By: Kassidy Wright, USM Eco-Rep
Over the summer, I was fortunate to visit Portugal for the fourth time. All my life, traveling has been a passion of mine. Prior to Portugal, I have visited Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Portugal is home to lush forests, stunning beaches, diverse cityscapes, crystal-clear waters, aweing mountains and a welcoming culture. Places like Portugal truly make me see and appreciate the magic, diversity and beauty that the world holds; urging me to keep my sense of adventure and wonder.
With my background as a USM Eco-Rep and a senior in the Environmental Policy and Planning Program, it was natural for me to begin questioning the impact my passion for travel might have on the environment and the countries I visit. Questions like: How much additional waste do tourists create on their journeys? How simple can it be to limit my impact? Are there programs out there that I can utilize to offset my impact in some way? Then I got creative. I began traveling to see the world and save the world. I researched programs for tourists looking to offset emissions and waste associated with flights and other transportation modes essential for traveling. What I found gave me some comfort, as traveling is a privilege and requires additional natural resources; being a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
As a traveler, you can enroll in carbon offset programs. A simple internet search will present you with a variety of programs to choose from. The primary goal being to offset and compensate for the emissions associated with trips. One trusted program is Sustainable Travel International. This organization asks for donations into the programs, some as low as five dollars , which help to fund carbon reduction and capturing projects. These might include large tree plantings to absorb carbon in the atmosphere, or wind and other renewable energy farms which aim to stop carbon outputs altogether. These programs have various options where tourists can donate annually, monthly, or anytime they wish. Some carbon offset programs ask questions about your habits while you travel which helps to calculate the amount of carbon and waste you create; thus, creating a more accurate amount for you to donate.
Sustainability isn’t just about environmental sustainability but social sustainability. Once you reach your destination, take advantage of local markets instead of chain grocers. Markets have local vendors who grow and sell their products, which reduces the supply chain and places your money directly to local families. While you’re there, pull out the reusable bags you remembered to pack, this reduces waste and a lot more communities have banned plastic bags.
Being a conscious tourist requires just a little more effort in planning your trip. However, it’s a responsibility we should all accept to ensure the quality of the places we dream to visit, and to inspire others to do the same. We can see the world and change the world at the same time.