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11 July, 2019

Can You Have A Clear Environmental Conscience While Travelling?

Most of us love to travel. And most of us really care about the environment. But not everyone can afford to offset their carbon use or pay for the exclusive low-carbon travel options so-loved by celebrities.

So how can the rest of us travel while minimising our environmental impact? There are a few options. For example, travelers in Europe have great options of low carbon transport such as trains and boats, and the European Interrail scheme is a wonderful way to see the continent on a budget, without leaving a big carbon impact behind.

If you’re travelling around the United States, you probably need to fly, but there are plenty of destinations that now offer low carbon vacation options. One of the most surprising ones is Las Vegas. Sin City? Yes, Las Vegas isn’t what you might picture when thinking of an environmentally-friendly holiday destination, but it really can be.

On the surface, Las Vegas must be an environmentalist's idea of hell. Light pollution is part of the appeal and it is one of the most air-conditioned cities in the world. Yet it surprises me to find that element of the Las Vegas experience can be done with a much reduced impact than anticipated. So how exactly does the brightest city on the face of the Earth propose to realise its green aspirations?

The first place a visitor is likely to encounter is McCarran International Airport - a dowdy and tired looking building which belies the overstated glitz that awaits - but nevertheless, it has green credentials. Initiatives including the aptly named Silver Dollar Recycling scheme and the novel Earth Square recycling programme, in which individual worn out carpet tiles are returned to the manufacturer to be cleaned and re-sold - just some of the ways in which this old airport is compensating for its quite hefty carbon contributions.

Being in a desert, you'd rightly expect food miles to be a concern. But things are moving in the right direction. Chef Jason Labahn, a tutor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, is a member of a farmer's cooperative and believes that Las Vegas diners have a right to expect sensibly sourced food.

What about driving?

It is one of the world’s most popular forms of travel and a big deal in North America when it comes to family road trip vacations. And a study conducted by researchers at UK ethical car recycling company Scrap Car Network revealed that motorists may be more environmentally conscious than they are often given credit for.

When asked about their driving habits, more than half (54%) of motorists demonstrated a solid commitment to lowering their environmental impact. 71% of drivers said they avoid making journeys of less than a mile. 72% said they carpool or liftshare when possible and 20% said they would consider leaving their car at home if possible.

When quizzed on the environmental impact of driving, the UK’s motorists demonstrated an impressive degree of understanding too. Almost two thirds (61%) disagreed with some of the most commonly believed myths about cars and the environment. For example, 68% understood that vehicle excise duty is based on emissions and that electric cars are normally exempt. 85% correctly identified that tyre pressure had a large impact on a car’s emissions and 86% agreed that idling wastes fuel, is harmful to the environment and that switching off and restarting the engine is typically less harmful.

The most commonly-held myth about cars and the environment was related to car size. 72% of drivers incorrectly agreed that small cars are always more environmentally friendly than larger cars, despite not necessarily being the case.

Says William Fletcher, managing director of scrapcarnetwork.org, who commissioned the research:

"Despite what many people assume, motorists are environmentally conscious and many drive because they have to, in-spite of their concerns for the environment, not due to ignorance. This research shows that the majority of motorists understand how to lower the environmental impact of driving and are committed to doing it.” 

“While discouraging people from making unnecessary journeys and reducing the impact cars have on the environment is an important part of the overall picture, motorists would also benefit from more support with alternate options to driving too, especially those poorly served by public transport."

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