Travel is an eye-opening elixir: it frees your mind from auto pilot, cracks you out of familiar social circles and lets your brain breathe.
Travel is also an eco nightmare. The carbon cost of tourism was calculated to be four times as much as previously thought, as a result of analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change, which evidences that the industry accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Previous analysis had crunched the CO2 emissions of air travel – but the new data encompasses that derived from elements such as hotel and airport construction, too.
"With global warming, the temptation can be to think that half a degree here or there is fine. But with half a degree of change we see droughts, flooding and wild storms," Justin Francis, CEO and founder of activist travel company, Responsible Travel, told HuffPost UK.
So, how to cut down on your impact?
“When you take your holiday, 80% or more of the carbon associated with it comes from the flight,” said Francis. “We’ve got used to the mini break, which, if you take eight a year, adds up to 16 flights.”
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Take one, longer holiday a year, and you’ll slash your carbon massively. “It creates enough solar energy to power the home and to run an electric car, making the house carbon neutral and energy positive.”
If you go down to one return flight a year, you can still get away. “The UK is one of our top destinations,” Max Sinclair, CEO of Eco Companion, an eco tourism provider, told HuffPost UK. Francis agreed. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than England in May and June,” he said. He also heads to Scotland, in the Autumn.
Travel as an eco tourist
This involves researching eco-friendly lodges, hotels and resorts (as opposed to large, multinational hotel chains), supporting reservation projects and national parks, and always ensuring that any activity you participate in isn’t exploitative. “You can even go on a holiday where you get involved with helping on a conservation project,” Sinclair said.
“Ultimately, what you’re looking for in a holiday is rejuvenation, and everyone knows that volunteering makes you feel good. If you go somewhere for a week and make a real impact, you’ll feel so much better than if you had gone to an all-inclusive resort.”
Travel in economy
We know. Business is a luxury most of us can only dream of. But if you are using air miles to get an upgrade, think twice.
Because people are packed in more tightly, it’s more eco,” Louree Maya, founder of sustainable and ethical travel platform, Kynder, told HuffPost UK. On the same note, pack as lightly as you can, as the plane will use more fuel the heavier it is.
A small band of well-meaning people aren’t going to achieve the effect we need, Francis mentioned. For that, we need government to step in. He’s keen to see electric planes, (which are currently in development by the likes of Easyjet) funded by the powers that be, noting that the £3bn raised annually in Air Passenger Duty could be invested in accelerating progress towards the tech.
We can help out by emailing our MPs on the matter, as well as letting airlines know that we’ll be willing to spend more with them, if they’re making efforts to electrify their services.
Take the train
Aside from Paris, Europe is becoming ever better connected by train. Francis recommended heading to Provence or Marseille, in the South of France, or Amsterdam. Bonus: the Eurostar means way less waiting around at security.
Give your money to eco hospitality providers
When you’re abroad, seek out restaurants, bars and coffee shops that are working to be as sustainable as possible. “Places that are investing in renewable energy, like solar, and that are working towards waste reduction... it’s not easy for them to do, so it’s great to support them,” Maya said.