Sustainable travel expert Juliet Kinsman has gathered useful advice those-in-the-know on how to be climate positive when travelling the world — it's not just about capping your carbon emissions, it's about upping your positive social and economic impact in destinations that rely on tourism.
How to be an eco-traveller
'Make the journey part of the adventure. It may be quicker to fly, but invest time in planning the overland connections and getting there can be part of the holiday — you'll slash carbon emissions significantly. Joined-up travel thinking includes taking the overnight sleeper train to Penzance then a ferry across to the Isles of Scilly; or travel overland to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland from any National Rail station in Britain via Irish Ferries or Stena Line at Holyhead or Fishguard – book ‘SailRail’ tickets on tfw.wales.’ — Richard Hammond, founder of greentraveller.co.uk and author of 'The Green Traveller: Conscious Adventure That Doesn't Cost The Earth'
'Spend local – especially in less well-off countries. Our travel spend can be a lifeline for communities in climate-vulnerable destinations. Be deliberate about leaving cash in the hands of the local people. Loss and damage from the climate crisis is affecting real people — help elevate host communities – the caretakers – by leaving more money with those who most need that money to survive.’ — Judy Kepher Gona, Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda; sttakenya.org
‘Prepare, so you can avoid plastic. Our research shows 54% of British travellers say they currently use their own refillable water bottles when travelling. That means that the other remaining travellers may be buying plastic water bottles while on holiday. And since we often holiday in hot countries where hydration is key — cut your plastic use and pack a bottle!’ — Danielle D'Silva, Head Of Sustainability; Booking.com
'Fly less, stay longer, make it count. Emissions reduction is crucial, obviously — and until low-carbon aviation is commercially viable, we all need to fly less. When you do board a plane, make it count. Consider swapping multiple jetset mini-breaks for a deeper travel experience, staying in destination for longer and ensuring the economic value of your visit benefits local people and nature. For a true slow-travel adventure, journey over land or water. Or stick to the train and explore close to home, for those shorter breaks.' —Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of activist holiday company, Responsible Travel
‘Get your kicks spending quality time with friends and family, instead of through consumerism. It’s not stuff and things that make us happy, but often our interactions with friends, colleagues and family. More is not necessary more: so instead of getting the latest devices or cheap fast-fashion items, travel slowly and seek contentment and enrichment from meaningful experiences that translate into happy memories that last forever!’ — Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science at UCL and author of 'How To Save Our Planet: The Facts’
'Support environmental conservation through impact-driven volunteering. While it seems nonsensical flying to help the climate, in the case of Madagascar it’s definitely not, since the famine on this huge African island in the Indian Ocean was first to be declared by the UN as caused by climate change, affecting five million people. We only book travellers onto responsible volunteer projects which aid fragile environments upon which lives depend. Holidays funding reputable initiatives engage you in grassroots conservation management such as reforestation, edible-insect farming for protein-rich food security, and research into rare species such as lemurs and chameleons involves local people, too. All of this helps tackle the climate crisis, boosts biodiversity, and promotes healthier ecosystems benefiting all, not just Madagascans.’ —Vicky Smith, founder of Earth Changers; earth-changers.com
'Speak up! It can be hard being green, even when you try. A case in point: you’re a guest in a hotel; you set the temperature at a reasonable level to cut down on air-conditioning. You go out, and come back to discover housekeeping's reset the AC lower than you need, and left lights on to generate a few more emissions. Maybe they even stuck a key card in the slot to keep all the power running. They might have got a LEED certification for installing that key-card system, but they bypassed the control party. This stops you from being as green as you want to be: so what to do? Be sure to write about it in the guest satisfaction survey. Or let management know. Speak up! Silence assumes consent. Speak up!’ — Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council; gstcouncil.org
'Empower women through your spending — especially in developing countries. A less well-known solution to climate change: access to education and family planning enables women to choose how many children they want and when they have them. This means slower population growth, relieving stress on ecosystems. Your money can go a long way by supporting women-empowering businesses. How to find them? Research online for the destination you're travelling to, or join women’s travel groups such as Wanderful or B Corp-certified travel companies that prioritise female suppliers. Trips like Intrepid’s Women’s Expeditions don't just give financial support but cultivate helpful connections for the women you meet, too.' — Zina Bencheikh, MD, EMEA Intrepid Travel; intrepidtravel.com
