Taking the guilt out of your trip

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Last week, Lonely Planet let us in on how offering your time and skills is a great way to see new places and give something back. The problem is volunteering holidays – the big travel trend of 2010 – aren’t cheap. Make no mistake: altruism can cost. CD Traveller suggest some other ways in which you can have an ethical, environmentally friendly holiday experience without paying the earth

We live in an era of cheap air travel and now take planes as we once took trains. But there’s a catch….carbon emissions from planes are speeding up global warming. Environmentalists argue that the only true eco break is one based in your country. If you agree why not discover the beauty in your own backyard? (See our destination page for brilliant breaks in Blighty). However if you have your heart set on holidaying in the Caribbean and feel that Cornwall can’t compete, panic not. There’s really no need to give up your frequent flyer miles just yet (if we did it could be quite the disaster as developing countries rely on tourism to help boost their economies.) To balance out the damage done by your flight (and avoid a diatribe about how your holidays are destroying the planet) simply offset your carbon emissions. Websites such as Carbon Neutral Company (www.carbonneutral.com), Climate Care (www.climatecare.org), Future Forests (www.futureforests.com) or Friends of Conservation (www.foc.uk.com) will calculate the carbon emissions made by your flight in tonnes. You can then offset this by making a donation to forest planting schemes or energy saving projects in developing countries.

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Of course eco tourism isn’t only about carbon offsetting, it’s about sustainable travel – helping a country rather than damaging. Here’s how…

Stay in local guesthouses and hostels instead of big chain hotels so that the money you spend goes back into the community.

The same goes for food – give MacDonald’s a miss and buy the local produce.

Show respect. Learn a little of the local language and always ask before taking pictures of people. Think about what kinds of clothing is appropriate. If for instance you’re heading to a Muslim country, don’t forget to cover up. As the saying goes, when in Rome…

When travelling in Asia and Africa, chances are you’ll be inundated with requests from small children for a biro or another small item. Refuse. Your act of generosity actually only serves to encourage begging and keeps children out of school. If you want to help the local children, why not make a donation to a local school or health centre instead?

Don’t haggle too hard. Sure we all like a bargain but don’t get carried away. At the end of the day the shopkeeper struggling to feed his family in a developing country needs that extra pound more than the privileged holidaymaker.

Leave places as you found them – don’t discard rubbish irresponsibly.

Use water sparingly – it’s a precious commodity. Do you really need a clean towel every day?

Finally enjoy your guilt free trip. Taking an eco break might be the height of holiday cool (Brangelina, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore are all doing it) but it will also leave you with more than tan lines: you’ll leave knowing you’ve done the right thing.

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