Mother Earth is in pain. The glaciers are shrinking. The seas are rising. The globe is warming. The climate is changing. There’s an island the size of the USA, made entirely of plastic debris, in the Pacific. The planet is in a state of emergency. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters? Not this time…
Now we don’t really want to get too heavy on you – afterall, most of it wasn’t directly our fault. But, seriously, if we do nothing, how are we going to explain it to our grandchildren?
Regrettably most of us travelled a long way to get here. In fact, two people on a return flight between Europe and Australia will contribute to as much climate change as an average household’s gas and electricity consumption over a whole year.
What can you do about it? Well, you can start by travelling greener, enjoying this amazing country’s eco-adventures and offsetting your emission. Let’s change the world, folks!
Here are a few simple steps to help you really make a difference:
1. It’s just so offsetting
Carbon offsetting is a way of compensating for the emissions you’ve helped produce, mainly through flights (such as www.climatecare.org). They’ll put your money towards planting trees and other carbon offset schemes.
2. Tree houses
Because bona fide eco hostels use renewable energy sources like solar panels and rain water, their bills should be lower than normal hostels (that said, they can be expensive to build and have to recoup the costs). YHA Australia (www.yha.com.au) have created a number of sustainable eco hostels. For more on eco hostels in Oz, see www.ecotourismlogue.com/hostels
3. Eco tourism
Where possible try to use tourism companies who are environmentally responsible. Ask about group size (smaller groups tend to make a smaller environmental impact), whether the guides are locals and what kind of lodging is included. Genuine eco tour operators will generally have an accreditation from Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotoursim.org.au). If they don’t, ask them why not.
4. Be a turn-off
When you leave the room, turn off the air conditioning, heat, television, lights or any other electric devices.
5. Don’t meat
Sheep and cattle emit methane which has 20 times the global warming effect of CO2. So think about eating less meat.
6. Recycle race
Use recycling bins wherever possible. If a hostel doesn’t have them, ask why they don’t. Also check packaging for the recycling symbol. If there’s a choice between recycling and non-recycling packaging, try to buy the former.
7. Vollie good
Think about doing some volunteer work – or “voluntourism” (yuk). Often this can be conservation work, such as monitoring damage to the Great Barrier Reef or wildlife , or planting trees.
8. At the foot of it all
Many car and bus journeys are unavoidable, but when you’re exploring a new town, have a think about walking or hiring a push-bike to get around. At the very least, use public transport – do you really need that taxi?
9. Small is good
Hiring a car for a roadtrip? Generally speaking the larger the car the less fuel efficient it is. Consider renting a small, more economic car – you’ll save petrol too. Even better still, hire a Hybrid.
10. Picture this
When it comes to visiting beautiful places, the old adage rings true: take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.
11. Walking the walk
When hiking, always take your rubbish out with you when you leave. Light campfires only in established fire areas and be sure they’re completely extinguished. Stay on marked trails and maintain a safe distance from any animals.
12. Good reef
The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is a wondrous but delicate eco-system. When snorkeling or diving, try not touch coral, stir up sediment, or touch or disturb marine life. Also try to use companies with Eco Tourism accreditation. Sustainable and eco-friendly procedures may include a no anchoring policy, spring loaded taps and low flow shower heads (both reducing water usage) and other sustainable and energy-efficient schemes.
13. Are you local?
Try to buy local products whenever possible, rather than those that have been flown or shipped from overseas. You’ll be supporting the local economy, too.
14. Customise it
Don’t buy souvenirs or other products made from endangered animals or plants – in most cases you can’t get them through Customs anyway.
15. Short showers
Keep your showers short, and stop the tap while you’re brushing your teeth.
What happens to all those non-biodegradable drinking water bottles once you turf them in the bin? Buy recyclable ones, or just refill them from the tap.
17. Group wash
When washing clothes, wait till you have a full load. Ask around the dorm to see if anyone has any clothes they can add – saving on water and energy. Hang clothes up rather than use the dryer – we’re in a hot country – it saves money and power.
Try not to leave your phone charging overnight – or the charger in the socket when it’s not charging – this wastes energy.
19. Bag it
It’s thought to take up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to fully decompose, so avoid using them. Take your backpack shopping and re-use the plastic bags that you have.
20. More is less
While you’re Down Under try to see as many neighbouring countries on your wishlist as possible. Extend your trip if you need to, to cut down on long-haul journeys from Europe.
21. Charidee, mate
Throwing clothes out before moving on? Donate them to the nearest charity shop.
FINDING GREEN OZ
Although Australia has the second highest per capita greenhouse emissions in the developed world, the tourism industry is a global leader in ecotourism. Hundreds of tour operators and hostels have sustainable practices or are accredited by Ecotourism Australia. The latest Lonely Planet guide to Australia has a “Greendex” of environmentally responsible tourism companies. Ecotourism Australia is another place to look, see www.ecotoursim.org.au.