Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by the actions of an individual, family, or organization. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide are among the most common culprits. They trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, causing adverse effects to human health and global ecosystems.
This is why it's important to be mindful of how your actions contribute to CO2 emissions while traveling. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and travel in an environmentally responsible way.
1) Consider the environmental impacts of every mode of transport before booking your travels
Travelers have many transportation options. They can move by airplane, train, car, bus, or boat. Globally, these transport methods contribute to roughly 20% of total CO2 emissions, so it's important to consider how each one impacts the environment before booking your travels.
For instance, if you must fly, choose an airline that uses more sustainable fuel. Alternatively, choose a train over a plane for trips under 500 miles. And if you need a car rental to reach your final destination, book with a rental company that offers low emission cars, such as hybrid and electric vehicles.
2) Go the extra mile by riding a bike or walking when possible
Instead of driving a car or riding on public transportation, try walking and biking for short trips. In some cities, riding a bike may be faster than dealing with heavy traffic (looking at you, LA!), provided you're willing to brave the road (and if you are, please wear a helmet!).
Walking is also a great alternative to driving. Plus, it's great exercise. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes when you choose to walk. Bonus: some cities around the world celebrate Car-Free Day on September 22nd every year, so check your local calendar for special events.
3) Book hotels that are energy efficient or have green initiatives
Did you know that some hotels use sustainable energy like solar and wind? Others make an effort to recycle and reduce the carbon footprint of their daily operations. Look for hotels that promote energy efficiency and sustainable practices when booking your travel accommodations.
How to find these green gems? Check out the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, an organization committed to environmentally friendly stays.
4) Avoid buying souvenirs that create waste and choose locally-made items instead
Chances are your "I ❤️ (insert country name here)" t-shirt wasn't made in its namesake country but rather thousands of miles away, where labor laws are few and souvenirs are manufactured on an assembly line. These items travel far and wide before they settle in your closet, contributing to CO2 emissions that harm the Earth's atmosphere.
To cut down on your carbon footprint, skip the bejeweled keychains and rage against that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from seeing your name on a toy-size license plate. Instead, purchase locally-made items that support artisans and promote sustainable practices at the same time.
5) Pack a reusable shopping bag to avoid using plastic ones
While traveling, you're bound to go shopping for souvenirs and such. Although it's nice to find a cute knick-knack or two, the idea of buying a brand-spanking-new plastic bag every time you go shopping is wasteful and harmful to the Earth's ecosystem.
So pack a reusable shopping bag or tote and always keep it with you while sightseeing. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, but you'll cut down on waste, too.
6) Watch what you eat
Yes, your carbon footprint is larger than what you eat. Still, your diet has an impact on the environment — and you can lessen it by being mindful of what you consume while traveling.
For instance, the carbon footprint of beef is larger than that of chicken, fish, and other meats. Why? Cows create methane when their cud ferments, which has 80 times the warming power of CO2.
So take a look at your plate and consider what you're eating. If you want to be environmentally friendly, try eating less meat and more plant-based proteins.
7) Use eco-friendly apps to support a sustainable lifestyle
Some companies are taking sustainability to the digital realm with apps that promote green living. And guess what? You can travel with them, too!
Apps like Oroeco, Water Footprint, and PaperKarma encourage users to analyze their daily habits and cut down on excessive energy and water consumption, among other sustainable practices. Check out these other green apps while you're at it.
Sustainable Initiatives at Gravel
At Gravel, we make every effort to reduce our carbon impact by utilizing recycled materials and other environmentally responsible resources.
What's more, we strive to be organically certified by choosing textiles and fabrics that adhere to strict guidelines against the use of petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and synthetics that harm the environment.
We also work closely with our distribution center to promote a waste-free process and reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible.
Our MO is simple: We want everyone who wears our gear to enjoy the outdoors and feel good about it, too.
For more information on how to reduce your carbon impact, visit www.epa.gov.