Sustainable travel: how to look after the planet when you go on holiday
When you're travelling to beautiful places around the world it's impossible not to want to protect them. From the unspoiled beaches in Myanmar to the tranquil beauty of the paddy fields in Vietnam and the orangutan-inhabited rainforests of Indonesian Borneo. No one wants to see it covered in plastic and suffering from water pollution.
We're all a lot more mindful today about taking an eco-friendly approach to everything we do. However, the impact our actions have is suddenly a lot more apparent when we're island cruising in the Komodo National Park than when we're sitting in a city central Starbucks trawling through booking.com.
So what can we do to make sure our travel is ethical and that we look after the planet when we go on holiday?
Pack eco-friendly skincare products
Skincare products can have a big impact on the environment. Plastic microbeads in face scrubs get into the sea, sunscreen ends up in the world's coral reefs and poison the wildlife and mosquito repellants pollute the air and the water. The solution to this one's pretty straightforward, it just requires a bit of careful purchasing:
• Take skincare products containing environmentally friendly ingredients and preferably certified by the Soil Association.
• Choose marine friendly sun creams.
• Opt for plant-based bug and insect repellants.
Choose a green hotel
Choosing a hotel is probably one of the places you have the most control over your consumer choices because the chances are you have time to research it in advance.
• Look for accommodation that is committed to environmental protection. Some places are certified green hotels that are in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified buildings. Oyster.co.uk has a list of LEED certified hotels and Marriott Hotels have a number of LEED certified properties as well.
• Alternatively, choose smaller, local hotels and guesthouses which have the added benefit of making your holiday more socially responsible.
• Choose a green tour company. Those with good reputations include the aptly named Responsible Travel, Wilderness Safaris in Africa and Wild Frontiers for really remote adventures (winners of the Guardian's Best Ethical Tour Operator).
Make sustainable consumer choices
Once you've reached your holiday destination, try to make conscious choices about your daily activities as well:
• Order sustainable fish in restaurants. The MSC's Good Fish Guide gives a helpful traffic light system for how sustainable each fish option is complete with search function and alternatives. It does make dinner a bit of a research project but if you do a little reading in advance or have the link ready on your phone it's pretty easy to just check your choices before ordering or at least ask the right questions (is the fish farmed/ caught at sea/ light caught/ trawled etc.)
• Choose local foods and dishes.
• Don't eat endangered species like turtle or over-harvested shellfish.
• Avoid souvenirs made from shells, coral or endangered species.
• Use local tour guides.
• Do your homework on any tour involving people or animals.
Make small but responsible decisions
While you go on holiday to explore, relax and have a good time, small actions can make a big difference to the environment. There are some really easy ways we can add to our holiday feel good factor, knowing we're doing our best for the environment:
• Take short showers rather than baths.
• Reuse towels and bed linen.
• Turn down/off heating and air-conditioning when it's not needed.
• Turn off all lights and appliances when you leave your room.
• Leave any packaging for holiday products at home in case there isn't local recycling.
• Reuse plastic bottles or take your own bottle where possible water bottle that.
• Take your own shopping bag - in lots of countries you can only get a plastic one for anything you buy.
• Say no to plastic straws in your drinks.
Keep your carbon footprint light
Obviously when you're getting on a long flight to somewhere beautiful a long way away, your carbon footprint is going to take a hit. Not much we can do about the Boeing 747. However, all the choices we have mentioned up to this point will help to keep your carbon footprint light and you can also help to make a further difference with the travel choices you make once on holiday.
• Choose public transport where possible.
• Walk if possible (and safe).
• Cycle where you can - it can also be a great way to see a new country or city.