What a sustainable restart to travel could look like
Once the COVID-19 lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions end, I know I’m absolutely raring to start traveling again. But one of the things that many of us are coming to realise is just how fragile the world we love to explore is, and how important it is to be good stewards of it while we do so.
There’s a whole industry out there for ecologically friendly holidays, and that’s great. But beyond the eco-yurt – although we do love a good eco-yurt – there are choices that we can all make to reduce our contributions to climate change when we start traveling again.Many older aircraft won't return to the skies © imagean / Getty Images / iStockphoto
Newer aircraft with lower emissions
For most travelers flying to their destination, the airline journey will be the largest part of their environmental footprint. That’s not just because of the emissions produced, but also because they’re released at higher altitudes, which amplifies their effect.
Newer aircraft like the Airbus A350, A320neo or A220, or the Boeing 787, have an emissions footprint about a quarter lower than the jets they replace. With COVID-19’s drop in the demand for travel, many of those older aircraft have been retired and won’t return to the skies, and we’ll be flying on those newer and more efficient aircraft.
Look out for the newer aircraft when booking – although the kind of aircraft you’ll actually travel on is never guaranteed – and, if none are available, contact your airline to make your views known.
Beyond that, you can make a number of individual choices to minimise your personal environmental impact on the plane: bringing food with you, selecting vegetarian or vegan meals on board, and packing as light as possible, for example.Night trains are having a comeback, particularly in Europe © Laborant / Shutterstock
More lower-carbon travel options
In many parts of the world, there are great alternatives to air travel for short-haul or even medium-haul travel. These aren’t just lower-impact, they’re often more fun and provide a fascinating slice-of-life view en route.
The growing numbers of high-speed rail networks in many regions, as well as their city-center-to-city-center networks, make them a superb option – even for passengers who might previously have jetted between multiple destinations in a single trip.
Night trains, too, are having a comeback, as more and more travelers discover how convenient, cost-effective and time-saving a way to travel they are. Keep your eyes peeled for more and more of these being introduced, especially in Europe.
But of course it’s often complicated to find, plan and book trips that include rail rather than air travel, and takes, time, effort, and resources. Fortunately new tools and guides are coming online all the time.
Much better rail integration
One of the areas where a bit more coordination effort is needed is in getting rail networks in particular to play better with each other and with other forms of transportation.
An example: if you buy an airline ticket with connecting flights, the airline is (by and large) responsible for making sure that you make your connection or are rebooked free of charge to the next flight, and provided with accommodation if an overnight stay is required as a result. This is known as a “protected connection”.
Protected connections are very rarely available in rail travel. Apart from the CIV rules covering international tickets within Europe, which allow for next-train travel if your previous train is late, it can be very complicated and there’s no guarantee space will be available.
It’s not just rail-to-rail connections that need work, either. Rail-to-air tickets are growing in availability, but these will usually have a clause stating that the airline isn’t responsible if the rail part of your trip is delayed. Lufthansa’s Rail&Fly service, in cooperation with Deutsche Bahn, states: “Every passenger is responsible for arriving at the airport in good time. Lufthansa accepts no responsibility for missed flights due to the delayed arrival of a bus or train.”
Overall, the travel industry really needs to start making it easier for travelers to make more sustainable choices.Several large cities are working to be bike-friendly, but more can be done © canadastock / Shutterstock
Better walking and biking options
It’s been fantastic to see so many cities and towns boosting their cycling and walking facilities to help people get around during the coronavirus crisis.
The trick with this when traveling, though, is access to cycling in particular as part of an integrated travel network. Making short-term and medium-term cycle rentals available to travelers is often complicated, and without wanting to get into the perennial debate about helmet requirements, making them accessible to those travelers who would like them is not yet mainstream.
Some larger cities’ bike-share schemes are a great start, but there’s much for accommodation providers to do here as well. That’s especially true for hotels, which are in a great position to reduce their guests’ environmental impact, whether they decide to create their own bike provisions or partner with a local company to take care of the details.
Booking sites too, can do more to flag up these choices or offer them as filters.
Travel is important: it broadens the mind, exposes us to new ways of life and new parts of our shared world, and can be a vital part of global development. More than ever, though, it’s crucial to make travel more conscious and more sustainable.
