regularly keeps me up at night. I love, LOVE to travel, but it sadly comes with a hefty CO2 price tag, especially when traveling by airplane. With this blog I want to encourage people to travel and to explore, but on the other hand all those travels do have a real impact on global warming.
In addition, I truly do appreciate more and more the sheer beauty of our planet each time I step outside my door. And with that appreciation I understand how important it is to take care of our only world. The speed in which our planet is warming up, threatens to inflict permanent damage in numerous ways as UN research states:
- rising sea levels that threaten to flood island states and cities like Bangkok and Miami;
- a decrease in bio-diversity, which puts pressure on ecosystems worldwide;
- a decrease in harvest because of an increase in temperature;
- the melting of permafrost and icecaps;
There are more than enough scientific research papers that squarely point fingers at a man made global warming, which puts the responsibility completely with us. So we have to act now. Of course, my own share in this global warming is tiny to non-existing compared to large, polluting industries, but I still think it is enormously important to act individually and try to reduce your own emissions.
Reduce your Ecological Footprint
I still remember in fifth grade we had to calculate our own Ecological Footprint (EF) in geography class. Almost everyone had results that towered the 1,8 global hectares every person had a “right” to and so we consumed more than our earth could produce annually. It made such an impression on me and made me realise our way of life is damaging our planet.
Organisations like ‘Ecolife vzw’ offers the opportunity for everyone to calculate their own Ecological Footprint online. My own ‘EF’ is 3,7 hectares now, which is well below the Belgian average of 7 hectares. So I’m doing good? Well no, because it still is way higher than the allotted 1,8 hectares per person.
After the calculation you get offered a couple of tips to further decrease your consumption. A few of them I already incorporate in my daily life: at least two vegetarian meals per week, buy fresh & local produce, barely use your car, shower instead of taking a bath, refuse advertising in your mailbox by attaching a sticker, … And there are still a few things I have to pay extra attention to: use my bike more often, never leave your electronic appliances on stand-by, … Should be doable!
Traveling and Ecological Footprint
An important reason my Ecological Footprint is still so high is the simple fact I travel by plane now and then. Most of the time it is because the distance is too long to travel by other means and still reach my destination within an acceptable amount of time. (I still don’t have infinite holidays!)
To give you an example: last weekend I went to visit my brother who lives in Barcelona. If I would go by train, it would cut considerably into my weekend. Furthermore, flying is more often than not cheaper. So a tight traveling budget forces you to make certain decisions as well. And even though I more than welcome cheap travel arrangements, it still makes me sad that there is such a price difference between a train and a plane. National and European governments should urgently take their responsibility in this matter.
Don’t be mistaken though, I fully take my own responsibilities as well. When visiting the website CompenCO2 I get presented the cold, hard facts. The flight I took to visit my brother directly added a whopping 670 kg of CO2 per passenger in our atmosphere. And to put this into perspective the site adds a few references:
- the same trip by train would only have cost me 170 kg CO2;
- letting your washing machine run for an entire year adds up to 160 kg CO2;
- a refrigerator produces 210 kg CO2 per year.
So my Barcelona trip compares to the average usage of 4,19 washing machines in one year or 3,19 refrigerators. Quite a lot for a quick weekend to Spain and back! CompenCO2 offers the opportunity to compensate the extra emission by donating a matching amount of money to a project in Africa, Asia or Latin-America. My “debt” would be €15,14, calculated by €22,50 per 1000 kg CO2.
The supported projects include alternative energy sources, energy efficient technology, support of global warming victims and reforestation. On their website you can read more on each project and follow the results of your donation.
Attention for climate on Wanderer’s Blues
Will the compensation I paid for my flight to Barcelona and the sticker on my mailbox stop global warming? Most likely not. Even though, I think such actions do have an impact. I might sound a bit naive, but I really believe many small, individual actions influence a larger body on a long-term and might even persuade policymakers.
How, and even if, I can marry my ecological instinct with my passion for travel is a question I cannot answer so simply. I want to reflect more on this topic and value every input of other people. That’s why I’ll publish eco-related blogs on Wanderer’s Blues alongside all the travel inspiration. I would deem it very unethical to post gorgeous nature photos of Canada and inspire you to travel there yourselves, without touching upon the ecological other side of the medal of such a trip.