I just read a thoughtful article in the New York Times by Sara Clemence about travel and the environment. Her thoughts focused on the negative effects of travel and how the overall travel industry needs to do a better job in promoting quality travel — and not necessarily more travel. At the heart of it all, to me, is that this is a call for the travel industry to become a partner in the fight against climate change, pollution, and the inundation of communities with popular tourist attractions. So, how do we do that?
Let’s face it. People traveling causes pollution. Planes, trains, ships, and automobiles are still big carbon emitters and polluters. Tourists are often very lazy and leave a trail of pollution and solid waste in their wake when they travel. It’s a big problem, but not an unfixable problem.
Let’s assume a few things for now. First, that people will continue to travel. Travel will also likely resume pre-COVID-19 levels in a year or two. Second, the development of zero emission vehicles is going to take some time before being widely available (cars: sooner; planes, later). Third, we can – and will – take action now to become better environmental stewards of our planet. This last assumption is by no means a guarantee yet, but we’re optimistic about what we can do together. Here are a few things you can do, some taken from Clemence’s article, and some others that I’m adding:
- Choose eco-friendly travel and tour companies that are taking actions to conduct travel in an environmentally sustainable manner.
- Choose travel companies that work with local communities to offer travel that is economically and environmentally good for those communities.
- Actively think how you can minimize the solid waste that you produce and dispose when you travel.
- Become politically active and pressure travel companies to operate more sustainably. Greenpeace, Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, and Only One are just a few of the organizations working for a better, safer, and cleaner world.
- Don’t just frequent the typical tourist hotspots. Overtourism is a thing and needs to be avoided.
- Read, read, read about the environment and ways to be a part of the solution.
What are we doing?
Even though Naked Pirate Travels is a young travel company, we are taking environmental sustainability serious from the very beginning. Here is an excerpt from our Terms and Conditions that describes our approach to making travel better and more sustainable:
“Naked Pirate Travels commits to conducting all its travel operations in an environmentally sustainable manner. Our long-term goal is to become a zero carbon emission company as soon as possible. In the short-term, we will take all actions possible to reduce our carbon footprint while also promoting sustainable travel. Examples of our actions include using solar and wind to provide electric power to our offices, recycle, use electric vehicles (when possible) during our Island & Coastal Adventures, inform and educate travelers about sustainable travel, work with local communities to provide quality and sustainable travel opportunities, and do our part to improve the quality of travel experiences wherever we go. We are a part of the world and we must take care of it.”
For example, we work with local communities in St. Lucia and The Bahamas to provide quality, environmentally healthy, and fun travel experiences. We will work to coordinate more local efforts directly with all of our tour offerings, too. Our pirate-themed sail and tall ship adventures are inherently eco-friendly, too. After all, traveling with wind power is the ultimately in sustainable sea travel and we plan to promote the reinvigoration of sail travel far and wide. Also, when we book travel for people and businesses, we will provide advice and recommendations on how to best support the environment when traveling. Giving people the information and resources they need to sustainably travel is a task everyone in the travel industry must accept.
The time is now
This really is an all-hands-on-deck moment for you, me, and everyone across our big, beautiful world. Just as the world came together to address the crisis with the ozone layer, we must act now to ensure a healthy, safe, and vibrant planet for all the life that it holds. For the travel industry, becoming better stewards of the environment is a must and the goal for zero carbon emissions and reducing pollution footprints should be embraced and adopted by all travel companies. It may take some effort, but the rewards will be enormous for the future.