BY CLAIRE COATES
Since Prince Harry launched his new sustainable travel initiative, Travelyst, the environmental impact of holidaying has been hitting the headlines. Whether it’s a gap year, romantic break or classic family holiday - you’ll enjoy travelling more when you know it’s not hurting the environment.
Why is sustainable travel important?
The message of sustainable travel is loud and clear: holidays are already the fourth biggest cause of environmental pollution1 - contributing 8% of total carbon emissions 2. With tourism booming like never before, and sending our C02 emissions higher and higher with it, it’s more important than ever to reconsider the way you travel.
You might think there are better and easier ways to reduce your environmental impact than sustainable travel. Recycling perhaps? Unfortunately, just one return trip to Australia from the UK emits four tonnes of C02 - that’s 20 years’ worth of diligent recycling for nothing.3 When you put it into perspective this really is a big deal.
What does it mean to travel sustainably?
Sustainable travel hasn’t made its way into the dictionary (yet!). But using the UN’s definition of sustainability, it roughly means travelling in an environmentally friendly way that is inclusive of local communities and their economic stability.
Travelling sustainably just means being conscious of the choices you make, so that you can have the trip of a lifetime without taking that opportunity away from the next generation.
How to travel sustainably
You don’t need to massively rock the boat to travel sustainably - there are loads of super easy ways to get on board. Some websites will even do it for you! For example, you could plan your holiday through ‘National Geographic Expeditions’ or book one of the ‘Unique Lodges of the World’ ’s places to stay. These offer unforgettable holidays without being unfriendly to the planet.
Here are my top tips for any trip:
1. Pack smart! Never leave home without your sustainable travel tool kit.
- Drinks flask
- Water bottle
- Reusable straw
- Bamboo cutlery
- Soap (avoid plastic hotel bottles)
- Bamboo toothbrush
These will all cut down on the plastic waste of the average holidaymaker. All of these products are available from our online store, so you can use them again and again for each new adventure.
2. Get in touch with nature
Camping is a great way to cut carbon, with much lower electricity and water use. Check your campsite too to make sure there are recycling facilities available. Some campsites such as those around Loch Ness and Oswestry even use solar panels, while others make use of rainwater harvesting. It’s not for everybody, but you don’t know if you don’t try!
3. Fly budget
It’s important to remember that flying is by far the worst option for the environment, but there are ways to mitigate the impact if your holidays have to be exotic. For example, making a stopover can increase your carbon emissions4 – so look at direct flights where possible. You can then offset your flight at the time of booking, either through an independent company or directly with selected airlines. The carbon emissions of your flight are calculated into an equivalent amount of carbon credits, and the money you spend on these are then spent on renewable energy, forestry and conservation projects. Airlines offering this service are: Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Delta Air Canada, Brussels Airlines, KLM and Austrian Airlines.
If those airlines don’t travel to your holiday haven, save money and the environment by travelling with a budget airline. They often have newer, more efficient fleets, and fit more passengers on each flight to reduce your individual carbon footprint. It’s a win-win!
For loads more tips, here’s another handy blog: https://clairesfootsteps.com/sustainable-travel-tips
What is the industry doing to reduce its impact?
It’s all very well making personal choices, but for sustainable travel to really have an impact we need the industry behind us.
Although lots of research has gone into electric planes, so far electric engines can’t produce enough power to get an aeroplane into the sky. However, biofuel engines, or simply larger planes which can take more passengers, look like a more viable option for the future.
Changes in the airport before you even take off could help too. Amadeus is a computer reservation system which cuts the need for traditional airport infrastructure when checking-in and boarding. These cloud based solutions consume an average of 8-20 watts per passenger - compared to 150 watts for traditional computers. That’s saving the equivalent of 14 LED light bulbs per passenger!
The industry is also working on raising awareness. You might have noticed little messages pop up when using companies such as Skyscanner or Megabus pointing out the “lowest CO2 route”. These are often selected by travelling outside of peak times to reduce congestion, or using the most direct route, and help you to do your bit for very little time or effort.
At the end of the day it’s up to you to lead the way. It’s time to put the brakes on environmentally damaging holidays and watch sustainable travel take off. Besides, if it’s good enough for Prince Harry, maybe you should give it a little thought.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of the generation that will be most affected by climate change, Claire Coates is passionate about protecting our planet and campaigning for a sustainable way of life. Known by her friends as an eco-warrior, Claire runs a clothes swap scheme at her Sixth Form to recycle and reuse unwanted outfits. In her spare time she enjoys running her own radio show and playing for her local hockey team.