HOW TO BE A GREENER TRAVELLER
You buy organic, drive a hybrid and are super disciplined about recycling but one thing’s niggling your eco conscience – travelling. How can you reconcile those long distance flights, luxury hotels and life affirming experiences with your mission to save the planet? It’s easier than you think. Lysanne Currie discovers simple ways to have a greener trip . . .
Before you book . . .
Plane, train or automobile?
Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, always ask yourself if you have to fly. If travelling short haul, try to use trains as short flights are the least fuel efficient – taking the Eurostar from Paris to London, for example, uses 91 per cent less carbon than a plane. If thing a plane is the only way, then try to fly with the most efficient airline that you can - have a look at Atmosfair.de airline ranking (China West was ranked no 1 in 2016).
If your business includes frequent travel then put sustainability at the heart of your company’s travel policy and ask suppliers for their eco and ethical credentials. Ask for your travel agent’s responsible travel statements, keep an eye on the most efficient airlines, routinely request reports on carbon emissions and investigate supply chains.
If you have to fly . . .
Max out your air miles
Think smart and encourage colleagues to do the same: bookmultiple meetings and events into one trip and tag holidays onto the end of business trips.
Carbon offsetting is divisive but it is a way of reducing your carbon footprint. Travellers use an online carbon calculator to work out emissions and then pay a company to counterbalance this climate pollution by investing in a project elsewhere – a one way business flight from London to New York this would be around £7.75, according to climatefriendly.com. Some companies then use this money to invest in renewables, other projects use forestry to absorb carbon elsewhere. Some airlines such as Delta and United, have a carbon calculator on their own websites and then offer the option of donating into carbon reduction project. Whichever offset scheme you go for make sure it’s verifiable, traceable and permanent – such as ClimateCare’s – and only go for projects that conform to the Verified Carbon Standard or Clean Development Mechanism.
Choose e-tickets instead of paper
Paper production and pulpwood harvesting contribute to climate change and threatensome of the planet’s last remaining natural forests along with their people and wildlife, so minimising the amount of paper we use is a very good thing to do. As many of us already minimise printing and recycle the paper we use, it makes sense to opt for e-tickets when you traveling - most airlines now offer this option. If you have to print, don’t hit ‘all', select just the page with the ticket.
How to have a green stay. . .
Look for a sustainable hotel
Hotels all over the globe are becoming kinder to the planet so staying somewhere green is getting easier – you just need to know how to find them. If you have a travel agent then make sure that sustainability initiatives are essential criteria for your booking. If searching out your own place, The Green Hotels Association is a great resource as is the new bouteco.co, founded last year by Mr & Mrs Smith’s Juliet Kinsman and Green Hotelier editor, Holly Tuppento “spread the word about boutique eco heroes and hip hotels with heart.” If you like to stay with a big hotel group, check out their initiatives on their corporate websites: Melia’s hotels in Italy are now powered entirely by renewable energy whereas Hilton’s volunteers support community projects around the world.
If you’re a foodie, consider booking accommodation with a kitchen.
You’ll then be able to buy local produce from the market and rustle up tasty meals. Pop a couple of food containers in your suitcase and you’ll have picnic lunches too.
Consider home sharing.
Back in 2014 Airbnb reported that energy and water consumption was far less in their home shares than it would be in a hotel. Of course the research wasn’t scientific - the results came from surveying their guests and hosts - but it makes sense: no corridor lights, air conditioning left on, less laundry. Also, if you’re on holiday, scan the guidebook for‘family stays’ - these not only give unique insight into the country you’re visiting but also bring money into the local community.
Back to nature
If you are going to the mountains or into the countryside, look out for eco-lodges and yurts or bring your tent and camp in designated camping areas.
Before you go
How often do you come back from atrip with a pile of clothes unworn? Be disciplined and pack smart - you’ll feel better not having to lug a heavy case around and the plane will need less fuel.
Get your home holiday-ready
Don’t dash off on your trip without closing down your home. Switch off lights, take out plugs and turn the heating off. If you have a newspaper or magazine subscription, cancel delivery or offer it up to a neighbour for the duration.
Just landed. . .
Try an eco transfer
If you can’t walk or use public transport, use Uber Pool or book an eco taxi in advance (if someone else is booking your transfer, mention it when you pass over your flight details). Try an eco taxi service such as London’s Green Tomato Cars or request a hybrid car.
If you’re hiring a car
Ask local companies if they have Green Cars or a Green Collection, which has a lower carbon emission and higher fuel efficiency.
When you get there . . .
If you’re staying in a hotel
Make your stay greener by reusing your sheets and towels (many hotels give guests the option to not change their linens each day). Also take short showers, switch off air-conditioning and use a fan instead, turn down the thermostat and use less electricity by forgoing the hair dryer if you can. And remember to switch off the lights when you leave the room.
If the water’s safe then take a reusable water bottle
...and drink tap or filtered water. According to the Pacific Institute, the amount of oil used to produce the plastic bottles usedby Americans alone in one year was enough energy to fuel more than a million vehicles for the year. iIf you’re a coffee and tea drinker, pack a reusable mug with you and eschew the paper cups.
Take reusable shopping bags
...and buy locally made souvenirs - there’s usually less packaging and you’ll support the local economy. And, when eating out, look for locally sourced food - it tastes more delicious and buying local can help maintain farmland and green space. If you can, cut down on red meat too - its production is carbon intensive.
When you’re choosing what to do, consider the environment: Can you use public transport to get around the city or is there a bike hire scheme? Consider low-impact activities such as riding, cycling, hiking or canoeing and ask about environmental accreditations before you book. Look for walking and sightseeing tours with a social purpose such asLondon’s Unseen which works with the homeless, Mumbai’s Reality Tours, Rio’s Favela tours and Accra’s Fishermen’s Village tour.
And finally. . .
Spread the word
Talk about your mission to be a green traveller and pass on your tips. You’ll multiply the fantastic effect of your green habits and ensure you keep on making the planet a better place for us all.