Many people will picture sleeping in a hammock in Costa Rica or staying in a basic eco-lodge in the Alps as epitomising green travel. The reality is that you can retain your creature comforts whilst being a green traveller.
What the term ‘green travel’ really means is that people are making an effort to preserve the areas they travel to.
This means conserving wildlife, plants and resources as well as making a positive contribution to communities.
Why do sustainable travel?
It’s a term being thrown about with increasing regularity, and for good reason. The Earth is reaching bursting point in terms of its resources, so we need to think of long-term strategies to minimise our impact. This is especially true when we travel, as we tend to consume more resources when we do. Millions of us travel every year, and while travel has been bringing us many positives, we need to do it sustainably if we want to preserve the beauty and variety on Earth.
How can I travel sustainably?
It’s easier than you think. Read on below for some sensible and uncomplicated ways of developing your green footprint when travelling.
- Choosing a destination
When travelling across the Atlantic or to South East Asia, you’re pretty much required to hop on a plane. Take these sorts of family holidays abroad once a year, and stick to UK breaks the rest of the times.
- Finding a green hotel
A number of websites exist to help you with this part of your trip, specifically designed to cater to green travellers. They will list eco-friendly establishments all over the world, and many are family-friendly. Bear in mind that each site has its own idea of what ‘green’ means, so check their guidelines carefully before making bookings. Once you’ve seen eco-hotels in operation, you’ll have a better idea of what to look out for.
Look out for the following clues:
- The hotel is locally owned and staffed
- There is a recycling programme in place. Some countries don’t have the facilities to recycle – but does the hotel have a compost heap, for example?
- Guests have the option of reusing towels and sheets
- Getting there
Air travel is having a huge impact on carbon emissions, and of course the bigger the family, the more emissions. However, you can offset them by purchasing a carbon offset programme (usually around £30 for a long haul flight). There are lots of online companies offering this sort of service. Of course, train, bus and car-sharing are the most eco-friendly ways to get to your destination. Before choosing a carrier, research their credentials online – you might be surprised which companies rate highest in terms of eco-friendliness. Eurostar, for example, has great eco-credentials and consistently surpasses its green targets.
- While you’re there
Even if you’re not staying in the greenest of hotels, there are still steps you can take to be a responsible guest. Keep your showers short and leave a note letting staff know that you want to reuse your towels is a good start. Remember to turn off lights, electrical appliances and air conditioning while you’re out, too, and you’ll already be reducing your impact on the local environment.
Getting around when you’re abroad can be tricky, but try to rely as little as possible on taxis. Instead, take buses or organise walking or cycling holidays. Car rentals are more eco-friendly when the vehicle’s seats are all occupied, so it’s a good option if four to five people are travelling together. It can be done more sustainably if you choose a small hybrid model.
When visiting the beautiful places which make your trip so special, bear in mind this rule: take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. Throwing rubbish in bins seems obvious, but souvenir buying is more of a minefield. Look at the labels and reject anything not made in the country you’re visiting. You should also make sure that you’re not purchasing anything made from endangered animal or plant species.
Green travel doesn’t have to involve hours of planning – choosing a great holiday can take enough time as it is. Nonetheless, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make sure you leave your destination more or less unaffected by your passage – apart from positive relationships built with local communities.
Lalage can’t get enough of cycling holidays and is looking forward to visiting France and Holland this summer
img courtesy of http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2378/2246413229_9550149243.jpg