On the whole, travelling isn’t very good for the environment. Unless you walk or cycle to your holiday destination, travelling always has a negative impact on our surroundings, as it costs a lot of fossil fuels and leads to environmental pollution and CO2 emissions. We would like to travel and see more of the world, but lately, we’ve come to realise that travelling is very contradictory to our environmentally and animal-friendly lifestyle. Why would we try to be very environmentally friendly but be content with travelling when it’s having a negative impact on the environment? We may have been in denial over this issue for a while as it’s not fun to admit something you’d like to do contradicts your principles. We do plan to go on holiday again, but we think it’s important to not go very often and when we do, to travel as environmentally friendly as possible. So in this blog, we share our tips for making travelling a bit more sustainable.
The most important way to limit the negative impact of your holidays is to go less often and stay longer whenever you do go. Most of the time, the travel from home to your destination and back is the most polluting part of your holiday, so by going less often but staying longer, you can still be on holiday for the same number of days while causing less pollution.
Take the train or car
It also makes a huge difference what mode of transportation you choose. On http://www.ecopassenger.org/ you can check how much pollution you cause by using different means of transportation on journeys within Europe. Generally speaking, trains and buses are the most environmentally friendly options, as the emissions per passenger are pretty low. The exact amount differs per country as in some places the trains run on (green) electricity, while in other countries they run on nuclear energy. However, travelling by train is almost always the best choice.
Cars with multiple passengers are the next best option, although there are many factors that play a role. The number of passengers, the type of car, whether or not there is a caravan attached to it, all make a difference in how much CO2 is emitted during a journey. By driving frugally and staying on the motorway as much as possible, you can also reduce your emissions.
Flying is the most polluting means of transportation, as many emissions are released during a flight. Flying also contributes to the creation of clouds, which in turn increases the greenhouse effect. Research has calculated that flying is often 7 to 11 times as bad for the environment as the same journey by train and 2 to 4 times as bad as when making that same journey by car. So instead of taking a flight for short distances, it’s better to go by train or car when possible. This often takes up more time and costs more money, but it’s worth the difference in emissions.
If you happen to go somewhere where you really have to take the plane, then you can also make your flight less polluting. For example, by taking a straight flight without transfers and by choosing an airline with modern and environmentally friendly planes, you can also make a small difference. Compensating the CO2 emissions of your flight is also a way to reduce the environmental impact of your journey. Nowadays many airlines offer this option and it usually doesn’t cost much. The exact price depends on the type of plane you travel with, the amount of fuel needed and the average number of people on that flight. This money is then invested in projects that try to reduce CO2 emissions elsewhere. For example, at KLM the money for compensating CO2 is invested in Gold Standard projects that have strict rules regarding environmental impact. Earlier this year the money was used for a project that provided poor people in some African countries with less polluting stoves so that those people would need less fuel and emit less CO2. Since October 2017, KLM has been investing in a reforestation project in Panama. By compensating your CO2 emissions, you pay for trees to be planted that will take the CO2 that your flight emitted back out of the air.
The majority of the pollution caused during a holiday is caused by transportation. However, it’s estimated that about 15 percent of the pollution is caused by accommodation. That’s why it’s also important to make a sensible choice when deciding where to stay. On https://www.bookdifferent.com/ you can compare the CO2 emissions of different hotels and choose an environmentally friendlier hotel accordingly. There are also certification marks that show a hotel takes certain measures to ensure greater sustainability, such as Ecolabel, Green Key and Green Globe. To acquire such a label a hotel has to adhere to certain rules, like limiting energy and water use and producing as little waste as possible. In addition, there are things you can do yourself to reduce your impact, such as not having your towels replaced every day and not using disposable amenities at the hotel. There are also hotels and organised tours that have a Fair Trade certificate. The requirement for this certification mark is that a company is not only environmentally friendly but also makes sure the working conditions and wages are fair.
So travel sustainably
So the next time you travel, try to make your journey more sustainable and less polluting. This often takes more time and costs more money, but we only have one planet so we better protect it. Even when you don’t plan to go on a holiday, you can see if you can make your daily travel more sustainable by choosing environmentally friendly means of transportation as much as possible. Together we can make a huge difference by choosing sustainability over convenience.
KLM and MilieuCentraal
Givoni, M.; Brand, C. & Watkiss, P. (2009). “Are Railways ‘Climate Friendly’?”. Built Environment, 35 (1), pp. 70-86.