For Calgarian Tatiana Teevens, there is nothing more magical and inspiring than going swimming with whale sharks and seeing how incredibly beautiful the oceans are.
“That is going to move people to protect them. What is going to change the world is when individuals become fiercely passionate about protecting our planet,” says Teevens, cofounder of Adventure with Purpose, a Calgary-based tour agency offering experiences to enrich the lives of travellers and the communities they are visiting with a specialisation in learning, conservation and adventure tours. “Teaching your children about that when they’re young is one of the most special things you can do for them because you’ve created a lifelong advocate in them.”
Taking environmentally-focused tours allows travellers to visit science centres and learn from local scientists, which also benefits the communities they’re visiting, Teevens explains. “You’re not only helping that local community keep these local initiatives going, but you’re also providing income for local scientists because these kinds of tours pay scientists who are the guides. And the money you spend on these kinds of trips goes toward the protection of the local environment.”
At the same time, you’re learning about how you and your family can reduce your environmental footprint while on holiday, and how you can continue making positive impacts when you go home.
Here are a few tips on lightening your environmental footprint when you’re on the go:
Sunscreens: Teevens recommends choosing a biodegradable sunscreen, and if possible one that’s all-natural, because chemical-based sunscreens are “a huge problem” for marine life. “Proper practise is not to go into the water any earlier than two hours after you put it on,” she adds.
Single-use plastics: When travelling in places where you can’t drink the water, consider bringing a reusable water bottle and cup with you to eliminate using single-use plastic water bottles, which likely won’t be recycled and often end up washed into the ocean as garbage, Teevens says.
And if your drink comes with a plastic straw, “Say no to the straw,” says Teevens, who recommends using bamboo straws because “when they end up in the landfill they go back to the earth.”
For families who are concerned about their environmental footprint, Calgarian Kae Shummoogum suggests talking to other people about it. For example, when you’re out at a restaurant or café that provides single-use plastic straws, consider asking if they’ve ever thought about switching to paper straws. “Because by saying things, eventually, they will start thinking ‘Hey, I should be more environmentally friendly,” says Shummoogum, who runs an environmentally-focused company with a vision of clean air for everyone. “Just mention it to people.”
Reducing the consumption of single-use items is an easy way to be greener. For example, Shummoogum recently picked up a little kit containing a travel fork and spoon tucked into a cloth pouch. He takes it with him everywhere he goes. Now, when he goes to Starbucks, he uses his own spoon. And those little bottles of hotel shampoo? Another example of single-use plastic that can be avoided if you bring your shampoo in refillable bottles.
If you’re planning to rent a vehicle, “I would look, at least as a minimum, for a hybrid,” Shummoogum says. “It is of great benefit for reducing air pollution, and it also saves you money.”
Consider going electric. In Kelowna, for example, you’ll find electric taxis (Current Taxis, which boasts an all-electric taxi fleet of Teslas). Calgary now has electric bikes for rent; and in Europe, travelling by train is a great low carbon way to get around.
Shummoogum thinks that people need to be very conscious about their carbon footprint in this next decade. “That has to be our top priority because the United Nations has given us ten years to reduce our emissions,” he says. “The one thing we can do that’s more powerful is the way we move around the planet. We have a lot of choice in the way we travel, whether we take public transportation or a bike or a hybrid vehicle – it would have a really big impact if everybody was doing it.”