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Here's the conundrum: you love seeing the world. But as a traveller you have to realise that the more you see of that world, the more you're contributing to its destruction.

Think about it. Every howling aeroplane engine helps destroys the world. Every footfall on an ancient monument helps destroy it. Every plastic bottle of filtered water helps destroy it. The very act of travel helps destroy the world.

This would be a major conundrum for travellers – except, of course, it's not. Because no one really cares.

We don't care that much about ruining the world. It's an inconvenient truth, and one we'd prefer to ignore, because travel is a lot easier and a lot more fun if you don't think about the damage you're doing.

This is not sexy topic to bring up. In fact you may have even stopped reading by now, preferring instead to flip to the sections covering the bright, fun part of travel. You won't be alone.

Travellers, by and large, don't care that much about the environment they spend so much money to see. We're apathetic. We're frightened that if we look too far into this thing it might give us reason not to travel at all.   

So instead we re-hang our towels in the hotel and pretend we're doing our bit. We book a few nights in an eco-lodge and rest easy that things are going to be all right. We pay for a few carbon offsets and get on our way.

Because the alternative – not travelling at all – is just too extreme to even think about.

There are simple things we could be doing to ease the burden as we make our way around the globe. But I'm not doing them. And I haven't seen anyone else doing them either.

We could be carrying our own reusable water bottles and filtering equipment, taking a few disposable plastic bottles off the pile of millions that are clogging up the world, particularly in developing countries. But most of us don't.

We could be travelling predominantly by bus instead of driving or flying, cutting carbon emissions by more than half, saving the environment while still being able to get where we need to go. But buses are annoying, they're slow, and they're full of Joe and Josephine Public. So we take the easy option and fly.

We could be packing lighter. Every little kilo counts. Every T-shirt or jumper or hairdryer that you leave at home will make some small difference to the amount of fuel your plane burns. But hey, everyone else is taking everything they want, and you get a 23-kilogram allowance – be a shame not to use it.

We could be doing our research on the ground and seeking out hotels and hostels with "green" accreditation. But that would take extra time, and they're probably more expensive, and… meh.

We could be hiring bikes instead of taking taxis. We could be choosing not to step on centuries-old monuments and buildings, instead viewing them from afar. We could be buying fresh local food instead of indulging in dirty takeaway. We could be purchasing carbon offsets. We could be spending time doing volunteer work on organic farms. We could be renting hybrid cars.

But the vast percentage of us will not do any of this stuff. Because it's inconvenient, or expensive, or it's not that much fun.

That's the reality.

It's hard to see how things are going to change, either. For travellers, the overriding passion is to go to as many places as possible, to meet as many people and see as many things in this lifetime as you can.

That's what makes it so easy for even those of us who truly care about the environment to ignore the impact we're having on it once we leave our home towns.

No one's talking about this stuff in hostel dorms (though, come to think of it, those dorms are a lot more environmentally friendly than a hotel room that washes your sheets and towels every day). No one chats about this in hotel lobbies or airport departure lounges.

This is our right, to travel. We work hard to take these trips. We save up, we plan, we sacrifice. We have time constraints. Budgetary constraints. Deep down, I don't think most travellers want to change anything about their travel experience for the benefit of the world at large. Too much has been invested.

And so we'll keep drinking from those plastic bottles, keep flying an hour when we could have taken the bus, keep trampling monuments, keep taking taxis, keep eating food that's been flown in from miles and miles away.

It's too hard to change.

What are your thoughts? Do you consider yourself an ecofriendly traveller?

Written by Ben Groundwater. First appeared on