By Marie Haaland // SWNS
Safety is on top of most travelers’ minds, but new research shows that safe travel habits may also come at the cost of the planet.
A survey of 2,000 general population Americans asked respondents what aspects of travel are currently most important to them, and safety topped the list at 71%.
Sustainability also ranked in the top five, with over half (57%) saying it’s also an important factor when they’re planning a trip.
But results found safe travel habits can overlap with unsustainable behaviors, posing the question: can those two objectives be met at the same time?
Of the 58% who traveled since the pandemic began, 70% admitted they hadn't considered their carbon impact while on the road.
For those, multiple responses included increased reliance on single-use plastic and using more disposable masks (tied at 68%), followed by using more disposable gloves (58%), hand sanitizer (51%) and other cleaners (31%).
Commissioned by Cool Effect and conducted by OnePoll, the survey dug into how the pandemic may be changing travel moving forward, and it revealed some good news.
While prioritizing environmentally-friendly behaviors may seem more difficult these days, nearly 70% said the pandemic made them more aware of how to travel sustainably.
And 67% of respondents plan to use this knowledge to be more sustainable travelers in the future.
Some of the steps will be to take more sustainable modes of transportation (52%), travel to destinations known for their environmental consciousness and low carbon footprint (50%), eat and shop locally, and use an eco-friendly booking site for accommodations (both at 31%).
Companies are also taking action, with 36% of respondents reporting their workplace is taking steps to actively reduce travel in its operations — of those, 75% said their job requires fewer people to travel for in-person meetings.
Additionally, 71% said their employers have purchased carbon offsets, and 54% reported that their organizations fly with specific airlines.
“Travel can have a large carbon footprint, but simple steps like packing lighter, reducing waste, choosing direct flights and choosing airlines that use biofuels can significantly lessen that impact,” said Jodi Manning, Cool Effect’s VP, director of marketing and partnerships. “The last two years have shown us that virtual options can work. However, some travel is still necessary. Being aware of your emissions and actively taking steps to reduce them is what we call traveling better.”
When looking more broadly at climate change awareness and perceptions, the survey found 78% of respondents consider themselves an environmentally-friendly person.
That compares to 71% in a similar survey run by Cool Effect and OnePoll last year.
In this year’s survey, the majority (75%) were concerned about climate change in their daily life, on par with last year’s results (74%).
There was a slight increase (68%) in the number of people who feel knowledgeable about the actions they can take to help fight climate change (versus 63% last year).
But there still appears to be a gap when it comes to carbon offsets specifically. Of respondents who reported they would not buy a carbon offset (or would not buy one again), they were unsure where the money would go (29%), while others didn’t know how purchasing an offset would help (27%) or were unsure exactly what it was (25%).
In good news, 74% believe carbon emissions are important in affecting climate change, and while there are still barriers for purchasing offsets, over half (58%) are familiar with carbon offsetting (versus 45% last year).
The results also found an increase in the number of respondents who reported they had purchased an offset. In 2021, 57% of respondents said they have previously purchased a carbon offset, compared to 44% in last year’s survey.
“The support of high-quality carbon offsets is one part of the solution to addressing our current climate crisis. In addition to verifiably reducing carbon emissions, supporting high-quality carbon reduction projects also provides support for the local communities feeling the dramatic impacts of climate change,” said Cool Effect co-founder Dee Lawrence. “We’re committed to providing the knowledge and resources needed to take action and a clear and transparent picture of how you’re helping reduce carbon emissions. It’s about taking action today for a better climate tomorrow. The planet will thank us for it!”
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS RESPONDENTS PLAN TO TRAVEL MORE SUSTAINABLY IN THE FUTURE?
- Take more sustainable modes of transportation (trains, electric cars, etc.) (52%)
- Travel to destinations known for their sustainability and/or low carbon footprint (50%)
- Find local activities that give back to residents, instead of going to “tourist traps” (49%)
- Use an eco-friendly booking site for accommodation (31%)
- Eat and shop locally (31%)
- Travel with my own water bottle (31%)
- If staying at a hotel, take my own toiletries to reduce single-use hotel bottles (27%)