The most eco-friendly way to take a holiday is… not to. It’s true that 5% of the world’s carbon emissions are directly related to travel, but that shouldn’t actually stop you enjoying your precious free time with friends, family or loved ones, should it? So, pack your suitcases, backpacks or weekend bags, because we are going to share some of our best tips for eco-friendly holidays, and we will finish off with some advice on what to avoid.
Perhaps the most eco-friendly trip of all is to go camping. Your lodgings are carbon neutral, you don’t need much energy (if any), and you use communal facilities. Even better, many campsites are catching on to their eco-friendly customer base, and are installing solar panels and wind turbines, worm farms for food waste and effective on-site recycling.
Want your camping experience to be even more eco-friendly? Go wild camping. It’s not legal in every country, but most nations turn a blind eye. Just remember, leave your site as you found it, and it’s unlikely that anybody will complain.
Mountains, national parks, forests, lake regions and canyons. Who doesn’t like the sound of a beautiful stroll through Earth’s great demonstrations of nature? Well, as far as holiday activities go, hiking is perfectly eco-friendly, however, it’s your accommodation that you should pay attention to. Camping at the end of your hiking day is great, but for those who want a shower and a hot meal, opt for a guest house instead of a hotel. Guest houses are often run by families, for families, with locally sourced food and other methods of supporting the local economy.
The concept of doing ‘work’ whilst ‘on holiday’ is something that many find to be confusing and bizarre, but you have to believe us, it’s incredibly rewarding. Websites like Workaway and Helpx offer the opportunity to take a volunteer position in a foreign country for free, often helping out for just 20 hours per week in a range of outdoor tasks, like gardening or working with animals. You will get your meals and accommodation included, perfect if eco-friendly holidays are on your agenda. You can eat the food you’ve helped to grow, or sleep in a building you’ve helped to build.
Tip: Beware of eco-voluntourism initiatives that require you to pay up front.
‘Low impact holidays’
A low impact holiday means taking a look at all of the options available to you, and carefully selecting which ones are better for the environment. Is the ‘off-the-grid lodge’ going to do more or less damage than the mega hotel? Will dining with the locals create more or less carbon than going to a big restaurant chain? Being a responsible tourist just means acting consciously when abroad. Look to Tripadvisor and company websites to read about environmental policies.
Eco-friendly luxury resorts
It’s not impossible to have a luxury holiday and not do a massive amount of environmental damage, but it is hard. Even if you stay at a so-called ‘Eco-friendly luxury resort’, you should take a long look at their CSR and environmental policies. Do they employ locals? Are they recycling excess water? Do they use LED light bulbs? Do they have a chemical-free pool? Quite often, these resorts are in the middle of nowhere, and so take a lot of fuel and several flights or boats to get there. They may also be situated in an area rich in biodiversity and wildlife, and so you must also observe how respectful of the surrounding nature they are.
What to avoid
If you are looking to plan some eco-friendly holidays for the future, here are the main things that you need to avoid:
- Long haul flights, or flights with airlines that use old and inefficient planes
- Locations where the habitat is being destroyed by tourism, like coral reefs and rainforests
- Places that exploit local communities by not paying fair wages, giving opportunities or supporting the local economy
- Long-distance cruises – these trips are not good for the environment and emit a huge amount of carbon dioxide per person
- Using air-conditioning all day and night in a hot country
- Taking taxis when it’s possible to walk, cycle or go by public transport
- Dining on imported food and purchasing imported clothes – shopping locally is better!
- Unconscious travel. Not searching for the best eco-tourism options is going to be the maker or breaker for whether you go on eco-friendly holidays on not
Eco-friendly holidays are possible, and often cheaper than a ‘normal’ trip, though they may take a little extra planning, research and care. We wish you a safe journey and we hope that you have an amazing time wherever the wind takes you!