How to have a low carbon summer vacation right here in Egypt
With summer season now in full swing, a lot of us are probably thinking about planning our next vacation. Whether it's zoning out on a beach somewhere or embarking on a thrilling new experience, chances are you could be doing it a little more sustainably.
The astronomical toll global tourism takes on the planet and local communities has been well documented over the past couple of years, particularly if you’re lucky enough to step foot on a plane and set off to far flung destinations in search of your fix. Travel related consumption at vacation destinations has been estimated to contribute 1 kg of CO2 for every dollar spent, according to a 2018 study published in Nature, which puts the total GHG contribution of tourism at 8% of the worldwide total.
Covid-19 brought a halt to much of our global gallivanting: Peak tourism in 2019 slowed down significantly over the last year as travel bans and lockdown restrictions brought the industry to a standstill. Flight bookings to Egypt remained more than 50% below 4Q2019 levels in May and had dipped to near-zero in March and April last year.
But many people are feeling the itch to get moving again. If this sounds like you then here are a few things to consider to make your travel plans at least a little less burdensome for the planet and more mindful of local communities and ecosystems.
Try staying local: The number one thing you can do to reduce your travel footprint is to never set foot on a plane. The aviation industry is estimated to contribute 5% of global greenhouse emissions and is on track to have that figure grow by at least 25% by 2030, according to the UNWTO. While that number may not seem particularly alarming on its own, the difference between emissions caused by air travel and other transport is. In Europe, a single person’s air travel contributes 285 grams of CO2 per mile, compared with the 158 grams per passenger mile from cars and the 14 grams per passenger produced by rail, according to the European Environment Agency.
So maybe consider one of a number of local destinations (that could really use your money right now) like Hurghada, Nuweibaa, Marsa Allam, Sharm El Sheikh, Taba, Ras Sedr. Even Sahel is better than stepping on a plane and heading to an animal sanctuary in East Asia.
Consider how you get there: If you intend on travelling by car, consider carpooling with other friends to reduce mileage or better yet use Ditto to find people heading to similar destinations. Maybe consider ditching the car altogether and packing your stuff into a bus. GoBus, BlueBus and East Delta all offer services to most Red Sea destinations and you can even catch a comfortable sleeper train through Memphis Tours, or Watania if you’re heading South to Luxor and Aswan.
Where you stay matters: Cruises and resorts often top the list of the least sustainable accommodations for tourists, with a single cruise contributing as much particulate matter as 1 mn personal cars. Shying away from either of those energy intensive and ecologically invasive options would probably be best.
Opt instead for a stay at an eco-lodge, like Taziry in Siwa, Anakato in Aswan, Al Tarfa in El Dakhla Oasis or any one of the many campsites in Nuweiba all of which are very low carbon alternatives compared to traditional travel options.
If you insist on (and are able to board) a plane, purchase a carbon offset offered by your airline. This voluntary option requires you to spend a little extra cash that will contribute to sustainable initiatives spearheaded by the company — like planting trees or constructing solar panels — which in theory should make up for the emissions contributed through your plane ticket.
For some local sustainable travel inspiration: Omar Samra’s sustainable travel company Wild Guanabana organizes socially and environmentally friendly tours, while Dayma organizes eco-journeys and learning experiences ranging from full fledged trips to bird-watching excursions. If you’re the outdoorsy type, hiking the newly established Sinai trail with a local guide is a great way to explore the wonders of the Sinai mountains, and to bring much needed income to local communities.
Want more on where to travel and stay sustainably? You can also consult the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s site for certified sustainable stays around the world. For a more exhaustive list of tour operators who have committed to a sustainable action plan you can check out Tourism Declares Climate Emergency’s site.