Eco-friendly travel tips for your next holiday


As important as travel is for the mind and soul, the carbon footprint we leave behind each time we indulge our wanderlust can be significant.

Making smarter travel decisions means less impact on the environment. Image credit: SolStock
Making green travel decisions means less impact on the environment. Image credit: SolStock

Breaking away from the regular 9-5 work week to explore the unknown allows us to experience different traditions and cultures. While it’s important to get a more balanced view of the world, we’ve got to make sure we are being kind to the environment in the process.

Green travel is about making good choices and keeping the environment in mind at each twist and turn. We’ve outlined a few ways you can reduce your carbon footprint while traveling.

Plan your holiday closer to home

Exotic, faraway locations are often the most lusted-over travel destinations. It’s hard to beat the thrill of an unfamiliar place, a totally new cuisine, and a healthy dose of culture shock. However, choosing a destination closer to home is often much kinder to the environment.

If you stick close to your home turf, both your travel time and overall costs may well be reduced. You’ll have more money to spend on your holiday and more time in which to spend it.

Air travel, in particular, is travel’s biggest culprit when it comes to carbon emissions. The tourism industry is growing steadily, and more people than ever are engaging in air travel as flying becomes more affordable. Rhodium Group, a New York-based independent research provider, recently published an emissions study revealing a 3.4 percent surge in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions for 2018. Much of this was attributed to increased jet fuel demand.

Fly more efficiently

Holidaying close to home is all well and good but sometimes our lust for international travel must be fulfilled.

As an alternative to long-distance flying, why not check the possibility of a cross-country train trip? Trains are a far more eco-friendly way of traveling long distances than flying and are often a more comfortable and pleasurable mode of transport.

However, if your dream holiday destination involves a flight, then there are many ways to reduce your environmental impact.

Flying economy is more eco-friendly than traveling business or first class. Although it’s no fun being packed in like sardines, less space per seat equates to fewer carbon emissions. According to Carbon Footprint’s emissions calculator, flying economy class from New York to London is four times more efficient than flying first class.

Flying economy is more eco-friendly, according to Carbon Footprint. Image credit izusek
Flying economy is more eco-friendly, according to Carbon Footprint. Image credit izusek

Choosing your airline and aircraft carefully can also significantly reduce your carbon footprint. A good rule to follow is the newer the aircraft, the more fuel efficient it will be. An ICCT report released in September revealed 2017’s most fuel-efficient airlines and aircraft for transatlantic routes.

Norwegian Airways and WOW Air received high praise for their use of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777, 373 MAX, and Airbus A350.

Next time you’re booking a flight, keep an eye out for these fuel-efficient aircraft.

Although it may cost a little extra, it’s always preferable to book the most direct route to your destinations with as few layovers as possible. Planes burn the most fuel during take-off, and the less time you spend in the air, the fewer carbon emissions you’re going to clock up with your flight.

And if you’re presented with the option to donate to offset your carbon emissions during your booking process with an airline, select ‘yes’. By 2021, airlines that fly internationally will have to offset any extra emissions under a UN agreement, but until that day comes, you can still offset during the booking process or via a third party provider of your choice. We’ve included a paragraph at the end of this article which explains carbon offsetting in more detail.

Use eco-friendly transport at your destination

Blacklane’s Green Class is an ideal option for those looking to travel in style without impacting the environment. Book one of Blacklane’s electrically powered, carbon neutral rides by Tesla Model S or X for single trips, airport transfers, or by the hour. Green Class is now available in many of the world’s major cities.

If you’re staying local on your holiday and want to get some exercise in, why not set off and explore the area on foot or bicycle. As well as producing zero emissions, you’ll get a healthy dose of exercise and discover hidden corners of the city you may otherwise have overlooked.

Book green accommodation

Choosing an eco-friendly hotel is also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and support sustainable business. Thanks to a rise in demand for sustainable travel, more hotels are going green, producing their own solar energy, recycling wastewater, and using eco-friendly products and materials.

If you’re searching for a hotel via Tripadvisor, look out for the GreenLeaders badge on the hotel’s listing. This indicates the hotel is a part of Tripadvisor’s Green Leaf Initiative, a rating system developed in consultation with the United Nations Environmental Programme. The Green Leaf Initiative allows hotels to earn a rating from bronze through to platinum, depending on their green practices. Ratings are determined by a combination of expert third-party audits and customer feedback.

Another useful tool is Bookdifferent, a booking platform that lets you choose your hotel based on its environmental practices. Many of the hotels are accredited in-person via Bookdifferent’s stay green check system, and prior to booking, you can see the projected carbon footprint of your stay.

Combine work and leisure

The combination of work and pleasure is driven by a Millennial workforce who are choosing to extend their business trips so they can spend a few days exploring.

If you travel for work, then consider booking a few days of leave at the end of your next trip. This means you’ll save the travel emissions you would have produced by returning at a later date.

Use technology to travel greener

Use smartphone apps to help you book your travel more sustainably. Image credit Halfpoint
Use smartphone apps to help you book your travel more sustainably. Image credit Halfpoint

There are lots of useful apps out there designed to make travel more convenient and eco-friendly. We’ve already mentioned Bookdifferent, but here are a few more to download before your next trip.

Green Globe

Green Globe’s app allows you to search for sustainable travel options at your destination, including hotels, resorts, conference centers. The app provides photos, videos, and direct links for booking.

iOS

Olio

If you’re leaving town for a few days and you have food and perishables that will go to waste, Olio connects you with people in your community that will take them off your hands. Less food waste means fewer carbon emissions.

iOS / Andriod

UNEP Carbon Calculator  

Keep track of your carbon emissions with this handy carbon calculator, created by the United Nations. It combines all your travel statistics including train, plane and automobile, so you are aware of your impact.

iOS

Purchase travel offsets

Carbon offsets are a great way to make good on any emissions you can’t eliminate through green travel practices. There are many companies out there offering carbon offsets, so it’s good to research potential providers thoroughly to make sure your money is going to be put to good use.

At Blacklane we donate to Carbon Footprint Ltd., offsetting the CO2 produced for all our rides. Carbon Footprint Ltd. support a number of great programmes, including an initiative to reduce deforestation in Brazil, a wind farm in India, and a hydroelectric power plant in Turkey.

If you’ve been living out your dream vacation in Rome, and your home is New York City, then that round-trip flight equates to approximately 1 tonne CO2. This can be offset for around 8 USD via a Carbon Footprint LTD. donation, which is peanuts in the scheme of things. Visit their website and calculate the carbon footprint of your most recent trip.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.