I'm an environmental scientist and avid traveller. Here's how I explore the world responsibly
Tsewang Nuru Sherpa is an environmental researcher working on a project related to waste management in the Himalayas and NZ-based social enterprises at Lincoln University. OPINION : Covid-19 has given us a glimpse of a world without tourism, and besides the few optimistic headlines such as reduction in GHG emissions its a grim picture. In an industry that contributes to over 10% of the global GDP , you name it, the extensive ramifications affected every sector. Tourism as a carbon-intensive business, accounts for an estimated 8-11% of global greenhouse gas emissions . Acknowledging the impact of the climate crisis on popular travel destinations is imperative. Unfortunately, these areas are also the most vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures and extreme weather events. A silver lining of the pandemic is that it has revealed that we are more of a connected-global community than we realised, and its high time we travel mindfully with a community mindset. And it all starts with us it's not just about capping our carbon emissions, it's about upping our positive social and economic impact in destinations that are wholly tourism-reliant. It's about giving back and being a guest rather than just a passing traveller. Being a climate-friendly traveller is not just about making one-time efforts, it is a mindset that affects every aspect of our travel, from what we pack to how we get to our destination, and even the activities and hotels we choose. Our conscious attitude towards responsible travelling starts from little micro-habits we do in our day-to-day life such as recycling, carrying a reusable water bottle, saving water, turning off lights when not required, and avoiding single-use items like plastic bags and disposable cups. So, when you travel, keep the momentum going by keeping these routines in place. Researching your destination before visiting is a no-brainer. From recognising indigenous populations, and visiting ethical centres, to choosing the right form of accommodation and transport - your research will guide you. Flying less frequently is one of the easiest ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints. So, when you do board a plane, make sure it's worth it. Instead of taking multiple short trips, I always consider staying longer in one destination for a more meaningful experience. That way, you also ensure your visit benefits the local people and environment economically. After taking one long-haul flight to South America in 2018, I spent six months exploring Colombia, becoming fluent in Spanish, learning about local indigenous culture, and gaining a deeper understanding of the country. Similarly, in 2019, I spent another six months working with WWF and exploring Paraguay. Looking for accreditation on businesses such as B Corp such as Intrepid Travel ensures that they are responsible and uphold the highest social and environmental values. For accommodation, I prefer supporting local establishments that continually and substantively give back to their community such as making a positive impact through cultural and environmental preservation. Also, chose activities with an active learning component. One of the guided hikes I did in Paraguay involved picking up garbage along hiking trails, and waterways and learning about the flora and fauna from one of the rangers at the National Park. Im a big proponent of slow travel and exploring places intimately. You see more, and in a profound sensory manner, you experience more too. Travelling on overnight trains and local Flix buses in Europe was not only a time-and-cost-efficient, but it also allowed me to experience the local way of life, build connections with the local community, and discover hidden corners along the way that I would have missed if I had taken a domestic flight. Finding local adventures and, engaging in low-impact activities such as cycling or walking can also provide access to destinations that may be otherwise hard to reach. Bikepacking along the 1200km length of South Island gave me a plethora of unique experiences to cherish - from up-close encounters with nature to taking up chores of firewood-gathering at a trail angel's place to wild camping. Exploring the world through impact-driven volunteering can be a fulfilling experience. While the effectiveness of short-term volunteering is often debated, participating in extended projects that involve residing and collaborating with locals can significantly improve the regions you visit. Volunteering at a local school in Kisumu during my visit to Kenya was a rewarding experience, that reinvigorated me in a new altruistic direction whilst exploring the local corners of Kenya and Uganda. Similarly, incorporating citizen science into your travel is the best way to actively participate in the experience you love whilst meaningfully contributing to scientific research. Both in Colombia and Norway, I joined a national park department at Parque Nacional Farallones de Cali and Hardangervidda National Park , on a project with academic professionals to collect data on wildlife sightings, and monitor phaenology. Mass tourism during peak season can deplete the regions local resources such as water and infrastructure, like waste disposal. So if you can, consider avoiding places grappling with over-tourism. Visiting during the low season, youll find fewer crowds and lower prices. Trekking in the Everest and Langtang region of Nepal during the low season in late January gave me a refreshing outlook on a region that would normally be crowded with trekkers. I was able to explore off-the-beaten-track with local guides, making a far more enriching experience.