With travel reopening around the world, we’re more eager than ever to get away – here’s how to do it without punishing the environment…
Travel is an integral part of our lives as humans. For some, it’s essential for work; others, for leisure.
And as most of us have come to realise – when our most basic ability to escape was snatched away amid the global pandemic – it can be essential to our sanity, too.
However, one of the upsides to lockdown was the dip in carbon emissions, as millions of people stayed home and the skies gradually emptied.
So with travel tentatively reopening around some parts of the world, how can we ensure that we do our bit and keep our personal footprint to a minimum?
Whether you’re choosing a UK staycation for your first post-lockdown getaway or are heading abroad, here’s how to be a more environmentally responsible traveller…
1. Carbon offsetting is key
Put simply, carbon offsetting means compensating for your carbon dioxide emissions by making equivalent reductions of CO2 through other means.
Almond is a sustainable travel app that helps you crunch the numbers, allowing users to calculate their average carbon footprint and encouraging quick fixes and swaps – such as buying from companies supporting the same sustainable goals.
“If you’re travelling by plane then there are things you can do to offset your carbon footprint,” explains Olly Bolton, CEO at Almond.
“Choose a greener airline and try to fly direct. Landing and taking off produces the most CO2 and therefore flying direct where possible actually produces less emissions.”
If you can’t avoid travelling by air, you should at least make sure you book through a company like FlyGRN.
When you book, they guarantee to offset your carbon emissions by 100% – through initiatives like planting trees or investing in solar panel projects in India – all at no extra cost to you.
It’s a no-brainer.
2. Be smart about your plastics
Even sustainability newbies know that single-use plastics are the devil’s work, so forget buying toiletry miniatures at the airport.
While they might be a space-saving measure, the plastic usage is pretty inexcusable, so pack your big bottles from home and check your luggage in the hold.
For extra eco points, pack Sanex Zero% Shower Gel which uses a 99% biodegradable formula, so it doesn’t leave any nasties hanging about as it washes down the drain.
The packaging is 100% recyclable and the formula doesn’t contain any colourants or sulfates, meaning your skin will thank you too.
Then remember to keep your hands off those tempting minis when you get to your hotel - what you don’t shove in your bag on the way out, they won’t need to restock.
3. Travel somewhere green
If you haven’t got anywhere specific in mind, why not pick your next location based on its eco-efforts?
The annual Green Destinations Awards provide a great starting point if you’re a bit lost.
Winners from 2020 include the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia, all short-haul destinations that have made a commitment to combating climate change through protecting cultures and ecosystems.
“About half of the carbon emitted by human activity is captured and stored by trees and plants instead of harmfully going up into the atmosphere,” explains Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel.
“Some places are doing a better job of restoring nature than others, and those are the countries we should be supporting with tourism.”
4. Check your hotel’s credentials
Hotels account for more than 20% of tourism-based CO2 emissions – the second largest contributor after air travel.
Lots of hotels profess to be ‘sustainable’ but it’s about finding the ones that walk the walk.
“Take the time to research hotels in your destination to pinpoint the ones that use sustainable practices,” says Nicky Kelvin from travel advice site The Points Guy UK.
“Look out for things like solar power, elevators that generate energy and organic cleaning supplies.”
Bardessono in California, The Green House in England and Rancho Margot in Costa Rica are all good examples of independent hotels putting the planet at the fore, while groups such as Fairmont Hotels, Hyatt and Hilton have all been commended for their sustainability efforts.
“Even if you aren’t staying in a so-called ‘sustainable’ hotel, you can still be conscious about your actions,” adds Nicky.
“This could be as simple as not getting clean towels and bedding each day to reduce the amount of water used for laundry.”
5. Don’t be influenced
Forget booking agents, Instagram travel porn is where we now head for our holiday inspo.
A recent study found 60% of people picked their travel destinations through social media, while another survey discovered over 40% of millennials choose a travel spot based on its “Instagrammability”.
But what looks good online can often be masking rather ugly sustainability issues
“The rush for the perfect picture has led to oversaturation at some popular tourist spots. And that’s not good for the destination, the locals, or the travel experience itself,” says Zina Bencheikh, Managing Director of Intrepid Travel.
“Places like Boracay in the Philippines and Thailand’s Maya Bay have even had to stem the flow of visitors by closing completely or severely limiting numbers.”
Instead of following the blogger trail, take the time to research properly and discover lesser-known (but equally beautiful) locations off the beaten track which aren’t suffering from tourism.
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