Travelling can be great! Holidays are not only a chance to escape from the stress of our everyday lives; they can also be an opportunity to see new places and enjoy memorable experiences. Unfortunately, though, travelling can be harmful to animals and the environment. There are plenty of ways to make your travels more eco-friendly and we have suggested ten of the best here.
Reduce your air travel
Air travel produces significant carbon emissions. Consider other ways to reach your destination such as trains, ferries or coaches and definitely avoid short or internal flights. Not only will this benefit the environment, but it will also help you avoid the inevitable airport hassle, allowing you to slow down and relax. The rise of the ‘staycation’ shows that more people are choosing to holiday at home with some events such as music festivals encouraging people to travel by bicycle to a local location.
For destinations where air travel is essential, use a travel company involved in carbon offset projects, such as renewable energy, fuel reduction through increased efficiency or forest restoration. Some companies like Jules Verne offer ‘climate care calculators’ which allow you to see how you can travel and still protect the environment.
The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it uses, so make sure you travel with as little luggage as possible. Try taking items of clothing that you can wear in several different combinations, miniature toiletries in recyclable packaging – and don’t forget to refill and reuse the containers again and again – or sharing items between members of your group. The same principle applies to your return journey – try not to load up your case with dozens of souvenirs but choose a few special ethical items instead. Having your ticket or boarding pass on your phone reduces paper waste but don’t forget your passport!
Book with an ethical travel company
Booking your holiday through a travel company committed to environmentally friendly practises is a huge step. The hotel you choose can also have an impact on the environment – look at the Global Sustainable Tourism Council database for those that meet their sustainability standards. If the company you usually travel with do not have an environmental policy, then why not contact them to ask for one? Once travel businesses realise that people will only choose companies that demonstrate their commitment to the environment, they will be forced to offer these options to compete.
Eating local produce and drinking locally brewed alcohol cuts down on the environmental cost of transporting and producing foods. You’ll also get to truly experience the culture of your destination, rather than eating the same foods you eat regularly at home. Choosing vegetarian or vegan options will further help to reduce your carbon footprint as will paying attention to how you eat – buffet-style dinners often produce huge amounts of waste so choosing a set meal can be more sustainable.
Don't bottle it
Bottled water creates a lot of plastic waste. If you are travelling in a safe water area, take a reusable bottle and fill up from the tap. If the tap water is unsafe, look out for companies such as Intrepid Travel that are working with hotels to install water filters that allow travellers to refill their bottles with safe water. You could also travel with a reusable water filter or water purification tablets if you need or use the kettle in your hotel room to boil water in the evenings, making it safe to drink.
Choose your souvenir wisely
Souvenirs can be excellent reminders of an amazing holiday but choosing the right one can be difficult. Never buy anything made from an endangered species including tortoise-shell, ivory or coral, as they are often illegally produced. Try to buy locally made items to support the community and remember to take a canvas bag for your shopping instead of a plastic one!
Leave nature as you found it
Respect the area you’re exploring and avoid damaging the environment. Stick to marked paths (you could trample flowers or disturb the local wildlife), take all your litter away with you when you leave (to recycle, of course!) and refrain from lighting fires. This will help protect it for wildlife and also ensure that other people do not have their holiday spoilt by your mess.
Reuse your towels
All the ways we try to save the environment at home can also be applied to hotel rooms. Take showers instead of baths and switch off the lights when you leave a room. Using the same towel throughout your stay and putting your ‘Do Not Disturb‘ sign on the door will reduce the electricity and water wasted by cleaning your room, as well as reducing the number of harsh chemicals released into the environment.
Don't disturb the animals
Photographs are one of the best ways to remember a holiday, but we all know that there are right and wrong ways to take photographs involving animals. World Animal Protection has created a Wildlife Selfie Code, which explains how to take an ethical photograph. Invest in a pair of binoculars or a camera with a high-quality zoom lens so you can take great pictures without disturbing the natural behaviour of the wildlife. Remember to be careful when booking animal-related activities and make sure you only support the right kind of attraction.