Our planet is pretty incredible. And thanks to technological advances in recent decades, the vast deserts, seas, mountains, rainforests and glaciers that populate the earth are all only a plane ride away. However, our appetite for exploration comes at a hefty cost.
Research published last year in Nature Climate Change revealed that tourism is responsible for nearly a tenth of the world’s carbon emissions.
This is a sobering reality-check, but doesn’t mean we should stop travelling altogether. However, for the sake of there still being a world for future generations to explore, we do have a responsibility to travel sustainably.
We can all do more to reduce our environmental footprint when we’re abroad. Here are some of our top tips for eco-friendly adventures:
How to get there:
1. Explore options closer to home
Flights do the most damage when it comes to the environmental impact of your holiday, so where possible, keep your air miles to a minimum. Travellers tend to overlook holiday destinations close to home in favour of further afield locations, but exploring what’s on your doorstep could help you cut costs, while reducing your carbon footprint. How about a long weekend in a Eurostar destination like Bruges or Lille, or day trip to Dublin?
2. Explore alternative transport options
If you’re getting a short haul or internal flight, consider looking into alternative forms of travel. Taking a bus or train would significantly reduce your carbon footprint – not to mention your bill.
3. Avoid indirect flights
Most of a plane’s carbon emissions are produced from take-offs and landings. When you are flying, try to book non-stop flights where possible.
What to pack:
4. Pack light
The less weight a plane carries, the less carbon emissions it will produce. Simple.
5. Bring a re-fillable water bottle with you
Drinking lots of water is essential when travelling, particularly in a hot climate. Disposable plastic bottles, however, are not. Tap water is drinkable in most developed countries, while many airports, hotels and public spaces have free water dispensers. Bringing a re-fillable bottle away with you will do wonders for your carbon footprint, while saving you a fortune on overpriced Evian bottles.
6. Reusable bags are your best friend
Equally as harmful and unnecessary are plastic bags, which can take anything between 400 to 1,000 years to be broken down. Make a small switch with a big impact by bringing a foldable, re-usable bag with you on your trip. It’ll take up no room in your suitcase, but will make a big difference.
How to be an eco-friendly hotel guest:
7. Hang up your towels
You wouldn’t wash your sheets or towels every day at home, so why should a hotel be different? Follow the signs you see in hotel bathrooms and hang up your towel rather than leaving it on the floor to save unnecessary washes.
8. Switch off
Make sure you turn off the lights, TV and air con when you leave your hotel room.
9. Avoid using the hotel laundry
Not only are hotel laundry services expensive, they’re also notoriously inefficient when it comes to energy saving. It’s best to avoid using these when possible, particularly for small loads, since hotels tend to wash each guest’s clothing separately.
What to buy:
10. Shop local
Where possible, buy locally made products and souvenirs. You might assume what you’re buying is locally made, but all countries import goods from somewhere, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure.
11. Eat local
The same goes with food. Trying local ingredients is a key part of the travel experience, so remember to read the label and make sure the produce you’re buying wasn’t imported.
12. Drink local
Reduce ‘beer mileage’ and try out a locally brewed beer or a local wine or spirit. They’ll be cheaper than imported drinks, and will probably taste better too.
How to get around:
13. Avoid taxis
For a cheaper and more eco-friendly means of getting around, take buses, trains or trams in cities, or even hire a bike. Walking is often the best way to explore a new city – and it doesn’t cost a thing.