Green travel. Sustainable travel. Eco-tourism.
Whatever you want to call it, the trend is growing. While most of us still love to travel, we can no longer ignore the impact our travelling has on the planet.
With relatively cheap airfares these days, several of the world’s most popular destinations are groaning under the weight of too many visitors. In the Netherlands, tourism promotion is being scaled back to protect the quality of life and in response to the Climate Crisis.
“The Dutch government’s ability to keep to its climate change pledges if the rate of growth in numbers continues is also in doubt. Should 42 million people visit in 2030, the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 49% in 2030 compared with 2017 would likely not be met, the tourist board has warned.”
– The Guardian
Geography dictates that visitors to New Zealand must arrive by sea or air, but airplanes and cruise ships have enormous carbon emissions. So the challenge is to reduce the tourism impact once our visitors arrive, and to encourage Kiwis to travel within their own country rather than going overseas.
“It’s not just air miles that have a carbon footprint. A 2018 report by journal Nature Climate Change found that tourism accounts for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that shopping and food are “significant” contributors. But while many are pledging to give up flying entirely, others are wanting to make their trips more sustainable — not just in terms of how they get there, but how they pick their destination in the first place and what they do on the ground.”
What you can do
As you’ll see from the tips below, a great place to minimise your travel impact is on an island – such as Waiheke!
1. Go and stay. Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, says that when he was growing up, people tended to take one longer holiday a year, of about two weeks, plus a domestic trip, and maybe one more.
“With the advent of low-cost aviation, many of us are taking multiple flights, and holidays are much shorter. If we went back to the style of travel we used to enjoy, we’d achieve the reduction in flights that we need.”
Perhaps you don’t want to cut back on the number of trips you take each year, so why not visit fewer places on each trip?
Less travelling means a lower carbon footprint, plus it lets you get a deeper understanding of people you meet and places you see. It’s also much less exhausting than trying to hit a lot of destinations in a short time.
If it’s your first visit to Waiheke, we suggest staying at least three days. Visitors are often surprised by how big the island is (it covers 92 square kilometres, with a coastline of 133km) and how much there is to see. We have had people staying with us and do three of our guided walks in a row; all the walks are different so this gives a good variety of experiences.
If that sounds like too much exertion, you could schedule “lay days” in between your walks, to explore the other attractions of Waiheke, such as Stony Batter, the vineyards or a sailing excursion.
2. Travel out-of-season. You’ll put less stress on local resources such as transport and accommodation. A lack of crowds means less stress on you, too. Plus you’ll help sustain the local economy and enable tourism workers to be employed year-round. For New Zealand, that means choosing to travel outside the busy December-February summer season.
3. Build your holiday around low-impact activities. Walking, cycling and swimming get you closer to nature, and help you stay fit. (Or let you order dessert with less guilt!)
4. Choose public transport. Rather than automatically heading for the rental car agency, try travelling with the locals on a bus or train. You’ll reduce your stress and if you strike up a conversation you’ll probably gain some insider knowledge about the area – or maybe even make a friend.
For airport transfers, consider a bus or shuttle if available, rather than a taxi (unless you have enough people to fill it).
5. Support sustainable businesses. Look for businesses that have earned the Qualmark Sustainable Tourism Award. It’s a rigorous system that lets you know which companies are taking care of their customers, staff, the community and the environment. (Yes, Walking By Nature has the award.)
6. Travel light. You’re on holiday, so leave some of the trappings of “normal” life behind. But carry a reusable water bottle. If in doubt about the tap water, ask a local.
7. Avoid takeways. Ever noticed how much styrofoam and plastic accompany most takeaway meals? Instead, relax and soak up the atmosphere at a cafe or restaurant where the plates and cutlery don’t get thrown out after you’ve eaten.
Caffeine addict? Bring, or pick up. a “keep-cup” so you can avoid disposable cups when you order coffee to go.
7. Take your regular green habits on holiday. You know, things like switching off lights and appliances when you’re not using them, taking advantage of solar heating or cooling breezes, conserving water (Waiheke Island is reliant on rainwater), recycling and composting.
8. Eco-learning. Travel is a great opportunity to learn about the environment and get inspired about what you can do to help protect “the only planet we’ve got.” You might even choose to join the locals for some real hands-on experience.
Our guides are involved in tree planting on Waiheke and the Predator-Free Waiheke project, and will happily share their expertise with you.