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Traveling During the Climate Crisis: How to Be a More Eco-conscious Explorer

Blog post by: Maggie Tuer

Last January, I embarked on an eight-month adventure around Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Vietnam. The time that I spent exploring these incredible countries was without a doubt my favourite thing that I have done in my life thus far. Travelling to new places every week, living out of a rental car, and booking flights the day of was the exact kind of lifestyle that I had always craved.  Being able to finally set out on this adventure felt truly remarkable. However, being an environmental science student and someone who is passionate about sustainability in all aspects of my life, I could not rid myself of the ever-increasing guilt that my travels were having a negative impact on my carbon footprint and my overall contribution to the climate crisis.

         I would find myself looking around and be absolutely horrified by the waste and emissions associated with my explorations. As a result, I began to document a number of the issues that I found most problematic…

1. Airplane Waste

         On the majority of my flights, meals were served in disposable, plastic containers. Almost all of these meals were accompanied by disposable water bottles. A number of times when I informed the stewardess that I did not need a bottle of water, it was simply thrown out. On top of this, many airlines lacked adequate vegetarian options, with many failing to offer them on the menu at all.

2. Airplane Emissions

         Of course, one of the most detrimental environmental impacts of travelling is aviation emissions. One round trip flight from New York to Europe creates a warming effect equivalent of 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. To put this into context, the average American generates an average of 19 tons of carbon dioxide per year. I knew that this would be an issue going into my months of travels, but I have to say that I was disappointed by the number of airlines that failed to offer a carbon offset program.

3. Disposable Water Bottles

         This was particularly an issue in countries in Southeast Asia due to their lack of access to clean drinking water. Unfortunately, as a result of this situation, almost all water that was provided on tours, in hotels, Airbnb’s, or in restaurants and cafés, came in plastic disposable water bottles.

4. Tourist Impacts on Environment

         I spent the majority of my time away in New Zealand, as I was studying abroad there for almost 5 months. I genuinely have never seen such a pristine and beautiful place – after all, the country’s slogan is ‘100% Pure New Zealand’. Unfortunately, however, I noticed that the onslaught of tourists in National Parks and other conservation areas often led to a significant impact on the natural environment through traffic on hiking trails, wilderness campsites etc.

5. Inefficient Hotel Operations

         This is a critical issue no matter where you are in the world. Many hotels clean their linens every single day, have air conditioning in operation 24/7, and lack effective recycling programs. This was no different in the Southern Hemisphere. Particularly in Southeast Asia with its viciously humid climate, the air conditioning in hotels was constantly on full blast.

         It was certainly easy to feel disheartened by all of these issues, but rather than simply accept this as a sad reality, I tried my best to do everything I could to reduce my own personal impact as a traveller. Here are some of the ways I dealt with these obstacles…

  • Airplane Waste

         When it came to airplane food, I tried to reduce my waste by bringing snacks in my own re-usable containers. I also got in the habit of requesting vegetarian meals 24 hours in advance of the flight. Airlines such as Quantas are much better about using sustainable and re-usable packaging for hot meals, and I made sure to take this into account when booking flights.

  • Plane Emissions

         While aviation emissions are fairly hard to avoid when you need to get from point A to point B, there are a number of things to keep in mind in order to lessen your footprint. Planes expend the most fuel when taking off and landing, so the eco-friendliest decision is to take the most direct flight possible (even if it costs a little more). I also found that travelling by car is not only a sustainable decision but leads to some of the best adventures. Particularly in New Zealand, every glance out of your window provides an entirely new landscape, and any backroad or beach can easily become your home for the night or week.

  • Water Bottles

         This was probably the hardest wasteful obstacle to manage. While it went against every fibre in my being to purchase multiple disposable bottles a day, I quickly found that my guilt was leading me to be extremely dehydrated. It was difficult to find an alternative, sustainable solution. After returning home, however, I spoke with my peers about how they dealt with this issue while travelling in developing countries. I was told that purchasing a life straw or another form of effective water filter can be a great option. Using one of the products, you can simply fill your own reusable water bottle when there is access to running water and can say no to disposables.

  • Tourist Impacts

         In order to avoid being simply another adventurer making a mark on an already significantly altered landscape, I always opted to take the road less travelled. Staying clear of the most heavily utilized paths not only lessens your impact on the environment, but it also makes for a much more enjoyable hiking/trekking experience. At the same time however, I was conscious about always remaining on marked trails, and only staying the night in areas where camping was permitted. While exploring the backcountry can be thrilling, it is not acceptable to put your own adventure ahead of the conservation of the ecosystem that you find yourself in.  

