With holiday season just around the corner, I want to help you to keep up your eco-conscious habits whilst on a trip! So, here are my 6 top tips for more sustainable travel.
Hello and welcome to everyday ethical, a podcast about all of the small ways that you can be more sustainable, without the pressure to be perfect.
I’m your host, Bethany Austin, and I’m an ethical lifestyle blogger who talks about everything from slow styling to cruelty-free cleaning.
Today we’re going to be talking about a topic that I knew A LOT of people struggle with: Sustainable travel! Lots of people have sent me questions about responsible tourism, as well as just creating less waste whilst traveling, and how to travel in the first place without contributing so much to your carbon footprint.
This is a pretty huge topic, so there’s no way we can cover everything, but I did want to sit down and get the conversation going. So I thought I would begin by giving you what I think are the 7 main tenants to eco-friendly travel.
Let’s dive in.
Exciting news: I’m going on holiday! We booked it a few weeks ago and, frankly, I NEED it after the storms we’ve been having here where I live. I’m just so excited to lay on a beach and do F all, except maybe walk to the bar and maybe read a few pages of a book.
That is literally my dream. We’re not cultured AT ALL haha. So we’re not the “walk around all of the local museums” kind of people. We’re the eat, drink and do nothing kinda people!
Anyway, whatever you enjoy whilst on holiday, I know that a lot of people will be jetting off soon. It’s holiday season, right?
If you’re on an eco-living journey, it’s probably crossed your mind that travel just isn’t the most sustainable thing to do. There’s no getting around it. Carbon emissions from transport and the water and energy usage of hotels are just two factors that make traveling not-so-great for the planet.
If you wanted to be 100% planet-friendly, you would never go on holiday.
But that’s just not going to happen, is it? People love to travel, myself included so I think, at this point, it’s about being as eco-conscious as possible, as opposed to just telling you to stick to places within cycling distance of your home.
I know that it can be daunting to know where to start when it comes to such a massively polluting industry, but don’t worry, I’m going to break it down for you.
Tenant one to sustainable travel
So, the first tenant to more sustainable travel is “train before plane”. Or, actually, just pretty much any transport above planes.
On average, a plane produces a little over 53 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile. That’s a lot my friends. And if you’re jetting all over the place every few months, your carbon footprint is going to be pretty huge just based on that alone.
Personally, I am a massive fan of the eurostar which means that if you’re going to somewhere like France, Germany or Holland, you can just go by train instead! I mean, for one thing, it is WAY less stressful going to St Pancras instead of a bloody airport. But, more importantly, the carbon emissions are hugely lower. For example, a journey from London to Paris by plane produces 244kg/CO2, whilst the same trip on the eurostar produces just 22kg/CO2. 224 vs 22! That’s 91% less. Plus, the eurostar takes less time if you consider check in times and all of that crap! I really don’t know what’s not to love.
On top of that, maybe it’s possible for you to go by boat somewhere. Now, if it’s like a ferry it is less eco-friendly than taking the train, but it’s still better than planes. So it’s a good option if you live near ports that do offer journeys to the public to other countries.
For example, I travelled to Ireland by ferry. It was also way cheaper than a plane.
And, of course, you don’t have to go somewhere abroad. There are so many beautiful places in the UK that you can get to by normal train or in your car. We’ve got a holiday booked in February going to Devon, for example, and we can’t wait! It’s going to be super cosy and lovely and, as far as trips go, it’s going to be pretty planet-friendly too.
BUT let’s be completely honest about it, because that’w what we’re here for, you probably are going to want to get abroad sometimes. And, whether it’s long-haul or shorter-haul, getting a plane will probably be the most plausible, practical and affordable options sometimes! That’s totally okay. I’m not judging you. That would make me a MASSIVE hypocrite. We are going to be going on holiday by plane is August.
What I am saying though, is just be more conscious. Where there are better options, take them!
If you do take a plane though, you might want to think about carbon offsetting when possible,
To put it very simply, offsetting your carbon means that you take some kind of action after generating carbon, to then remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere. So, if you did this in all areas of your life (which I’m not sure is completely possible, to be honest) but, if you did, you produce 0 NET carbon emissions. You’d balance the scales of what you put out there and what you take back.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you get out there and personally plant enough trees to outweigh your carbon emissions whilst traveling. However, it is possible to pay some cash to get your emissions offset. So, about ⅓ of airlines actually offer carbon offsetting schemes so that you can pay an extra fee on top of your ticket price. For example, British Airways, Virgin, Emirates and more.
