With 900 million international travelers in 2007 alone, the strain of tourism on the environment is becoming more and more apparent. Travel has such an impact on the global climate that the United Nations launched its Green Passport campaign this past weekend at the Berlin Tourism fair. Intended to inform travelers on how to consciously plan and execute their holidays in the greenest way possible, Green Passport is the UN’s attempt at raising tourists’ awareness of how they can positively affect sustainable development through their travel choices.
Launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the internet-based campaign, available in English, French and Portuguese, will hopefully offset the effects that the growing industry has on the global environment. “By browsing the Green Passport web site consumers will be able to find practical tips to help them reduce their environmental and social footprint while they are on vacations. Tourists will discover that traveling green is not as hard as they imagined,” said Stefanos Fotiou, head of UNEP’s tourism unit.
The Green Passport website is designed to look fun and user-friendly, and you can even submit your own green travel tips. Browsing through the website it’s easy to see the UNEP did their travel homework, they have links to popular sites like Seat61 — the train traveler’s bible. But Green Passport isn’t just about greening your travel transportation, a large part of the program is focused on traveling responsibly. In other words, educating yourself about your destination and culture before going and while there, respecting the local population and customs.
My favorite quote from the online passport however, has to be this one: “And remember, when appropriate, balloons, horses, donkeys, sailboats and dog sleds are also transport solutions.” Never doubt the UN’s sense of humor.