  • Inefficient Hotel Operations

         This one is fairly easy to avoid if you are travelling on a budget. I stayed almost exclusively in hostels and Airbnbs as opposed to hotels, and while occasionally the heat became too much to bear, I predominantly opted for ‘fan only’ rooms to save energy. Additionally, I only did laundry when I felt it absolutely necessary – although I’m sure some of my travel companions would have preferred otherwise!

         I encourage absolutely everyone to get out there and explore everything our incredible planet has to offer. In doing so, however, always try and be as mindful and considerate as possible of the fragility and complexities of our natural world. Happy travels!!

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply to CEEC

1. Find motivation towards your passion points

The margin of having only a 2-degree leeway in global temperature increase is a terrifying statistic. Facing the extent of the reality that is the human and ecological crisis can be overwhelming and stress-inducive. It becomes easy to get stunned by the facts and lose track of knowing where to start. CEEC will address climate issues head on while exploring possible solutions to making change towards a sustainable economy.

2. Get first-hand experience from industry leaders in sustainable fields

At CEEC, keynote speakers and panellists are brought in from all across the world. We aim to bring a diverse group of industry professionals that offer unique approaches to solving the climate crisis. In the three days of CEEC, you will be exposed to industry professionals ranging from decision makers in leading sustainable firms to start-up companies exploring new pathways towards innovative solutions.

3. Make meaningful connections with like-minded people

CEEC is more than just a conference on sustainability and innovation. It is a forum for people who are driven to make long term change to connect and learn from each other. Our case competition and innovation competition provide the opportunity to work in teams while exploring solutions towards real time climate issues. By working together delegates are able to build strong connections and leave the conference knowing a new community of people who share the same values.

4. Opportunity to be a part of change

As a global society we are on the cusp of change. We can make drastic change now or face the consequences of 2 degree warming.  Here at CEEC we know that innovation, flow of capital and an open mind are imperative drivers in making the change we need. Our keynote speakers and panellist will engage in these topics, while the case and innovation challenge will allow you as a delegate to take a hands-on approach to work towards a revolution.  

5. Network with potential employers

As a collective our goal is to unite passionate scholars to the leaders of the emerging environmental industry. When you apply to CEEC, we send your resume directly to industry professionals participating in our conference. The CEEC tradeshow provides a unique opportunity for partners to showcase their business and for delegates to network with active recruiters. Key note speakers are assigned to delegate tables during meals, creating an open environment for intellectual conversation. 

A New Wave In Waste Free Consumption

“Zero waste could definitely be franchised; the trick is having smaller boutique stores pave the learning curve for big companies.” Remarked Dinsmore. Cassidy Dinsmore is the owner of the Daisy Market and Gather, two sustainable living stores in the Collingwood area. The Daisy Market is a lifestyle store and refillery for household products. Her goal is to provide customers with the products they need to reduce waste in their everyday lives. Gather follows similar values while creating a waste free grocery shopping experience of bulk goods and fresh produce.  

Dinsmore’s takes a holistic approach to sustainability and is guided by the principle that we must be able to maintain a way of life in both the short and long term without creating a negative impact on the planet. She then applies these values to consumerism when choosing vendors for her store. Dinsmore critiques each product on how it was made and how it will end up post consumption. However, she identifies two barriers while trying to reduce the waste of her store. The main barrier she faces when curating for the Daisy Market is that companies with similar values to hers fall short on their packaging. Producers are now starting to make the shift towards products that are free of chemicals and strive to be zero waste but then are ship their products wrapped in plastic. Dinsmore approaches this type of barrier with transparency in order to fuel conversation. When a mason jar pump arrives to her store in plastic packaging, she will put it on the floor that way with the hope that consumers will see what’s going on, acknowledge the problem then work towards finding a solution. Dinsmore’s second challenge is convincing people to move away from brands they are loyal to in order to try a new brand that is package free. This is where the learning curve comes in.  She claims that it’s about changing people’s ways and teaching people that zero waste and package free doesn’t mean no name. Switching to these brands means supporting something that is doing more than just fulfilling the need to maximize profit.