I completely understand that that’s not a viable option for everyone, since holidays can be expensive, but it’s definitely something worth thinking about. And, if you can comfortably afford to, it’s a brilliant step towards making your holiday as eco-friendly as possible.
However, please bare in mind that it’s better to not produce the carbon in the first place, so the tenant of “train before plane” still very much stands. Some studies have shown that carbon offsetting schemes aren’t actually that effective. For me, it’s about doing the best that I can, even though I know it’s definitely not perfect.
Tenant two to sustainable travel
Now, onto tennant number two for sustainable travel: Pack light!
Okay, can we collectively agree that nobody is all that great at packing light? I feel like everyone packs way more than they need for a holiday, myself very much included. But, I mean, what if I shit myself every single day of the holiday. Then you won’t be laughing at my 27 changes of clothes.
Seriously though, the environmental reasons to pack light are TWO fold. Firstly, if you’re flying, every kilogram counts. Honestly.
The heavier a plane, or any form of transport really, the more fuel it takes to get that bugger going. So, with planes it’s take off and landing that produce the most emissions, and adding extra weight to the plane only increases this. Again, planes are not eco-friendly, no matter what you do. But being more conscious can definitely reduce your impact, even if only a teeny bit.
And, if everyone packed light, it would definitely add up and have more of an impact!
The second reason to pack less is simply because it will encourage to buy less crap before a holiday. Now, I’m definitely not judging you because I was the WORST for feeling like I needed a whole new wardrobe, whole new makeup collection before holidays. New country, new me, apparently.
Honestly, I would go on massive shopping sprees before trips because I was excited. I guess that having these shopping days kind of made the holiday experience a bit longer. But that’s just silly, I ended up buying a load of stuff that I would only use a couple of times. Especially when it came to clothes. I was just supporting fast fashion brands and getting a bikini that I would wear for 8 hours and then probably not touch again.
Related post: Why do slow fashion brands cost more money?
So, by packing light, you’re encouraged to not over buy before a holiday, which reduces your unnecessary consumption in general.
Where possible, travel just with hand luggage. Or, if that’s not possible, just try to keep your luggage as light as physically possible.
Tenant three to sustainable travel
On the same sort of note, tennant number 3 to eco travel is this: Miniatures are the devil. You do not need them. Nobody needs them. They’re a waste of money. And they’re shit for the planet.
I know you probably think I sound like a massive hypocrite: Beth, you just said to pack light and now you want me to take a whole industrial bottle of shampoo? No, my friend. That’s not at all what I want to do.
If you already have a product, just invest in reusable travel bottles. They’re gonna be cheaper than buying miniatures and they allow you to decant product you already have into a light, travel-size bottle. If you use them for every holiday, you’re not causing unnecessary plastic production for a stupidly small amount of conditioner.
They’re super easy to get your hands on. Literally go into any Boots, Superdrug, Amazon, whatever. Around summer time you can find them!
However, the even better option is to opt for solids versions of the products you use. This means that you can get them completely packaging free. So, for example, get a shampoo and conditioner bar instead of bottles. Use a bar of soap instead of shower gel. Even get a solid moisturiser or massage bar instead. There are loads of options out there if you just do a quick Google search.
Related episode: Showers, Baths and Reducing your Waste
Plus, if you do go for solid products, you can pack them in your hand luggage. I know, what travelling game-changer. I do often find that though – low-waste and travel kind of go hand-in-hand and make the whole thing so much easier and less stressful.
Like I said, I know that it’s second-nature to a lot of us to buy a load of new products before a holiday, so I have made a resource for you to help you out. If you sign up to the Everyday Ethical mailing list, you can get your hands on my low-waste packing list, where I cover everything I pack to reduce my unnecessary waste whilst traveling. Trust me, you need it in your life, if this is something you’re working on.
I’ll pop the link to sign in the show notes and in the description box of this episode.
Tenant four to sustainable travel
Tennant number 4 to eco travel is to choose sustainable accommodation. Hotels are pretty notorious for being water-guzzingly, energy wasting hot spots. So being more aware of the places that you choose to stay, if possible, is a great step in the right direction.
One option is to check if the pace is certified by the Green Tourism board here in the UK. They assess hotels and accomodation for how ethical and eco-friendly they are: They see whether the company gives back to the local community, or damages it, they assess whether the brand stocks produce and products from local suppliers and, of course, they look into the carbon footprint of the hotel.
If a company has that certification, they’re a pretty good bet.
