Sustainable tourism can be a contentious topic. Ultimately, we all know that taking flights contributes to greenhouse emissions and that our yearly trip to [insert European city of choice here] probably isn’t the greenest thing about our life. But the truth is that for many of us, travel is a big part of our lifestyle and that’s not going to change any time soon.
The good news is that from the country you choose to go to, to the airline you opt to fly with, there are choices you can make to limit, or lower, the impact of your getaway.
Think About How You Travel
As we said before, we all know that flying isn’t exactly the best thing for the planet, so if you can travel by train/car/boat, then do. Rule no.1: Be honest with yourself about whether or not flying is really
necessary in this case.
However, if taking to the skies is an unavoidable part of your trip, then choosing who
you fly with can still make a difference to your overall environmental impact. Look for airlines that are making efforts to make their planes free of single use plastics and committing to developing sustainable aviation fuels.
Many airlines also now allow you to carbon offset your flight, where you can pay to ‘offset’ the emissions that the flight produces, with the money then being invested in a carbon offset project, such as forestry or renewable technology. While the pay-it-away model can require some researching and should really be looked on as a last resort, it’s better than nothing.
Choose Your Hotel Wisely
There are a few things to consider when it comes to choosing a hotel. Firstly, do they have a sustainability certification? It may be that they’ve received certification from a group such as EarthCheck, a leading advisory group for travel and tourism, in which case great, it should be easy to find out how they’re making sustainability matter.
However, the resources that go into getting this certification mean it can be unachievable for some hotels, especially smaller, locally owned ones. Nonetheless you may find that these hotels still do have a sustainability policy. As a rule, this should cover points including how do they source the materials and products they use, what waste management systems have they put in place, whether they’ve made a commitment to reducing their environmental footprint. If so, how?
Or Go Self-Catered
Alternatively, go self-catered. The advent of the Air B&B means we have more flexibility than ever before about what our holidays look like. Opting for self-catered accommodation can give you a better overview and control over how you’re using resources such as water, heating and waste, while having the opportunity to cook at home can also help you to avoid eating out and the inevitable ‘restaurant portion leftovers.’
We’re not just talking about making your holiday wardrobe more sustainable
(because we all know that fast fashion = bad for the planet), but about the other little tweaks that are probably already part of your life at home. Normally, you never leave home without your reusable water bottle, metal straw, tote bag and a Tupperware box, right? Take those things with you on holiday too! This also applies to your beauty products – go for soaps, shampoo bars and roll on deodorant that you won’t get forced to throw away by airport security.
Where to go
Need some environmentally friendly holiday destination inspiration? Here's a few favourites.
We’ve written before about why Costa Rica is the dream destination for the healthy hedonist
–volcano climbing, surfing, hiking, cycling… it’s got it all – but this Central American country also wins major points for its approach to sustainability, having spent billions on preserving its biodiversity, with nearly 30% protected as national parks, refuges or reserves. Almost all of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources, and the government runs its own scheme to define eco-friendly policies for accommodation providers.
Looking like something from a fairytale, delightfully affordable and just a two-hour flight from London, the Slovenian capital is always an excellent choice for a mini break. Over the past few years, Ljubljana’s increasing focus on sustainability has seen it close the city centre to traffic, introduce a free-of-charge cycling scheme and commit to pursuing a zero-waste policy, among other measures. In 2016, it was even recognised as the European Green Capital!
One destination that you have basically no excuse to fly to, Wales has everything you could require for a summer holiday – beautiful beaches, lots of activities to get stuck into, some great food and plenty of places for a tipple or two in the evening!