The proportion of nomads questioning the impact of their stays on the environment continues to grow. Among them, journalist and author Marie-Julie Gagnon, a travel specialist, driven to travel the world by her thirst for discovery and for professional purposes, finds herself constantly tormented by the choices and potential solutions to try to save the planet. In her essay Traveling better, is it really possible?, she explores these ethical questions and strategies to reduce our footprint — which some Quebec travelers are already implementing.
Haunted by her carbon footprint and the environmental impact of her travels, the journalist seized the ecological bull by the horns, prospecting among the ways to mitigate them, if not to reduce them to nothing. Overtourism, cruises, all-inclusives, animal ethics, polluting vehicles… by consulting a wide range of environmental experts and industry professionals, the traveler probed many facets of this visibly insoluble Rubik’s cube, trying to find concrete and realistic responses to be implemented.
Traveling better, is it really possible? Yes, under certain conditions, concludes the book, in particular by enlightening our conscience through our choices and our research. But can that same conscience remain quiet if we comply with all imperatives? “No, it’s not enough,” concedes Marie-Julie Gagnon. When we know the consequences of our actions, having a clear conscience is a utopia. On the other hand, we can appease it a little by acting on our scale, without setting unrealistic objectives. The journey is so rich in so many other ways, like opening up to the world. »
Is completely depriving oneself of leisure travel, as advocated by many experts and activists, the only way out? The author is not convinced of this, as tourist asceticism also seems utopian to her, if only for family or friendly reunions, explains the one who has had some grain to grind with the notion of “essential travel”, which proliferated during the pandemic.
She also notes that various parameters act as so many spokes in the wheels of good intentions; we think of the financial limits, or the rather limited number of days off in Quebec. “A lot of things aren’t always possible, but if it’s still within our reach, we should favor direct flights, avoid doing the ‘milk run’, limit chip-hopping, make sure this trip is important” , holds up the author as an example.
These are all principles that some travelers have not hesitated to implement, such as Sylvie Lepage, who has decided to reduce the frequency of her air travel and adjust her stays. Her last tourist visit dates back to 2019 and she plans to leave for Spain soon. “We are extending the duration, we will stay three weeks instead of two. On the spot, we will use the train and the buses for the transfers between the cities. On the way back, we will buy carbon credits to compensate. We will remember that we had this privilege and we will wait patiently before leaving,” she explains, also concerned about reducing her impact locally by planning her journeys by car and favoring cycling and walking.
Does the question of carbon credits seem obscure to you? You are not alone ; Marie-Julie Gagnon, who devotes a chapter of her book to it, has long wandered in this repulsively complex microcosm. Between bad programs, scams and greenwashing, it’s not easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. “It’s complex, it’s arid, but it’s worth everyone digging into, looking at the criteria for a program, and shopping around,” she recommends. For example, after careful consideration, it was seduced by Carbone Boréal from UQAC, betting on sustainability and serious verifications, all within the shackles of university research.
So would that be a good avenue? The recurrent answer during his research was positive, but considered as a last resort: that is to say, to make sure to have the least impact possible and to compensate for what cannot be reduced. “It’s not simple: do I have to compensate for the transport or the whole trip, including the food? The more we are interested in it, the more it becomes automatic. We do a lot of it and we feel guilty, but I find it interesting, rather than slowing down, to look for positive solutions, to make a trip by bike or bus a number one choice. »
When we think of the environmental impact of tourism, we immediately point out the means of transport allowing to go from point A to point B (then to point C, etc.), with planes and cruise ships particularly in the line of sight. Marie-Julie Gagnon has taken a close look at everything from innovative fuels to low-cost flights to the rail option.
“We are very critical of transport, but I felt a real desire for improvement within the industry. Nobody has an interest in keeping a disastrous carbon footprint and obsolete equipment, “says this unconditional train, citing the efforts of Transat or VIA Rail.
Many Quebecers have therefore opted for rail for their future trips, while limiting their range of possibilities. This is the case of Danyelle Barrette and her spouse, who have decided to give up on Europe. “Since the pandemic, we have thought about it and plan to travel by train in Canada and the United States instead. Of course, this limits us, but we must be aware that if we want to leave a healthy planet for our grandchildren, we must “moderate our transport” in the truest sense of the expression”, she confides.