The impact that plastics have on our shared oceans and the natural world is a core reason why we created our #PlasticFreeTravel campaign. But for those looking to travel with a smaller environmental footprint there’s more to consider than just our use of plastic. Here are some positive, proactive steps you can take to travel more lightly on the planet.
The problem with flying is that it allows us to travel huge distances cheaply and quickly. Estimates vary, but roughly, one return long haul flight will use about 4 tonnes of carbon. That’s 20 times the carbon saving in doing a year’s worth of recycling. Or to put this another way, every person in the UK is currently using around 8.5 tonnes of carbon per year – and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research says we need to cut emissions by 90% by 2050 – so this means that every person in the UK would need to use around 1 tonne of carbon per year – clearly impossible if you include a flight.
According to the Stern Report, the total annual CO2 emissions from aviation is about 600-700 million tonnes – a 2-3% share of global CO2 emissions. The UK’s CO2 emissions from aviation doubled between 1990 and 2000 and are expected to double again by 2030. Aviation is currently the fastest-growing contributor to CO2 emissions.
Any flights we take contribute to this problem. The best way to reduce your flight emissions is to fly less, for example by pledging not to take any flights in 2020 (a campaign run by Flight Free UK).
For those flights that you do take we would strongly encourage you to look to offset the flight. We would recommend you offset any essential flights through a quality-assured carbon-offsetting scheme, such as through carbonfootprint.com or the brilliant atmosfair.de.
And remember it’s system change we need to stop climate change, so check out the brilliant “A Free Ride” campaign that looks to change the way flights are taxed to help most of us who don’t take more than one flight a year!
But most importantly keep in mind, life isn’t just about the destination – it’s about the journey!
Give cruise ships a wide berth
It’s thought that The Queen Mary II emits 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile as opposed to 0.257kg for a long-haul flight. According to the Telegraph, Carnival, in its environmental report states that its ships, on average, release 712.kg of CO2 per kilometre. This is 36 times greater than the carbon footprint of a Eurostar passenger and more than three times that of someone travelling on a standard Boeing 747.
In addition to airborne pollution cruise ships also produce a great deal of waste and rubbish. It is estimated that every passenger produces 3.5 kilograms of rubbish daily as opposed to 0.8 kilograms generated by people onshore.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, many people will fly to the start of their cruises. This is a very unsustainable way to holiday!
Alternative ways to travel
By travelling less distance you reduce your carbon footprint and you can make lower-carbon transport more feasible. If you’re travelling to mainland Europe try using the Loco2 app that makes booking trains across the entirety of Europe a quick and easy affair. And if you’re travelling (almost) anywhere in the world, the legendary Seat61.com will tell you how to get there overland.
Spend local and eat local
Wherever you holiday, seek out local independent activities and food outlets. A study by the World Tourism Organization found that $100 spent during a trip, only $5 benefits the destination. Food shopping in local markets rather than supermarkets also means it is much easier to avoid pointless plastic packaging.
After all, there are worse things than a sipping a glass of Bordeaux in the Saint-Pierre district of the city, or to nibble a freshly baked waffle marvelling at the Grand Place in Brussels. And by a happy coincidence, you can get to both, and a growing number of destinations directly from London, by high-speed train with Eurostar.
Seek out best practice
There are lots of ethical and green travel companies out there that can help guide you through these dilemmas. And here are some ethical and green holiday essentials to buy before you travel. We’re not suggesting everyone should stay in yurts in the Peak District, but we are saying that some small decisions can make a big difference.
Happy holiday folks! And big up the staycations.