Alternatively, maybe you could opt for somewhere like an Airbnb, where you’re literally staying in an ordinary home, meaning that the energy and water consumption is unlikely to be any less than when you’re back in your own house.
Again, it’s really a mindset shift. It’s a case of considering where you’re staying, instead of being mindless about it, which I certainly was in the past.
Tenant five to sustainable travel
Moving swiftly on to tenant number 5: Make pictures souveniers.
Unless you find something that’s going to be, ya know, a feature in your home or a staple in your wardrobe, you might not need to buy suverneiros. Fridge magnets, keyrings, anything like that is more than likely just going to sit unused somewhere in your house. Doing nothing. Bringing nothing to your life.
And, not to sound too much like Marie Kondo, but do those things actually bring you joy when you get home? Or do you just think that you need that reminder of your holidays for when you’re back waiting for the bus in the UK’s drizzle.
That sounds like a recipe for bitterness to me.
Okay, obviously I’m joking. I totally understand the want to buy souvenirs. But I do really believe that you should only buy stuff that you actually want, or will use or will bring something to your life. And, as much as possible, buy from local vendors so that you are giving back to the local community that are hosting you.
I’ve found some of my favourite home-pieces at markets whilst on holiday, so not only have I left with something that I cherish and that reminds me of a holiday, but I also helped the local economy in my small way. And that’s a great thing to do, since huge tourist destinations often don’t give enough back to the community they’re in.
On top of that, photos really are the best souvenir in my opinion. They capture a real moment and there’s nothing wasteful about them. A digital copy of a picture is never going to end up in landfill, right?
One of my favourite phrases to remember whilst traveling is: “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.”
Tenant six to sustainable travel
Finally, tennant number 6, and the one that I think is the easiest of them all: Stick to your at-home habits.
Of course, you want your holiday to be special. I’m not suggesting that you follow your usual daily routine and sit inside watching netflix instead of going to the beach! What I am saying though, is to not let your eco habits slip just because you’re away from home.
So, for example, if you’re really good at using a reusable water bottle, keep that up whilst you’re away! A lot of us can fall into the trap of buying bottles of water out of convenience or because the tap water isn’t drinkable. Often, hotels or resorts will have drinking water taps that you can use though, or invest in a water bottle that filters as you drink! That way, the only waste you create is when you change the filter every few months.
Similarly, do you take taxis everywhere at home? Probably not! So, learn about the public transport where you’re going. Learn about the buses, trams, metro whatever and then keep that carbon footprint as low as possible.
And it’ll end up saving you so much money. Trust me!
Also, do you wash your towels everyday at home? Or your sheets? NOPE! Well, at least I don’t.
A massive issue with the hotel industry is the water used whilst doing laundry and it’s so easy to just hang up your towels, which is the universal sign that you’re happy to use them again. Or even to put the “do not disturb” sign on your door whilst you’re away so that your bed doesn’t get stripped and washed, either.
Even something like remembering your tote bags whilst going to foreign supermarkets. Basically just don’t let a new environment make you forget all of the good habits that you’ve created at home.
It’s those sorts of small steps that will help you to maintain the sustainable things that you do at home, whilst away. They’re so easy but if everyone did them, they would have a much larger impact, like most things with eco-living to be fair.
Okay, so those are all of my tips for today. I guess this was just a little bit of an introduction to travel in a more sustainable way but definitely let me know if you want me to expand on any of the topics I’ve discussed. You can just slide into my DMs on Instagram and tell me, I’m @bethanypaigeaustin which will, as always be linked in the show notes and the episode description.
Before I head off though, let’s recap these 6 tennants to eco travel, so that you can keep them at the front of your mind whilst planning or going on your next trip.
Number 1: Train before plane! Or basically any form of transport above planes!
Number 2: Pack as light as possible.
Number 3: Miniatures are the actual devil, don’t buy them!
Number 4: Try to opt for sustainable accommodation
Number 5: Be more conscious with your souvenirs
And Number 6: Don’t let those at-home habits slip, just because you’re out of your usual routine.
I hope that you’ve learnt something new in this episode. If you did, be sure to share it with your online pals by taking a screenshot of you listening and then sharing it on your Instagram stories. You can also use #EverydayEthical so that everyone in our community can find you! Plus, it would mean the absolute world to me if you would leave a review of this podcast on itunes and maybe some kind words, too.
And, don’t forget that you can also download my low-waste packing list FOR FREE through my mailing list so that you can keep on learning after this episode. The link is right there in the show notes and in the episode description.
If you are going on your holidays soon, have a FAB time and I’ll speak to you guys next week!