Whatever we do, travelling creates impacts on the environment. There is no such thing as completely carbon-neutral and the effect we have on the places we visit, goes beyond our contribution to global warming: it's not just about carbon. But because half of all life on Earth is made from carbon, it's a very useful measure for our overall effect on biodiversity. You have surely heard of “carbon offsets” but there are three other necessary steps before that, for offsets to work.
AVOID – MINIMISE – RESTORE - OFFSET
If you follow these rules, in this order, your investment in offsets is more likely to succeed. Here’s a guide to how it can work for you.
You might be interested in reading this article alongside this simple calculator we made to estimate consumption from travel:
Flying comes at a cost of at least 150 kg of carbon into our atmosphere per person per hour. The only way to avoid air travel is to travel locally. If we take flights, we have to accept there is a consequence and look for ways to minimise.
Then there is the impact you have on the ground. Pollution and disturbance of wildlife, impact on local culture and the economy, can all have negative consequences. The best way to avoid this, is to use reputable eco-friendly brands that are not just saying so, but implement continual improvement policies.
Minimise your air travel. Try to do few long-haul flights, take less luggage, purchase economy and spend more time in one place. Maybe Zoom call for a few of those interstate business trips you’d normally do and indulge yourself with a holiday flight instead.
Behave like you would at home. Save water, don’t leave lights on, turn off the aircon when you go out and treat the environment with respect. Don’t expect fresh linen every day, avoid using non-recycled bottled water and try to spend more time on foot, treading lightly, rather than driving long distances.
Eat sustainably. Book places to eat that use local produce and minimise your meat consumption. Meat production (particularly beef and lamb) is one of our biggest annual contributions to carbon emissions. Driving is the second. Fuel and food are among our most expensive purchases so you might even come home feeling healthier, wealthier and more fulfilled.
Before you leave home. Turn off all your standby power. Set your water heating to the bare minimum and don’t leave unused food in the fridge. This way, you’re not doubling-up on your consumption while on holiday.
Use the chance to learn. Good ecotourism operators are often early adopters of new technology and strategies to minimise their environmental impact. Learn from them and you might be able to practice new ways to live sustainably at home.
There are tourism businesses everywhere that are proud to show you the benefits your support brings to their local community and environment. None of us want to spend money with a business that doesn’t care about its staff and place of work. The same goes double for tourism, which depends on social and environmental sustainability for its future.
Restoration of habitat is essential, because restored habitat grows and self-sustains. The investment you make now, by simply choosing the right group to travel with, can still be reaping rewards many years later. A tree planted in the right way, not only absorbs carbon but creates clean water, fertile soils and livelihoods. Your holiday can help the economy while making for a more healthy living environment for everyone.
You can’t completely recreate the value of lost biodiversity. This is why protecting pristine habitats is essential. Offsets need to be controlled and confined to as little as possible.
Before you choose to offset your flights, if you can also manage to AVOID-MINIMISE-RESTORE, you’re in a stronger position to make up for the residual impacts of your air travel and other pollution.
The remaining important question becomes, how do you know your offset has worked?
We recommend investing in programs such as Greenfleet because they provide lasting benefit at scale.
If you plant vegetation in the right places, you not only capture carbon but build habitat, restore wildlife populations, secure river banks, reduce coastal sediment run-off, increase adjacent farm soil fertility and create a more valuable environment for tourism. Once that habitat has grown up, it seeds and self-sustains. More structurally diverse planting appears to have greater carbon capture benefits.
Offsets only really work if they create a permanent and sustained benefit and for that, they have to be invested in carbon-biodiversity programs. Tree planting alone, does not solve climate change. It is loss of wildlife populations and habitat connectivity that leads to structural decline in the planet’s ability to stabilise climate.
Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries
Simon has been studying and observing wildlife for over 40 years and for about 30 of that, writing stories, taking photographs and making short films. His observations and experience extend to travelling extensively through Australia and eastern Indonesia discovering new and exciting travel opportunities, as well as contributing to science and conservation. Simon is passionate about conservation and the impact travel can have on the lives of people in remote places.
WHEN 8 days, 5 – 12 May 2021 ex Cairns
PRICE from $6,695 pp twin share ($1,240 solo suppl.)
This tour includes all listed accommodation and experiences and most meals. See online for details and enquire about our COVID and payment policies.
If you'd like information on alternative self-drive, semi-guided or budget tours, check out our Wet Tropics page.