With the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic looming over this year’s holiday plans, deciding on when and where to travel has never been quite so challenging.
For some, making green travel choices may never have been a priority when choosing a destination. And now that holiday choices primarily need to consider where it’s safe to travel and what restrictions may be in place, green travel may be an even more distant consideration.
But as we know from the plastic problems exacerbated by the pandemic, environmental issues are as pressing as ever, and perhaps we should all be considering our travel plans through greener lenses?
What is sustainable travel?
Sustainable, or green, travel can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s merely about reducing carbon footprint. For others, it goes further. It can be about water, environment, or wildlife conservation. It can be about making choices that protect communities from multinational organisations. Or it can be about choosing to travel to places where there will be the most significant social or economic benefit. Green travel is a minefield of different terms that tackle what it means to travel in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the planet. Conde Nast Traveller has an ultimate sustainable travel glossary for the lowdown on all the different terms.
Should you avoid flying?
Flying is the single most significant contributor to our personal carbon footprints, and so reducing it is never a bad idea for the environment. Thankfully, newer aircraft are greener, and there’s the option of offsetting carbon emissions through companies such as Now Offset Carbon. Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, offer carbon offsetting as an add-on when buying a flight. If you decide not to fly, staycations have never been so popular, partly thanks to the pandemic. Try a walking holiday, an organic holiday, or an eco-cottage holiday, all right here in the UK.
If you’re keen to travel sustainably, but further afield, there are reputable travel companies you can use to help. Regenerative Travel has luxury eco-escapes to tempt you. Earth Changers offer trips that tread lightly. And Exodus Travels itineraries all make a considered social impact on all the destinations they visit. Of course, it can be as much about where you choose not to go, too – Venice and Machu Picchu are victims of over-tourism, so it’s better to visit off-season to minimise the negative impact. And while the cruise industry is trying to take steps to clean up its act, there’s a long way to go before a large-ship cruise can genuinely be considered a green holiday option.
All sorts of travel brands are trying to prove their (sometimes minor) eco-credentials. While they can make us feel a little better about choices we would have made anyway, if you’re making a more deliberate green travel choice, you might want to delve further into their policies.
What easy wins are there?
If you’re not quite ready for a disaster tourism trip to Australia, visiting eco-resorts that are run purely on renewable energy, or trying voluntourism in Namibia, then simply making good choices when we’re on holiday all help. Choosing family-run accommodation over a multinational hotel chain can help keep local businesses afloat. Avoiding single-use plastics, being mindful of your water consumption in hotels (by not requiring towels and sheets to be washed daily), and recycling wherever possible are all positive steps in travelling with our planet in mind.
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