The term ‘sustainable travel’ might seem like an oxymoron. We’re all aware that flying by plane or buying a new ‘fast fashion’ capsule wardrobe for a week away is terrible for the environment.
On the flip side though, tourism can be hugely beneficial to local communities and – when done right – even help to protect some of the world’s most endangered wildlife and habitats. Travelling sustainably also doesn’t have to mean spending more. It IS possible to have a well-earned getaway abroad that helps to preserve the planet while not breaking your budget.
One of the most effective ways to travel more sustainably is to support countries that are putting the most effort in to go – and stay – ‘green’. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks countries on their “environmental health and ecosystem vitality”, and luckily many at the top of the list are practically on our doorstep, with direct routes – by plane, train or boat – from UK shores.
Here are our top five sustainable – and affordable – holiday destinations for 2020:
The Swiss alps, a haven for hikers, bikers and outdoor adventurers, was voted number one in the EPI report for its commitment to sustainability. And if tackling the steep hills yourself isn’t your thing, why not take an electric road trip instead.
Switzerland has just launched the world’s first road trip for electric vehicles, The Grand Tour of Switzerland, with 300 charging stations across more than 1,600km through some of the Europe’s most stunning scenery. The road runs through five beautiful Alpine passes, past 22 crystal-clear lakes, and the vineyards of Montreal Riviera.
The French are championing sustainability in a variety of ways, including food and fashion. Plans have been introduced to ban retailers from throwing out or incinerating unsold clothes and instead, donating these items to recycling organisations or second hand shops. France has also recently been named the world’s most food sustainable country in the world. One example of their fight against food waste is their requirement for supermarkets to give leftover food to charities instead of throwing it away.
With Brittany Ferries set to launch a more eco-friendly crossing from Portsmouth this summer, a holiday to the Normandy coast is also now a low-carbon option.
Denmark releases the least carbon per capita in the world – 0.06 tonnes, compared with 6.31 in the UK and 35.73 in Qatar (the worst country on the International Energy Agency (IEA) emissions list). The Scandinavian country has also been named the “world’s happiest” a few times. Denmark is immensely proud of its green credentials – and rightly so. Copenhagen is on track to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 and Denmark aims to be independent from fossil fuel by 2050.
The EPI report says: “Within Environmental Health, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden stand out for high scores in Air Quality. On Ecosystem Vitality, France, Denmark, and Malta earn top scores in the issue category of Biodiversity & Habitat. France and Denmark rank first in marine protected areas.” You can help to support the Danish tourist industry’s commitment to environmental responsibility by cycling, using trains, buses and boats and staying at eco-accredited accommodation.
The small and beautiful island of Malta is working hard to bring about cleaner energy solutions. Local people are offered incentives to buy energy efficient appliances and move away from using oil to natural gas. Malta is also attempting to reduce the gas guzzling cars and traffic congestion that contributes to air pollution by building new infrastructures and intelligent transport systems. Malta also won the European Sustainability Award last year for its efforts to improve water sanitation. Malta is one of the best destinations in the world for diving with underwater caves and even wrecks of ships dating back to World War II.
Taking the train north through Sweden to Swedish Lapland on the Inlandsbanan rail line is one of the most scenic – and environmentally-friendly – ways to holiday. You can hop off for a swim in one of the glassy trackside lakes, watch the nomadic reindeer-herding Sami on route or just sit back and enjoy the gentle ride and beautiful Swedish vistas.