Sustainable travel: how to travel responsibly

With travel playing a huge part in the climate crisis, how can we do our part to reduce our impact on the environment?

Alice Holmes
9th November 2021
Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash
In light of COP26 currently occurring in Glasgow, a conference where 200 countries have been asked what their plans are to cut emissions by 2030, protecting our planet is at the forefront of media attention. The impact of travel upon climate change is evident, with 2.4% of C02 emissions coming from aviation. In a world recently resuming travel again after several lockdowns, how can we make sure we are being responsible travellers? 

Flying

A return flight from London to San Francisco emits around 5.5tonnes of C02 per person - that is more than double the emissions produced by a family car in a year. Flying has a considerably large impact upon global emissions and climate change. Limiting how often you fly and how far you travel is definitely the best option to limit the impact upon the environment. However, it is understandable that in some cases it is not feasible, practical, or even possible to avoid flying altogether, yet there are some ways in which you can reduce your impact whilst flying. 

Firstly, choosing which airline you fly with is important. Some airlines are focused upon reducing their impact and protecting the environment whereas some are not, therefore choosing airlines which are making a difference is highly effective. EasyJet is currently the airline which is making the most effort to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change by reducing fuel usage and adjusting wingtip design. You can research companies which are making no changes and avoid those. 

Additionally, if possible try to avoid flying on very small or very large planes, sticking in the middle with single aisle or twin aisle aircrafts is the most fuel efficient. Direct flights are also the best option with no layovers. 

When it comes to packing, the lighter your baggage the better as the heavier your bags are the more fuel is being burnt. Whilst there is the influence and assumption that you should buy a new wardrobe of holiday clothes to take with you, this really isn’t wise, particularly if these clothes are from fast fashion brands. Equally, buying mini plastic cosmetics to take in your hold on is terrible in terms of wastage. Instead, decanting your cosmetics into reusable small bottles is much more beneficial for the environment and saves money. 

Destination

Flying, although most significant, is not the only aspect of travel which impacts climate change. The choices we make as a traveller at our destination can help to combat climate change too. This starts with picking your destination. Some locations are attempting to make great changes, for instance Paros in Greece has plans to become the first plastic-free Mediterranean island and Italy’s Trentino region is home to the world’s first plastic-free ski resort. These destinations provide a more sustainable option for a holiday and it’s good to be mindful of this when deciding where to go.

When travelling, it’s great to support local businesses such as shops and restaurants as opposed to chains and on that note, it is best to avoid buffets due to the wastage of food. Additionally, when travelling around an area the train is the best form of transport in regard to lower carbon emissions – however, keep in mind this is not the case in the USA where trains run off diesel. 

The treatment of animals is another aspect that interlinks with the tourism industry. When visiting another country, it is crucial to respect the animals there and avoid activities where the animals are made to feel uncomfortable and placed in unnatural environments, such as elephant rides. If you would like to visit and see animals whilst travelling, but want to do this safely and respectfully, you can research online for wildlife conservation efforts where they are truly taking care of the animals and protecting them properly. 

coral reef
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Equally, it is important to take care of the natural environment and chemicals found in sun cream can lead to bleaching of the coral reef. This is accentuated with aerosol sunscreens that spray large amounts of product into the sand which can get washed into the ocean. Some destinations are making an effort to change this, with Hawaii passing a bill banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate – two harmful chemicals. To make a personal change, try to buy reef safe sunscreen without oxybenzone in the ingredients list in order to protect the coral reef.

Local 

Finally, living in Newcastle there are small travel changes you can make to reduce your impact on the environment. For instance, when travelling back home try to take the train instead of driving which releases lower carbon emissions. Additionally, when travelling around the city opt for the metro instead of getting in an Uber – this is much cheaper too. The same idea also applies at home as it does abroad with shopping and eating locally. All these small changes can really make a difference. 

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