The future of museums amid unsettling times
Global lockdowns imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic severely diminished the tourism sector. The arts and culture industry, a cornerstone for tourism, and well-rounded communities now face an existential crisis. Museums make up a 13 billion dollar industry in the US alone, where 14 million Americans attend each year. The risk of losing museums will affect the intricate system of artists, tourists, residents, and families. Today, museums across the board struggle in the background. One-third might not make it through the pandemic; the rest may need to reinvent their business models to survive. Museums, at their core, are keepers of authentic heritage, culture, and history. Across the globe, museums showcase over 1 billion objects and artifacts for essential public views. Over the last decade, the industry evolved from scholars and academia to bring in wider audiences through engagement and entertainment. Respectively, their financial model reflected the more hands-on experience brought on by foot traffic and memberships. The Smith Group, based on architectural design in the art space, points out the need for structural changes to stay relevant post-pandemic and among the newer generations. This short term financial and cultural crisis expedited the threat of how museums will keep up in the digital age. Traditional and dated forms of engagement used by many museum websites do not effectively harness the internet. If museums move beyond brick and mortar establishments, they will need to implement more forward-thinking ideas. Museums already use social influencers like celebrities or political figures to market and attract visitors. Still, a new form of marketing, known as niche marketing, can potentially lead museums to use pop culture to interact with the digital world. One example from a recent phenomenon is Animal Crossing, the record-breaking video game from Nintendo Switch. The social simulation game sold over 13 million copies since its release and created a revolutionary community to build an attractive island and visit other users online. The fandom attracts many public figures to its doors, even inspiring New York congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to reach out to her following within the video game. In a comment made to the Wall Street Journal, David Newbury, an enterprise software architect at the J. Paul Getty Trust, said, “We need to get our art to where people actually are, and they’re in this game.” The Getty Museum recently created a Vincent Van Gogh Exhibition in the game to engage visitors over quarantine. New York-based artist Nicole Shinn launched her art gallery housed within Animal Crossing and featured over 20 contributing artists. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made its entire collection of more than 406,000 Open Access images available to visit or hang in your island home. These public engagements show promising ideas for museums to interact successfully in the digital world, but still aren’t translating into their current financial model. As museums struggle to stay afloat, these efforts must be two-fold: how will they use the digital space to bring in much-needed funding and how will they use the digital world to funnel traffic back into their establishments. Beyond the museum industry, the ladder might be more critical to the travel sector. If museums engage more online, how will this affect the cultural development and attraction of cities to tourists worldwide? By Kylie Ruffino, a copywriter and designer graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her focus is exploring the intersection of design and language to realize solutions of forward thinking ideas.
This interactive map will guide you to the best fall colors in the US
To help travelers to plan their trips to catch the leaves change colors in different parts of the US, an interactive map has been created.Now in its seventh year, the 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map by smokymountains.com is a visual planning guide to the annual progressive changing of the leaves. It notes that as average temperatures continue to slowly increase, their effect on precipitation patterns and weather will have an impact on the brightness and length of the fall color season across the US. The interactive map was created by analyzing millions of data points and putting them together county-by-county. It has a slider to allow users to follow the changing leaves through the entire fall season, enabling travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn. The fall foliage at Smugglers' Notch State Park in Vermont, USA © Naphat Photography/Getty ImagesThere are also articles on the website with information on the science behind why autumn leaves change colour, what the different hues mean and what happens to the leaves after they fall. It also warns that no foliage tool can ever be 100% accurate, as the timing and vibrancy of the colors depends greatly on the unpredictable weather ahead and the major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. To see more on the 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map, please see here.
