The conclusion is alarming: between 2009 and 2013, the global carbon footprint of tourism has increased from 3.9 to 4.5 Gt of CO2, thus reaching almost a tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Air travel is responsible for 12% of the total emissions of the sector, but every decision we made during the holidays has an important effect on the environment. The biggest impacts of world tourism are in small islands and in ski resorts: paradises like Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius will be more and more affected by its emissions.
The future of tourism
We can not and must not give up tourism, just think that it is worth more than 7 trillion dollars and one person out of ten works in the industry, not to mention how significant the experience of travel is for man. But it is increasingly evident how necessary it is to change the way we travel and how important the work we are doing. Sustainable tourism is a viable alternative that we must embrace, flying less and supporting activities and those who are committed to fighting the emission of greenhouse gases.
The study “The carbon footprint of global tourism“, conducted by the Integrated Sustainability Analysis supply-chain research group of the University of Sydney, was recently published ; for the first time it investigated the ecological footprint of tourism at a global level, precisely in 189 countries, quantifying not only the emissions of hotels and infrastructures, but also including all the factors related to our holidays, such as maintenance of facilities, food and souvenirs.
A study on a global scale tells us that there is still much to do: tourism pollutes much more than estimated, it’s responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gases emissions, thus contributing significantly to climate changes that are destroying the environment and the planet.
How can we reduce Consumption as Tourists, Save Planet Earth?
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Looking at consumption, based on statistics, one tourist consumes 3 or 4 times more water per day than permanent resident. Electricity is not the exception. We all consumes much more electric energy than we did few years ago, whether we are on holiday or not. For example, in Torremolinos, Spain, electricity consumption increased by 160% between the years 1989 and 2008. What is interesting about it is, that 40% of this electricity is consumed by tourists.
As the population of tourists rise, the amount of waste rise equally. One Maltese resident generates 0.68kg of waste every day, while tourist in a hotel waste 1.25 kg daily. We all know that waste is the major problem of our plastic age. If we would waste at least the same as we do at home while being on holiday, our environmental footprint would be smaller.
Even though, consumption of tourists is quite surprising, while talking about the ecological impact of tourist we have to look at transportation. A lot of tourists drive the car. Some of them go on a holiday by their own car, some of them borrow one in the destination. Tourist transport by car causes the largest impact on air quality, whereas air transport has the largest share of tourism-related GHG emissions (80% in 2000) in the EU-25.
The most emissions are made by cruise-ships. Moreover, a lot of people travel by plane to the harbour. This adds another 10% to 30% of total emission caused by cruises. We have already written about the cruise environmental impact in this article.
Paradoxically, the most ecological way of travelling is the least used. Rail, coaches and ferries account for just 20% of all tourism trips. They are responsible for a very small percentage of environmental impact.
Ecology does matter
Information above are just a small illustration of big ecological problem of tourism. We all have to think about our footprints. Doesn´t matter if you are enjoying your holiday or you are at home. Mother Earth is full of our waste and its capacity of natural resources is slowly running out. Booking ecological hotel via Ecobnb, behaving consciously while shopping or eating in local and organic restaurants are just small steps everybody can do on their holiday. The small steps are, however, a big help for the planet.
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