'Go off-season! When a destination has a sudden increase in visitors, sites can become overcrowded, putting strains on local resources, such as water, and infrastructure, like waste disposal! Visit outside peak season to ease the burden on local communities and you’ll also get a more authentic experience. There are tour operators that even specialise in low-season travel. Tied to the school holidays? Instead of hopping from one destination to another, spend more time in one off-the-beaten-track location to minimise emissions from transportation and support local economies which need your money more.' — Dr Willy Legrand, Professor at IU International University of Applied Sciences Germany
'Normalise asking climate-related questions. Yes, we can all be hypocrites — even when you work in climate action, you still have a carbon footprint to calculate — but doing nothing is worse. Influence others to take action by modelling how you’re reducing your emissions. Cutting the carbon cost of our adventures makes a significant difference. Holidays range greatly in their CO2e – this refers to the carbon dioxide equivalent of the metric tons of greenhouse gases from our activity. Taking the train for a weekend away camping close to home might stack up to hundreds of CO2e, whereas a long-haul luxury tropical resort by private jet would be guilty of tens of thousands. All the better if you can scale awareness to a corporate level. Encourage travel companies to take action by asking questions like ‘What's your plan around reducing emissions?’ or 'What’s the actual footprint of this trip, and how did you measure it?’ Even if they seem dumbfounded, even you asking might lead to a ripple effect of change.” — Charlie Cotton, founder, Ecollective
'Choose activities with an active environmental learning component. If you want to participate in an activity tied with nature, look for outfitters with an environmental 'add-on'. You may be able to find a guided hike that incorporates citizen science or a scuba-diving excursion that includes coral-reef restoration. Can’t find an organised eco angle? Make your own: Take the right gear to pick up garbage along beaches, hiking trails, and waterways. These win-win experiences let you enjoy your holiday activities while showing a lot of love to the landscapes that makes them so memorable.’ — JoAnna Haugen, founder @rootedstorytelling
'Support Indigenous peoples and their wisdom in every way you can. Tourism ventures that value, share and support Indigenous peoples’ shared knowledge are more important than ever, since these peoples only make up 5% of the world’s population yet they are custodians of 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Read books written by Indigenous authors, which will give you a greater perspective of the Earth beyond your limited, everyday, lived experience is good, such as ‘The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman. The Yanomami also desperately need financial support to defend their territories and assist their community in the Amazon rainforest. Finding ways to financially support indigenous organisations in exchange for this knowledge drawn from thousands of years of living with nature that has been shared is vital.” —Julia Watson, expert in nature-based technologies for climate resilience and author of 'Lo—TEK. Design by Radical Indigenism'
'Favour establishments where positions of authority are filled by locals rather than expats, from hotel managers to trip leaders. If you are paying in a stronger currency, always ask whether a business’ employees earn close to minimum wage in the local money. So often the poorest people — especially in the least economically developed countries — who barely contribute towards global-warming-inducing emissions, are the most vulnerable to extreme weather. Businesses which truly empower the people of a place and support socio-economic uplift are better to support over companies that give no growth opportunities or resilience to their host community, just use locals as cheap labour.’ —Shivya Nath, blogger, The Shooting Star @shivya
Favour establishments where positions of authority are filled by locals rather than expats, from hotel managers to trip leaders
'Declare your climate-conscious heroes and zeros on social! Post when you experience tourism businesses doing great things to be more climate friendly and when they’re not. Whether it’s voicing concerns for food waste at the breakfast buffet, or celebrating low-flow showers, let hotels, travel agents, and your followers know, and say when your conscious travel expectations have or haven’t been met on Tripadvisor, too, to encourage awareness and galvanise those that have room for improvement.’ — Maudie Tomlinson, The Conscious Travel Foundation; theconscioustravelfoundation.com
'Take 10 minutes at the end of each travel day to reflect. Consider not only what you experienced, but also your subtle impacts on the environment. Reflect on your transportation choices and how you got around. Think back to your meals: from breakfast to dinner and even that cup of coffee. Look beyond consumption to food waste and packaging. Ponder energy use, air conditioning, heat. As you continue to observe, your awareness of your impact — negative and positive — will grow. Then, take action. You can repeat this exercise, whether you’re on the road or back at home.’ — Dan & Audrey, co-founders, Uncornered Market uncorneredmarket.com @Uncornered_Market
For more sustainable-travel tips, follow @Julietkinsman and listen to her climate podcast, Funny Old World