An estimated 975 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September of 2023 — an increase of 38% on the same months of 2022, according to data from the World Tourism Organization. While international travel allows for the unique opportunity to see new places and experience different cultures, it can also heavily contribute to environmental issues by creating greenhouse gases. For those looking to travel in an eco-conscious way, staying domestic presents a variety of benefits — from cutting down on your carbon footprint to supporting the local economy.
The Impact of Travel
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 8-10% of global CO2 emissions are caused by the travel and tourism sector alone — the majority of which are caused by the travelling that it takes to get to and from a destination. “Needless to say, the longer the route, the more CO2 is emitted,” The Business Standard points out, going on to explain how this works. “When fuel is burned, as in the case of most cars, and aeroplanes — which are fueled by kerosene — climate-damaging carbon dioxide is released.” From there, the carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere and heats it up, effectively contributing to global warming.
When striving to reduce your carbon footprint, travelling locally has the potential to make a notable difference when it comes to transportation. “The environmental impact of choosing one mode of transportation over another, in this case driving versus flying, depends on a large number of factors such as the distance travelled, how far away one would need to drive to get to the airport, how many people are travelling in the plane or car to the same destination, the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and so on,” said Sandra Goldmark, Director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action at Barnard College in New York City. The Reader’s Digest article goes on to note that even though you’re sharing an aeroplane with other travellers, driving is better than flying when aiming to reduce your carbon footprint. Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Janet McCabe, Director of Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University and a professor at the IU McKinney School of Law points out that a fuel-efficient vehicle is the way to go. “For a relatively short trip (300 to 500 miles), the most efficient approach would be a fuel-efficient vehicle (hybrid or electric) with multiple passengers.”
Supporting Your Local Economy
When choosing to stay closer to home instead of travelling internationally, you will automatically ensure that your money stays local, thus allowing you to support your local community while on holiday. “More jobs will be created in your town, the community will prosper, and people will be more connected than ever to their own town,” notes One Green Planet, which goes on to point out that you’ll be supporting your neighbours, too, whether you’re purchasing homemade products, fruit from a farmer’s stand, or treating yourself to a holiday haircut. When aiming to be sustainable during your local travels, planning to spend money on businesses that cater to an eco-friendly lifestyle can help reduce your carbon footprint even further. For example, those who sell handmade products like soap might repurpose old glass jars to do so, while some small businesses may embrace reusable bags.
Discovering Your Surroundings
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of domestic travel is exploring where you’re from in addition to discovering (or rediscovering) your surroundings. Choosing to visit the nearest popular landmark is just one benefit of a local road trip. For example, the Statue of Liberty, the top of the Empire State Building, and famous baseball stadiums are just three top tourist locations for those travelling to New York City — however, many NYC residents have never been. Taking the time to do so, however, can make for an impactful experience that will leave you thinking about your location in a new light.
Immersing yourself in your natural surroundings is another fantastic way to lessen your carbon footprint. Camping, exploring nearby national parks, and hiking local trails are all great options for a weekend getaway. Opting for luxurious yet nature-forward accommodations will add to the experience in a major way. Those in Tennessee, for example, have a variety of treehouse rentals to choose from. The TreEscape treehouse serves as just one innovative place to stay that happens to be located minutes from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge as well as the Great Smoky Mountains, not to mention the architecture of the treehouse itself that features oak and hickory trees growing throughout the interior. The Treehouse at the Glades is another option out there that offers modern amenities as well as a private half-acre setting with two-story decks, a screened-in porch, a 5-burner gas grill, and more to facilitate a great time outdoors. In order to successfully choose a treehouse accommodation for you, however, resources such as a comprehensive review of several options will help you compare and contrast various features.
Taking an international trip is a dream vacation for many. However, taking a domestic holiday brings a variety of environmentally friendly benefits to the table — from cutting out the plane trip to supporting local businesses and simply discovering your surroundings.