Environmentally Friendly Travel Guide
Environmentally friendly travel does not mean having to vacation in your own back garden or local park. There’s ways to minimise your travel footprint while still exploring new places and appreciating the beauty of nature. Whether you are planning a getaway in the UK or abroad this year, there are actions we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint. So keep reading for our environmentally friendly travel guide!
What is Sustainable Travel?
So what is sustainable travel? Well The World Travel Organisation defines it as:
“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities".
It’s undeniable that exploring different places and cultures has a positive impact on an individual’s wellbeing. But unfortunately, the travel industry is a key contributor to climate change. And tourism can have a negative effect on local people, the environment, businesses and culture. We need to have an awareness of the effects of air pollution and tourism on the places that we visit, and plan excursions with this in mind.
The goal is to discover ways in which tourism can be maintained long term but without causing harm to local and natural environments. Friends of the Earth claim that transport alone equates to about a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Travelling by plane or by ship causes local air pollution, local water pollution, noise and greenhouse gas emissions. In a paper called ‘The carbon footprint of global tourism’, it was found that the travel industry was responsible for around 8% of global emissions, with flying being responsible for half of these emissions.
Responsible Travel: Is it Possible?
So is environmentally responsible travel actually possible? It’s a heated debate, with some eco activists arguing that the term “environmentally friendly travel” itself is an oxymoron. And of course, the only way to completely minimise our travel impact is to not go anywhere. Or cycle & backpack everywhere. But this is unrealistic and creates a lot of eco anxiety.
Sustainability is not simple, it can’t be reduced to one action. Caring about the planet doesn’t mean that you have to give up your holidays. The travel industry employs a large number of people and it can help local economies, which makes travelling valuable. Travelling makes us feel more connected to different cultures, communities and history. It can also help to educate us on societal and environmental issues that different towns, cities and countries face.
So instead of forgoing holidays all together, here’s some top tips for reducing negative impact:
How to Travel Sustainably
1. Stay Local
You guessed it! One of the easiest tips for environmentally friendly travel is to reduce how far away you are travelling. As many of us discovered during the pandemic, there are actually lots of amazing places to explore in the UK.
You could try a staycation in the peak district, or a road trip to your nearest beach.
And if you are going to fly, you can choose a trip in a nearby country, to minimise emissions.
2. Minimise trips
If you aren’t prepared to swap your holidays abroad for UK staycations, that’s okay. A great option is to simply reduce your annual number of vacations. For example, if you usually go abroad 4 times per year, try reducing this number to 2 to instantly halve your travel emissions.
3. Use efficient modes of transport
If you are travelling by plane, 80% of a holiday’s carbon footprint comes from just the flight. Flying and driving in particular are considered to be the least efficient modes of transport. Although travel companies may say that you will offset your flight by planting a tree, this doesn’t balance it out and it shouldn’t be classed as a free pass to fly. Try to opt for more efficient alternatives where you can such as catching a bus or train. When you are at your destination, try and walk or cycle where possible, instead of renting a car. However, if you do need to rent a vehicle, try and get one that is electric or hybrid.
4. Choose less populated areas
Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in people booking getaways to make up for the two years of restrictions. This means most of the popular destinations are experiencing a large influx of tourists.
There are so many hidden beauties that you can find if you simply look a little harder. Ask family and friends for recommendations which they have travelled to, as they might have found some amazing gems that are off grid but totally gorgeous.
5. Opt for eco-friendly travel companies
A lot of eco-friendly travel companies offer stays at conservation projects and off-grid lodges, which help local communities and the environment. Ecocompanion is a travel company and booking platform which gives you the option to book holidays at eco-lodges, tours and conservation projects. You can get involved with a variety of projects such as cleaning beaches or rainforest conservation. Eco conscious hotels are popping up everywhere at the moment. Some hotels partake in zero plastic policies, are built out of renewable materials, they use renewable energy and help to build back natural areas.
Here are some of other eco-friendly travel companies you can use:
The Long Run
You could also try WWOOF and workaway, and find places that you can stay and work on projects that will help members of different communities. This could include working at an animal sanctuary or organic gardening.
6. Eat local and reduce your meat intake
When on holiday, try to eat fresh local produce to reduce emissions and support local businesses, instead of big supermarket chains. There is also a rise of vegan, plant-based eateries all over the world, so you don’t have to compromise on your food ethics, even in a new location.
7. Reduce plastic waste
When travelling, a lot of people will buy plastic bottles of water, snacks wrapped in plastic, or grab a Starbucks at the train station. So make sure to bring an aluminium reusable water bottle with you, reusable containers for food and a reusable shopping bag! If you are going for a long trip, make sure to pack your Spruce refillable cleaning products. A whole year’s worth of our plastic free cleaning refills can fit in a small makeup bag, making it perfect for travelling!
Image by Emma Croman
8. Make a positive impact
You can give back to the community when you are travelling by volunteering with marine conservation or supporting independent businesses. Organisations such as Impact Travel Alliance and The Conscious Foundation are worth having a look at because they offer resources, events, mentorship programmes and seminars to help travellers make more responsible decisions. Although a large chunk of carbon emissions is due to big corporations such as airline companies and they still have a long way to go, we can also make lots of attainable changes to our travelling routines that the planet will be thanking us for.
So, there you have it - that’s our top tips. At Spruce, we believe that all changes count, big or small. We’re all imperfect environmentalists who are learning as we go along. So if you use any of these tips, give yourself a pat on the back. And have a fabulous trip.
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