At the end of the day both Gather, and the Daisy Market are businesses and like everyone else Cassidy needs an income. So, I asked her about the financial aspects of choosing to run her stores the way she does. Unfortunately, the refillery aspect of the Daisy Markey does not pay the bills. Instead, it is her higher end skin care products that allow the refillery to work. However, this may be different if her store was in a large city rather than a small town. There is opportunity for a bigger margin as consumers are still looking for a cost-effective product. As a store owner it is less expensive for Cassidy to order a 20-litre container of shampoo rather than multiple 50 millilitre bottles. As a consumer, it is cheaper to buy a container once rather than paying for packaging every time their shampoo runs out. From which, you have probably deduced that shopping in a refillery style store both increases profit margin for a business owner and increases savings for the consumer. If this is the case, you may be wondering why larger firms are not jumping at the opportunity to shift towards waste free shopping. It could be the fact that such large-scale change may deter consumers out of convenience. Or possibly that higher end markets don’t bare the need to supply their target consumer with a cost-effective product. Either way, the Daisy Market and Gather are setting a great example for what sustainable shopping could look like in years to come if larger companies take the leap towards sustainability.

For more information on the Daisy Market and Gather check out their Instagram page @thedaisymarket and www.daisymarket.ca for more information. Their online store is in the works!

The Future of Data is Green!

Our future will be built on data. Of that there is no question. With this immutable destination in mind, it becomes incredibly important for us to realize the risks and benefits of our path we take as society progresses.

Data centres in the United States consume 2% of the electricity produced nation-wide. This seems shocking, yet it’s common knowledge that large information and technology corporations such as Google and Microsoft have massive warehouses full of computers optimized for data storage. Although it stands that these computers should be optimized for another factor: sustainability.

Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have all pledged to run their data centres on sustainable energy, with Microsoft in fast pursuit. It’s this corporate responsibility and dedication to the environment which will set high industry standards that will only benefit our growing sustainable goals.

Click here to find out more!

Cape Town Is Running Out of Water!

Did you know the Cape Town is precariously close to running out of water! The second largest city in South Africa is experiencing the worst drought in recent decades. The city is working on mass water recycling programs to push back the current 100 days of water they have left.

Click here to find out more.

The Smartest Cities Are Green Cities

How do you convince 93% of your population to walk, bike, or take public transportation? You build a city that prioritizes energy conservation and clean energy generation. Check out this week’s Green Feed article to learn more about the innovative smart-city technologies that let the top green cities in the world lead the way to self sustaining urban life. Click here  to read more!

 

 

 

Cold War-Era Satellite Images Reveal Effects of Climate Change

“These spy images are a gold mine as a scientific reference point,”

Howie Epstein – Environmental Sciences Professor

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union routinely spied on each other using high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and space satellites. Looking for USSR military installations, the U.S. found mostly undeveloped, wild terrain.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the U.S. declassified tens of thousands of images. It occurred to University of Virginia environmental scientists that the imagery is a storehouse of information for better understanding how tundra regions are altering as a result of climate change.

Click Here for the full article.

Green Bonds Are Sustainable (In Every Way!)

Money and plant with hand with filter effect retro vintage style

Between 2015 and 2016, the total value of Green Bonds issued has doubled to $81 Billion! Given the fact that this value is expected to double yet again by the end of 2017, this marks what some are considering the beginning of a flourishing new asset class.

With the widespread adoption of environmental policies from countries worldwide, there is a mass amount of green infrastructure to be built in the coming years. Experts think that Green Bonds will be a pivotal tool for pushing this development through to completion. To read more about the Green Bond’s opportunity for social impact AND market yield, click here!

Minimalism: Reduce Before You Reuse

Most often when we discuss our ecological footprint, we like to talk about turning off lights before we leave the house, taking shorter showers, and washing clothes on a cold cycle. The fact is, there is an even greater conversation to be had. It’s not about how we USE the products and services around us, but our approach to ownership.

Enter Minimalism. A new lifestyle approach which focusses on REDUCING before we even have to reuse or recycle. People are buying 4 times as much clothing than they did 20 years ago. Whether fuelled by the fast fashion industry, or the ‘Apple consumer’ mindset of buying immediate device upgrades, Minimalism offers a lifestyle alternative which is known to increase personal happiness and our positive effect on the environment. You can read more about the relationship between Minimalism and the environment here!

Can Power Plants Reverse Air Pollution?

We’ve done it! The world finally has its first negative emissions power plant. This might seem like an oxymoron, but to the environmentally passionate team at Climeworks, it’s their job.

They’ve managed to modify a geothermal plant in Iceland, to not only generate power, but to remove carbon dioxide from the air around it. What’s more? They power their carbon capture technology through residual waste heat generated by the plant. You can read more here.