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Travel is great, travel responsibly is better! (1/2)
Taking a vacation is great, and it is essential for our balance. However, if some of us spend that time at home, in most cases, we try to escape from our daily life by traveling. For a few days or several weeks, near or far away, the choices are infinite, and these activities have a significant impact. Indeed, the Internet and social networks can transform, in a few years, a peaceful and preserved city or region into a gigantic “tourist Barnum” with devastating effects on nature, ecosystems, and local populations.
As individuals and entrepreneurs, we have always fought against the excesses of mass tourism, not hesitating to take a public stand (and sometimes to take “blows”) against certain actors eager for attendance records and immediate profits.
Don’t get us wrong, we are obviously not against tourism; as hoteliers, it would be wrong; but we are for responsible and sustainable tourism, elegant, intelligent, respectful, and beneficial to human, natural, and economic balances.
We are even convinced that individuals should travel, open up to others, and discover the world, as it is clear to us that the effects of this practice are globally positive. Still, for this to remain possible, we have no other choice than to think and act to minimize as much as possible the ecological and social footprint of this activity.
In this context, we asked Luc Baillargeon-Nadeau, an expert geologist at LCL – Engineering, Environment & Sustainable Development*, to write with us a series of articles on this theme: Traveling yes, but traveling responsibly. The idea is not to make people feel guilty but rather to raise awareness, inform, and initiate a reflection so that tourism practice becomes more eco-conscious and sustainable.
A propos de LCL Environnement
is a consulting firm specializing in environmental solutions. Founded in 2006, the company has completed more than 6,000 projects for various organizations. Since 2021, LCL Environment has been working with Nomad Hotel in its efforts to become carbon neutral and obtain the Carbon Neutral Enterprise certification.
What is the environmental impact of your next vacation? (by Luc Baillargeon Nadeau)
Going on a trip, what a joy! What could be more fun than packing your bags, putting on your sunglasses, and leaving by car, train or plane!
However, we often forget the environmental footprint that this little moment of happiness can generate. For example, transportation means gasoline and greenhouse gases. In the same vein, our consumption is different when we are away compared to what it is at home. We go to restaurants every day, buy souvenirs, and ignore to sort our waste. So what is the real impact of these behaviors?
According to a 2018 Nature Climate Change study, tourism accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, or four gigatons of CO2, sharply rising over the last 20 years (1).
The first thing you do when traveling is to choose a means of transportation. You will probably select a commercial airline for long distances, whereas you are more likely to use your car or a rental car for regional and local trips or take a bus or train.
In North America, each 1000 km traveled by air in economy class emits nearly 200 kg CO2 per person, far more than trains, buses, or cars, which emit between 100 kg CO2 and 150 kg CO2 (2). However, the distances traveled by air are generally much longer, which causes a much higher climate impact.
So before you plan your next trip, think about shortening distances and choosing the most environmentally friendly means of transportation for your international and local travel. And if you are visiting a more remote country, take your time there by opting for “slow travel”!
Once you’re off the plane or in the car, you’ll probably check into a local hotel for the duration of your stay; there’s nothing better than a comfortable bed after a long drive! However, did you know that not all hotels are created equal for the environment? Some hotels have environmentally responsible practices and maintenance, such as using biodegradable products, renewable energy, or selective waste management.
In addition, heating the building can be a significant source of greenhouse gases if it is not electricity-based. For example, in Canada, a room emits 20 kg of CO2 per week from natural gas heating and cooling (3), i.e., four times more than the same room heated by electricity or renewable energy!
Ask the lodging establishments about the main environmental actions and initiatives that are in place to make an informed choice!
Food and waste
One of the most positive things you can do for the environment is change your diet! Food and waste management account for almost one-fifth of daily CO2 emissions.
We often tend to go to restaurants more often and try local specialties when traveling. As a result, some people will tend to “spoil themselves by” eating more refined dishes or more meats, often red. Also, we sometimes eat “on the go,” which requires several single-use packages to be thrown away. This change in diet impacts your usual volume of emissions!
For example, suppose you opt for beefsteak at a restaurant. It is about 12 kg of CO2 emitted, i.e., ten times more than the chicken or fish you could eat at home and almost 100 times more than the dish you usually eat if you are vegan (4.)
What will be the carbon footprint of your next vacation? It will depend on your choices of consumption, accommodation, and destination! Our forthcoming article will give you tips on reducing your footprint and organizing an eco-friendly holiday.
(1) Lenzen, et al. The carbon footprint of global tourism. Nature Clim Change. www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0141-x#citeas
(2) GHG Protocol, Emission Factors from Cross-Sector Tools. www.ghgprotocol.org/calculation-tools
(3) Ressources Naturelles Canada, Tableaux BNCÉ, adapté du tableau 20 secteur commercial et institutional. https://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/organisme/statistiques/bnce/apd/donnees_f/bases_de_donnees.cfm
(4) Poore and Nemecek (2018), Reducing food’s environmental impact through producers and consumers, Science. Adapté par www.OurWorldinData.org