Take a Tour Through American History Along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
August 2, 2007 was a historic day in America. On that day, the bitter partisanship that pretty much defines American politics was cast aside to pass a bill that declared bourbon to be our “National Spirit” and established September as National Bourbon Heritage Month. And here’s the best part: They passed the bill unanimously. Yes, unanimously. As further evidence of bourbon’s importance to American heritage as well as the nation’s economy, this isn’t the first time Congress passed a law involving the industry. In 1967, it passed a bill to define bourbon as a whiskey that must be distilled from at least 51% corn and aged in a new charred American white oak barrel and just as Champagne can only be made in the region of the same name in France and Iberico ham can only come from Spain and Portugal, bourbon must be made in the USA. Which brings us to today. The bourbon industry is exploding—there were over 6.7 million barrels aging in Kentucky in 2015, which works out to 1.5 barrels for every citizen of the state. So-called “whiskey pilgrims,” from millennial enthusiasts to seasoned aficionados, have been flocking to Kentucky to visit bourbon distilleries and see how the spirit is made. But even before bourbon growth took off, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, a trade organization, founded the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999. (Bourbon production increased 315% since then, from 455,078 barrels in 1999 to 1,886,821 in 2015). The KBT is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to head to the source and see craftsmanship in action. And the best part: the guidance the KBT provides is completely free. Each distillery offers tours that show the many steps of whiskey-making, from fermenting to distilling to barreling to bottling and, of course, what would a tour be without a lesson in tasting. The distilleries charge a minimal admission fee. It’s worth it. Just go to the site and download the app. It shows the number of miles between distilleries, which ranges between eight and 70, and lot of other helpful logistical details. There are nine distilleries on the trail. They’ve created a neat little “passport” for you to take from stop to stop. Get it stamped at each distillery and if send it to the KDA when it’s all filled in, they send you a t-shirt. Among the stops is the iconic Maker’s Mark Distillery, a National Historic Landmark. It’s set up with the house of its founders replicated to period detail. You can watch workers dip the bottles in the red wax Maker’s is known for and even try it for yourself in the gift shop. The massive Jim Beam Distillery is a mighty sight to behold, what with 76.5 million bottles of spirits shipped to 100 countries from there each year. This is indeed the slickest stop on the tour. The company is in its seventh generation of Beams and old-school heritage looms large in its mythology, yet it’s all presented with all kinds of digital bells and whistles. The visitor center is a veritable multi-story museum, with interactive educational elements. They also offer an interactive multi-sensory tour and a decanter museum that would make an antiques collector swoon. Prepare to spend a lot of time here. Heaven Hill, the oldest family-run distillery, offers the Bourbon Heritage Center, a museum of bourbon, past to present. Wild Turkey and Four Roses have both invested vast sums in the last few years to open stunning visitor centers at their historic distilleries, each one a shrine to American heritage. With all the tourist pouring into (sorry, no pun intended) the state, they need someplace to eat and drink after a day of touring. Louisville has become quite an urban destination. Inventive restaurants are opening at a rapid clip, and meantime, some of the longstanding institutions banded together to form the Urban Bourbon Trail, a guide to some of the most incredible bourbon bars in Louisville, which basically means the most incredible bourbon bars in the world.
Over 500 miles of new bike trails are now open to cyclists in the US
Cycling has soared in popularity during the pandemic, prompting cities and towns to reconsider their streets. In California and Wisconsin, officials and local cycling communities have worked with the USBRS to utilize several off-road trails to connect Milwaukee to the Mississippi River at Bluff Siding, and linked Lake Tahoe with an existing bike path in Nevada to create a seamless route to the San Francisco Bay Area. The designation of these new routes will give cyclists more than 500 miles of safe, signed paths and expands the reach of USBRS to 29 states in total. In California, the 233-mile USBR 50 path begins in South Lake Tahoe at the Nevada border. Cyclists will climb over mountain passes, following the Mormon Emigrant Trail before rolling through the scenic Sierra Nevada on the El Dorado Trail, the paved route in the state's historic Gold Rush country. From there, they'll enjoy over 30 miles of car-free cycling from Folsom to Sacramento, before traveling to Lagoon Valley Park and into San Francisco Bay. California's new bike route will start south of Lake Tahoe ©MariuszBlach/Getty ImagesNot only does the new California bike path provide scenic recreational routes for cyclists, it also connects two of the largest communities in the El Dorado and Sacramento counties. "Long term, I hope we can improve USBR 50 to serve not only visitors to the county, but local residents cycling for recreation, biking to work, and running errands by bike," said Mike Bean, Friends of El Dorado Trail board member, who helped designate the new route. In Wisconsin, cyclists will pass 269 miles of forests, vibrant urban areas and cut through the steep, rugged landscape of the Driftless Region. "Establishing this route has been years in the making and it’s a great accomplishment for the state," Craig Thompson, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) secretary-designee, said in a statement. "More than 70 communities in eleven counties worked together to create this great transportation corridor that will be enjoyed by local, regional and national bicyclists." The USBRS boasts 14,598 miles of bike routes throughout the country, and connects cyclists to picturesque pathways in over 100 National Park sites, including Mammoth Cave National Park and Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. At least 40 states are currently developing more routes and once complete, it will be the largest bike network in the world, providing cyclists of all ages and abilities a safe passage through the country. If you want to hit the open road on two wheels this fall, you can access digital maps for all designated US Bicycle Routes for free here from the Adventure Cycling website, a nonprofit organization that provides national coordination for the USBRS.