With the UK braced for heavy snowfall this week, many of us are thinking ahead to our summer holiday. However, with a massive 87 per cent of Brits taking a holiday last year, the impact on the environment can be huge. Here are our top tips on how to holiday sustainably:
Know your location
Always thoroughly research your destination. Look at local customs and sensibilities as well as significant environmental issues. Avoid regions and resorts where over-development has led to deforestation, water pollution and threats to local wildlife. When choosing your destination, look for areas that are building a responsible travel infrastructure.
Consider a stay-cation
The UK has some beautiful places to visit so you might find your perfect destination without having to set foot on an aeroplane. This will dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of your holiday. Camping is a great low carbon accommodation. There is a wide choice of campsites in the UK and worldwide. If traditional camping is a bit too basic for you, ‘glamping’ – a more luxurious camping option typically involving fixed, comfortably appointed tipi’s or ‘yurts’ – may be more up your street.
Campsites are often close to cycle and walking routes so not only can your accommodation be low carbon, so can your transportation!
Avoid aeroplanes where possible
If you’re going to Europe, travel there by land-based transport. Europe has an extensive rail network meaning that almost every destination is accessible by train. This will reduce your carbon emissions and you’ll see more of the spectacular scenery that Europe has to offer.
Car share – and get on your bike!
If you’re travelling in a group, try to take just one car, not all of them. Not only will your carbon footprint be smaller, you’ll also save money on petrol and parking. If you’re headed abroad, use a shared airport transfer to get to your resort rather than a personal taxi. When you get there, use public transport. Speak to your tour operator or hotel for tips on how to get around. Walk where possible, and for a great way to get to know your destination, hire bikes.
Offset your carbon footprint
If you have to fly, offset your carbon footprint using a site such as Climate+Care, which calculates the carbon emissions of your holiday then recommends a donation amount. The money will be used to invest in environmental projects around the world, which will help to balance out your carbon footprint.
Choose green accommodation
Choose a hotel or villa that is energy efficient, buys its food and resources locally, and is built from sustainable materials. Look for one that produces some or all of its energy through solar or wind power, and keep water and energy consumption to a minimum.
Many hotels will use rainwater harvesting, energy-efficient lighting and energy-saving insulation to reduce their environmental impact. Look for the Green Globe, EarthCheck or Rainforest Alliance seals of approval.
Save water and electricity
Unnecessary cleaning of laundry is a huge waste of water and electricity. Let the staff know that you don’t need fresh sheets every night. Turn off electrical items when you aren’t using them, just as you would at home. Only have the heating or air conditioning on when needed.
Eat and shop locally
Support the local economy by buying your food from local markets, or choose independently-owned restaurants. When shopping, check if the item you want is made locally. You’ll be helping the locals and you’ll know that the produce hasn’t travelled miles to get there, which will reduce your carbon footprint.
Cut down on plastic
Avoid plastic bottles and plastic bags. If you’re travelling to a place where it isn’t advisable to drink the tap water, carry your own water purifier rather than buying endless plastic bottles. Carry your own shopping bag (perhaps one bought locally!) with you to reduce the number of plastic bags you use.
Pick up your litter
If you’re hiking in a wild area (or even travelling in a country without a great waste collection) take your own litter bag with you to make sure any unwanted items get put in a bin.
Use eco-friendly products
You should aim to leave your destination without leaving a trace. This means using products that won’t have a detrimental effect on the environment. Opt for cosmetics made with natural ingredients as opposed to harsh chemicals.
Sun creams can harm the environment as they often contain Ozybenzone which contributes to coral bleaching. This kills corals and is toxic to other marine life, such as algae, fish and mammals. There are eco alternatives available to help you protect your skin as well as marine life. Before you go swimming in the ocean, check that your sun cream is coral reef safe and also that it does not contain plastic microbeads.
Be kind to the animals
Not all countries look after animals like we do in the UK. A lot of excursions involving animals can be really detrimental to their health and happiness. While there are lots of great and educational animal attractions, say no to activities that might distress an animal. Research activities before going on them.
Avoid elephant riding, circuses that use animals for entertainment and big cat selfies. Avoid souvenirs made of animal parts as this can contribute to illegal poaching. You can visit the World Animal Protection website for more information.
Above all, whatever your destination – be considerate to the culture, environment and people who live there.