Friday, April 13, 2012

Reducing Your Travel Footprint


We cannot escape the fact that any sort of holiday or travel we take will have some form of environmental impact. One of the greatest climate change threats in recent years is the sheer number of us who want to travel by air, and who make annual trips abroad. No amount of recycling, cutting down on plastic bag usage and switching to energy-efficient appliances can offset the amount of carbon generated during a long-haul flight!

The greatest good to the planet that we as MNS members could do would be to forsake air travel for leisure, but since that is not a sacrifice most of us would be willing to make, then we must plan our vacations in ways that will cause the least harm to the Planet. Here are ways in which you can lower your environmental impact while travelling:

Cut down on unnecessary trips and flights:

If you are having a wedding or celebrating a special occasion, do not insist that all your invitees fly or drive down to be with you on your Big Day. Have a thought for the Planet. Set up an online photo album or dedicate a blog entry to the event, and invite your well-wishers to pay you a virtual visit, so both parties can save money and help the environment at the same time.

If you are an employer or businessman, we do hope that you realise how much you can save by video or tele-conferencing! There really isn’t any good justification to ‘travel for work’ these days, except as pleasure junkets, or when critical site visits are required, for example.

Choose nearer destinations:

There are many natural attractions, historical monuments, resorts and parks in Malaysia and in neighbouring countries. Ideal holidays are not to be found only in the Americas or Europe!

For domestic destinations, skip air travel:

You may argue that unless you have months to spare to travel by boat or rail, there really isn’t any practical alternative to air travel if you are going overseas. However, if you can reach your destination within hours by car, public transport, rail or ferry, then please do consider this option. Think about it: A Boeing 747 releases around 35kg of CO2 per kilometre. According to a report, a flight from London to Paris is responsible for 348kg of CO2; however, if you catch the Eurostar, it will emit just 75kg. Whenever possible, go for rail and water travel. Despite carrying 75% of world trade, shipping and rail combined produced only 1.75% of greenhouse gas emissions. Road transport produced 10.5%.

Cut down on internal flights and stopovers:

In air travel, most of the carbon release takes place during take-off and landing, so it is even more important to try to cut down on the number of internal flights or stopovers.

Choose your flight / travel company wisely:

Take time to learn more about the aviation industry, and find out more about your particular flight / travel company and the aircraft used. The A380 Airbus, for instance, uses high-efficiency engines and lighter alloys to promise 20 – 30% lower fuel consumption per passenger than equivalent aircrafts. Consumer groups can help pressure the aviation industry to use vehicles with the highest fuel efficiency and lowest emissions, and to fly only on the fullest passenger capacity possible to reduce their overall environmental footprint.

If you must fly:

If you must fly, you could mitigate a tiny fraction of your impact by avoiding flying at night. Dr Piers Forster from Leeds University has discovered that trails of condensation from aircraft -contrails - have a greater warming effect at night, trapping heat but without reflecting any of the sun's rays back into the atmosphere as they do during the day.

Taking winter flights are out of bounds too. Despite making up just 22% of total annual traffic, winter flights account for more than half of aviation's annual warming effect. Increased humidity creates more problematic persistent contrails.

Also, the energy used in one flush of a plane toilet - exacerbated by altitude - is enough for an economical car to run at least 10km, according to Captain Liu Zhiyaun from China Southern airline. So use the airport toilet before you board your plane!

Reduce your daily travel impact:

Taking public transport, working closer to home, telecommuting, teleconferencing and working from home are all ways in which you could reduce your daily travel impact so you would not feel so guilty about taking a one-off vacation abroad. In a study conducted in the UK, it has been estimated that even working from home for just 1-2 days a week could reduce the number of commuting cars on the roads by around 10%.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to see and experience different parts of the world. As they say, travel broadens the mind! However, we must be aware of the harm we could potentially cause to the Earth by the ways we travel, spend money and consume goods. There are many steps we can take in our daily lives, while traveling and while on vacation to cut down on our fuel and energy consumption, and we should therefore always choose the option that causes the least environmental damage.

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MNS HQ collects paper, aluminium cans, plastics, used laser toner and inkjet cartridges, unwanted computers and printers for recycling. MNS does NOT collect old clothes, old toys, old furniture or glass bottles. Drop off your recyclables anytime at the recycling bins in HQ next to Nature Owlet. Money raised from the sale of recyclables will help fund MNS HQ activities.

For more information on recycling centres in your area, please collect a copy of the Recycling Directory from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in Pusat Bandar Damansara during office hours.

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