10 Tips for Traveling More Responsibly
Each year, almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad, making travel and tourism one of the largest industries in the world. Representing a whopping 10 percent of the global economy, it supplies millions of jobs and benefits countless communities.
Yet while travel has many positive impacts, it can also take a heavy toll on the environment, from putting increased strain on fragile ecosystems and culturally significant sites to contributing to rising fossil fuel emissions. But that doesn't mean you have to drop your suitcase and cancel your reservations, says WWF's travel experts. These simple actions can help you significantly reduce the footprint of your next trip and leave a positive impact on local communities.
1. Do Your Homework
Before you book, research destinations that prioritize sustainability and that are investing in preserving their natural and cultural heritage. Some countries, such as Namibia and Bhutan, have environmental protection written into their constitution. Others demonstrate an ongoing commitment to conservation by creating and taking care of their national parks, marine reserves, and wildlife refuges. According to Jim Sano, WWF's Vice President of Travel and Conservation, "Selecting a destination that achieves a balance of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing for sustainable livelihoods, and creating a high-quality traveler experience is challenging. Green Destinations has started to compile a list of sustainable destinations against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council's Destination Criteria—a recognized set of criteria to assess a destination's management policies and practices. Two-hundred destinations have been selected to date."
2. Getting There
One of the best ways to travel more sustainably is to be thoughtful about your modes of travel. Are there environmentally-friendly ways to reach your destination? If you must fly, you can reduce your carbon footprint by selecting direct flights and by choosing a more energy-efficient aircraft, both of which lead to less jet fuel being burned. Travelers can also offset their travel emissions by purchasing reputable, accredited carbon credits from an offset platform like MyClimate.
3. Find Eco-Friendly Lodging
Seek out eco-conscious hotels and accommodations that support sustainable development and have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. Specifically, look for places to stay that use renewable energy, have effective waste management systems, recycle, or were built using renewable materials. With the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, you can easily find certified sustainable lodging to fit your requirements.
4. Choose Tours Wisely
When scheduling tours or sight-seeing trips, book through companies that adhere to environmentally-friendly policies, including protecting wildlife, supporting indigenous peoples, and employing local guides who are familiar with regional laws and customs. Thankfully, there's an abundance of reputable companies that can help globetrotters find adventures that aren't damaging to nature or communities.
5. Support Local Economies
Try to visit regions where local people are empowered to manage their land and natural resources—such as wildlife, parks and marine protected areas—meaning that tourism dollars directly benefit the local economy and can influence positive change.
6. Shop Carefully
Tempted by an "antique" carved ivory tusk? Or a black coral bracelet? Think twice. Just because an item is for sale doesn't mean it's legal to purchase. Some products, such as snake wine, tortoiseshell accessories, shells and coral jewelry, ivory, or furs are made from protected plants or endangered species and can be illegal to export or import. They can also be the products of poaching or mislabeled to entice tourists. Before you spend, be sure to ask questions. What is the item made of? Where did it come from? By making informed choices—or just saying no—you could dodge a serious fine at customs or help reduce the market demand for trafficked, at-risk species. For a list of items to avoid, check out WWF's Buyer Beware Guide.
7. Be Smart About Plastics
Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastics wind up in our ocean, where they disrupt delicate ecosystems and endanger marine wildlife. Much of this harmful waste comes from single-use plastics like throw-away water bottles, take-out packaging, and plastic shopping bags not recovered by waste management. Minimize the amount of plastic waste you produce when you travel by carrying a re-usable water bottle, opting for locally filtered water where possible, and bringing your own tote bags for shopping.
8. Look, Don't Touch
No matter where you go, you should never touch, feed, taunt, or play with the wild animals you encounter, which could spell trouble for both you and the animal. Also keep away from tourist attractions where you're allowed to have hands-on experiences with animals or where wild animals are exploited. These are often harmful to the animals and fuel the illicit trade in exotic pets or endangered animal parts.
9. Pick Your Products
Some common sunscreens and soaps contain harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by the ocean's fragile coral reefs systems and contribute to coral bleaching. Before you dive in, make sure to use reef-friendly products, such as biodegradable or mineral-based sunscreens, shampoo and soaps. Or think about switching to protective clothing, like rash guards and wet suits, which dermatologists say are just as effective as sunscreen.
10. Enjoy Sustainable Activities
As you explore new places, opt for recreational activities that don't pollute or use energy, such as kayaking, biking or hiking. Not only will you create zero carbon emissions, you'll likely discover unique sights and experiences away from the beaten path.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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