Travel has always been an easy target for green shaming. In some respects, the blame is justified: aviation accounts for approximately 2% of global CO2 emissions, while over-tourism has disrupted communities and damaged fragile ecosystems.
But – if done responsibly – travel can help to protect wild spaces and provide incomes to communities.
So rather than scrapping holidays completely, we should start thinking of ways to travel smarter. According to a survey conducted by Audley Travel 57% of 2000 respondents said that having available sustainable travel options is important to them.
Additionally, Pippa Ganderton, product director of ATPI Halo, a CO2 measurement, reduction and offset service and provider of sustainable travel solutions, believes new legislation on carbon labelling coming into force from January will change travellers’ habits in 2024.
“Carbon labels show the carbon footprint of a flight, allowing travellers to compare and contrast the carbon and emissions footprint when travelling on various flights or trains, alongside the usual information like price and journey duration,” she explains.
To help you plan a more environmentally friendly break and reduce your globetrotting carbon footprint, here are some key resolutions to follow.
1. Holiday in eco-friendly destinations
If the world’s your oyster, choose a holiday destination known for its sustainable tourism practices. Many of the Scandinavian countries are leaders in this field. According to the Global Destination Sustainability Index, Swedish city Gothenburg is the world’s most sustainable destination – approximately 95% of the city’s public transport runs on renewables.
Sustainable Journeys (sustainablejourneys.co.uk), who curate trips according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s definition of sustainable tourism, have a 14-day Low Carbon Grand Tour of West Sweden.
2. Book through an altruistic operator
Money isn’t the only motivation for running a business. Many tour operators have charitable arms focussed on giving back to projects. Ramble Worldwide (rambleworldwide.co.uk), who focus on walking holidays, has a a wholly charitable ethos. With no shareholders, company profits are channelled into their Charitable Trust – since 2000, £5 million has been invested into preserving the outdoors and making it more accessible to others.
3. Stay in green accommodation
Several accreditations make it easier for consumers to pick green hotels, camps and lodgings – Green Key Global, Green Globe and LEED are some of the leading certifications. These grade providers according to several criteria, including building methods, energy-efficient operations, use of renewable energy, water conservation practices, and local sourcing of food.
Beyond the mechanic of a property, consider their impact on the wider community. For example, a lodge that has reintroduced native wildlife into the surrounding area. Audley has introduced Responsible Choice labelling on its website, to identify tours and accommodation that are leading the way in sustainability.
4. Pack light for your travels
Annoying as they may be, weight restrictions are put in place for a good reason; the heavier a plane’s cargo, the more fuel it burns. If you’re heading out on a short break, consider packing less. Some destinations are even pioneering a rental service for holidaymakers: ‘Any Wear, Anywhere’ is a clothing rental service for people travelling to Japan with Japan Airlines.
Some essential items to bring, however, include a reusable water bottle (ideally double insulated) to refill at hotels or refill stations found via apps and websites like Refill My Bottle and Refill Not Landfill. A reusable coffee cup and a reusable cutlery set, or spork, and a fabric shopping bag will also reduce plastic consumption. Recycle all packaging at home before travelling as not all destinations have good recycling facilities.
5. Avoid bucket list destinations in peak season
Clearly demonstrated in places like Venice and Dubrovnik during the peak summer season, over-tourism can put a strain on local resources and infrastructure. Consider visiting lesser-known places to alleviate the problem or reconsider your travel dates and go in the shoulder season. By going at a quieter time of year, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but will also balance the flow of income to local people year-round. Prices are much more appealing too.
6. Use public transport
Instead of renting a car, use buses, trains, bike rentals, or walking to explore your destination. This reduces emissions and often offers a more authentic insight into the local area.
7. Swap planes for trains
It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but wherever and whenever possible, choose trains over planes – even if it’s only one way. More sleeper trains have been reintroduced in Europe with improved connectivity across the continent. Eurostar also recently launched its Snow Train service, seamlessly connecting several French Alpine ski resorts via Lille.
8. If you do fly, consider off-setting
Sometimes, catching a flight is unavoidable, but there are ways to pay environmental dues through carbon offsetting schemes. Although a big help, admittedly these set-ups don’t solve the CO2 problem (it can, after all, take several years to grow a tree.)
Reaping a more direct benefit is a new initiative from high-end adventure operator Pelorus (pelorusx.com). Through a new partnership with Neste, the global leader of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production, they’ve found a way for clients to invest in sustainably sourced fuel made from renewable waste and residue raw materials such as used cooking oil and animal fat waste. Using a ‘Pay it Forward’, concept, guests can offset part of their flight’s carbon emission by investing into an equivalent amount of SAF to be used in future flights.