Sustainability has been on the agenda for many travel businesses for some time, and the industry is addressing environmental and social impacts of tourism. This includes setting carbon reduction targets, developing excursions which maximise the benefit to local communities, single use plastic reduction and implementing animal welfare policies. More and more hotels are also joining Travelife – an accreditation scheme for accommodation providers who are committed to sustainability. You can find out more about how the industry is tackling climate change here.
We are here to support individuals to make more responsible travel choices too. Below is a range of simple but effective tips to help you take care of the destinations you visit on holiday.
Be respectful of local attitudes towards tourism and rules on health and hygiene, such as wearing face coverings. Read up on the local culture and customs of the destination and try learning some local lingo.
The journey is often the biggest part of the carbon footprint of a holiday, so your choice on how you travel can make a big difference.
The atmosfair Airline Index compares and ranks the carbon efficiency of the 200 largest airlines of the world, which you can use to choose a more efficient airline. Packing light, so reducing the weight of your luggage will reduce the amount of fuel needed and so reduce the amount of carbon emitted during your flight. You can also offset, although reducing carbon will always be better than offsetting. When you buy carbon offsets, you pay to take planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in exchange for the greenhouse gases you put in. For example, you can put money toward replanting trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Your travel provider may offer this, or you can do this through a carbon offset provider.
You can also cut carbon by booking accommodation which is reducing their emissions, such as Travelife for Accommodation certified hotels. Travelife for Accommodation helps hotels to manage their environmental impacts, such as reducing carbon emissions though energy reduction and efficiencies, providing low carbon food options and reducing food waste.
The carbon emissions of the food we eat whilst on holiday can be greater than transport (in some cases even flying) and where we stay. You can cut your carbon emissions by swapping meat for plant-based menu choices and minimising food waste, as well as focussing on local, seasonal produce.
Electricity can make up a big part of hotel carbon emissions. Taking simple actions like turning off electrical appliances when leaving a hotel room will reduce your carbon footprint on holiday.
If a hotel uses key cards, take them out when you leave your room to turn off appliances. Also, adhere to the recommended air-conditioning temperature so as not to waste energy and avoid keeping the air conditioning on all day.
Finally, using low carbon transport methods such as local transport, taxi pooling or renting a hybrid car, as well as walking and cycling can improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
All these actions will help you cut your carbon emissions.
Make a sustainable choice by booking accommodation with a Travelife for Accommodation certification.
Travelife for Accommodation is an international sustainability certification scheme for accommodation. You can make a more sustainable choice by staying somewhere with this logo. To find a hotel that cares about people and the environment have a look at the Travelife Collection. Travelife helps hotels to manage their environmental and social impacts, such as reducing energy and water consumption, reducing the amount of waste they produce and supporting local people, businesses and culture.
We can all do our bit to fight waste on holiday by remembering to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. When packing for your holiday, leave your rubbish at home by removing excess packaging on items like toiletries.
Where possible, reuse items rather than buying new ones, and always recycle using the facilities available. Never leave rubbish on the street or in the ocean and remember, buying gifts and food from local suppliers can also help reduce packaging waste.
Plastic is a particular concern because it is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year and it takes centuries to break down. There are many simple ways you can cut plastic on holiday, including using a reusable bag and avoiding plastic straws. A lightweight reusable bag won’t take up much space in your suitcase and can be used for a number of things – such as trips to the beach and to the local shops.
You can also take part in a holiday clean-up such as a beach or park clean. Organise your own or ask your travel provider for details.
Consider that water is in scarce supply in many parts of the world, and do what you can to preserve it.
Always respect local rules and regulation around water use and help to save water by limiting laundry requests and taking a three-minute shower per day, particularly in areas of water shortage.
Opportunities to view or interact with animals are popular with holidaymakers all over the world, and they can be enjoyable, educational and support conservation. However, where experiences are not carefully managed, they can jeopardise animal welfare and your holiday experience.
If booking an activity involving animals, whether that’s in captivity or in the wild, ask if your tour operator has an animal welfare policy. See ABTA’s advice on things to keep in mind.
By making small changes to what we buy, we can make a big difference to the environment and biodiversity. For example, check the ingredients when purchasing sunscreen and avoid the ingredient oxybenzone - this chemical damages coral reefs and disrupts the marine ecosystem.
You should also avoid buying souvenirs from threatened wildlife, such as shells, corals, tortoiseshell, sponges, ebony or ivory. Opt for lionfish if you see it on a restaurant menu, it’s often an invasive species posing a threat to reef ecosystems, and tastes great too.
Protect nature and areas of conservation by spending money with local businesses that are committed to protecting wildlife, contributing to local initiatives, or paying national park entry fees.
Think twice about how you interact with children on holiday; if something wouldn’t be comfortable at home, it probably isn’t right abroad either.
Giving money or gifts to begging children can be harmful to the child and their family. It can provide children with an incentive to stay out of school, and it is also possible that this is part of organised crime. They may also be trafficked and forced to beg.
Orphanages can receive funding from the tourism industry, whether that is from tourists visiting or making donations, or from volunteers. However, growing evidence highlights that these institutions harm children – especially when a parent or close family members are still living nearby. Funding from the tourism industry can encourage the expansion of orphanages. Tourists visiting and volunteering in orphanages can make children vulnerable to abuse and creates attachment problems in children who become attached to short-term visitors.
Donating money to a respectable local NGO is the most beneficial way to give back to children in need.
It’s important to raise awareness of how to be more sustainable when travelling, so telling people, either in person or on social media, about your efforts goes a lot further than you think!
By asking for greener and fairer options and giving feedback on the impacts, creates a demand for better practices and responsible tourism in destinations.
For example, ask your hotel where is the food is sourced from, does it come from local farmers? Or is their coffee from a sustainable source, and how do they reduce plastic waste? This will motivate travel operators and accommodation providers to offer more sustainable options which leads to a more positive future.
Support the local economy by purchasing local food and drink, tours or experiences on holiday. This can provide jobs and raise living standards.