6 top tips for a green vacation
It’s becoming more and more common to think a little more about sustainable decisions, and there are plenty of ways to start when it comes to making everyday choices, like going to work by bike or switching to a vegan diet. But when you go on vacation – which luckily becomes a bit more possible for some of us – it can be difficult to maintain a low-carbon lifestyle.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was one of the world’s fastest growing industries – and its carbon emissions have increased rapidly at the same time. Research conducted in 2018 found that the travel industry was responsible for around 8% of global emissions, with thefts account for about half of these emissions.
At the same time, traveling the world, meeting new people, or learning fascinating things about new cultures is a rewarding experience that you probably won’t want to miss – of course, during times when travel restrictions amid COVID- 19 allow it. Specifically, taking breaks and vacations, if you can, is vital to our well-being.
Fortunately, there are ways to take a vacation without overburdening your carbon emissions. As more and more tourists realize their environmental impact, more and more travel operators have designed trips that deliver the best of a typical vacation without the giant carbon footprint.
With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to make your next vacation good for you and the planet.
1. Explore big train travel
Aviation contributes around 2.4% of global carbon dioxide emissions. When you add other gases produced by air travel, such as nitrous oxide and water vapor trails produced by airplanes, this actually represents 5% of global emissions, according to the BBC.
So, one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to find a way to get to your vacation destination without flying.
It might take longer, but it might be part of the fun. This is the point of view of travel expert Susanna Elfors, who, following the success of her Facebook page for the ‘flygskam’ movement – which means ‘steal shame’ in Swedish – co-founded a train vacation site to help take the hassle out of booking multiple trains.
She told Global Citizen in 2019: “You can jump off the train and stay in a small village and have it as part of your vacation experience. On airplanes, you just see the clouds pass by. “
There are many vacation companies that offer train travel only. From the UK, you can use the Eurostar to get to Paris or Brussels, then take a interrail pass for multiple train trips across the continent (it’s especially affordable if you’re under 27). Check Blog “The man in seat 61” for more inspiration – an award-winning travel website by Mark Smith, a rail travel enthusiast.
2. Find housing powered by renewable energies
Staying in a hotel or vacation home that runs on renewable energy is a great way to reduce emissions during your trip and to learn about sustainable technologies during your stay.
The British heritage conservation organization National Trust, has a list of its rental chalets that run on solar or hydraulic energy, proving that older properties can be made energy efficient. Or you can redeem Airbnb for Ecobnb, a website that lets you browse rental homes all over the world with detailed ratings on their durability. Glamping on a green-powered organic farm in Tuscany, no one? Yes please!
Or if you fancy something akin to a Hobbit house nestled in a Scottish hilltop, check out the Land vessel in Perthshire: It’s made from recycled materials and salvaged items, uses wool for insulation, and sources power from wind turbines on the working farm it’s based on.
For a more urban setting, look at luxury hotels like the Breeze Hotel in the center of Amsterdam, which has won awards for innovation and sourcing all of its energy from its own renewable systems. It uses sunlight to heat water for showers, solar panels, and even has a natural air conditioning system using reused water.
3. Electric cars and bicycle-friendly destinations
You may find that even if you avoid theft, you may still need a car to get to your destination. If this is the case, you may want to consider renting an electric car, which is an option widely available in Europe and America. While the electricity used to power cars is often produced using fossil fuels, they are always better for overall emissions than driving regular gasoline cars.
A 2020 study predicted that by 2050, every other car on the road in the world would be electric, saving annual carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the size of Russia’s annual carbon emissions.
the Ecobnb The website usefully tells you which of its rentals are located near electric car charging points or whether they have one on site. If you are in Europe, Norway and France are the two leading countries in terms of electric car adoption and number of charging stations available.
If you’re on a city break – and therefore can probably live without a car – consider cities that offer easy cycling. In the United States, San Francisco, Portland and Fort Collins in Colorado have surpassed a recent painting cycling-friendly cities. In Europe, Utrecht in the Netherlands, Antwerp in Belgium and Ljubljana in Slovenia have all been recommended for the number of cycle paths they have.
4. Go to lesser known or local destinations
Must-see attractions and famous beauty spots can suffer from overtourism, which in turn contributes to air pollution and puts a lot of pressure on local water and food resources in these places.
In Barcelona, the mayor threatened to limit tourism to the city after being named the most polluted port in Europe in 2019. Meanwhile, the delicate coral reefs of the world’s tropical regions have been damaged by swimmers and speeding boats
Global travel restrictions put in place to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic have helped reveal the true impact of tourism in normal times. For example, there have been rare sightings of dolphins in Canals of Venice in April 2020, following strict closures in Italy which had led to a slowdown in boat traffic in the city normally overrun with tourists.
80% of the coral has been destroyed by the effects of tourism.
– World Economic Forum (@wef) July 27, 2019
However, tourism can be good for the local economy and boost sustainability efforts when done right. Try to do your research and find a place that would really benefit from your visit first. Or swap famous destinations for less known alternatives but still beautiful and fascinating.
This is because, before you even search for a faraway destination, there may be some amazing places to visit within hours of your home to try out first.
5. Learn more about nature conservation on vacation
Pushing the idea of making your choice of destination count a little further, you might actually take advantage of the trip to learn more about conservation efforts that benefit and contribute to the environment.
For example, the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) charity has a travel site where you can book adventurous tours that help fund conservation efforts and provide the opportunity to spot wildlife. The organization also partners with local holiday providers, certify eco-responsible places stay close to national parks and hiking trails, so visitors can enjoy nature with less impact.
Another option is to camp in a re-saved domain, gaining popularity in places like the UK, where landowners have strived to restore nature and reintroduce endangered or extinct species to the wild in the country, such as beavers and storks.
6. Think about the food
Hotel food normally evokes all-you-can-eat buffets, which are notoriously unnecessary. Although some hotels are think about ways to reduce their food waste – from offering smaller portions to eliminating free bread – many still have a long way to go.
Globally, less than half of hotels compost their food waste and often send it to landfill, creating methane that is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to Sustainable world travel, a non-profit organization promoting sustainable tourism.
Another problem is that in popular vacation spots on the islands, like the Maldives, a huge amount of food is imported for tourists. Sustainable World Travel estimates that 80% of the food consumed by the tourism industry on the Pacific Islands is imported, generating greenhouse gas emissions to get there.
When traveling, consider independent vacations and restaurants serving local dishes. And while you might find it hard to eat a plant-based diet everywhere, vegan and vegetarian diets are a problem. budding trend, and applications like Happy Cow, which has listings in cities around the world can show you nearby places serving vegan or vegetarian options.
And finally, avoid single-use plastic by bringing a reusable water bottle and coffee mug on the go.