When you’re planning a holiday, whether it’s a three-month round-the-world trip or a weekend mini-break, there’s a lot of think about: where you’re going, how you’re getting there, where you’ll stay, and whether you’ve remembered to pack your toothbrush this time. But there’s one item that should be on any responsible traveller’s checklist: minimising your holiday’s environmental impact.
While there’s not much you can do to make planes more fuel efficient, there are some simple ways you can be more mindful of the planet on your next trip – and the good news is that it won’t add too many items to your holiday planning checklist.
The dark side of travel
Here’s a sobering fact for you: tourism is responsible for nearly one tenth of the world’s carbon emissions. With the industry growing at about 5% a year, it’s only set to get worse.
There are the obvious environmental offenders, like the emissions from plane and car travel, and some we don’t always think about. Plane travel produces over five million tonnes of waste every year, with most of that being single-use cutlery, cups and packaging that ends up in landfill. When we stay at hotels we tend to accept clean towels and linen every day or two, without a thought for the impact of all that laundry. And who hasn’t been guilty of getting carried away by holiday fever and buying a cheap souvenir, only to throw it in the bin a few months later?
We’ve scouted out some simple ideas and products to help you have a great holiday without trashing the planet, from your accommodation and suitcase to your cocktail decorations!
Be mindful of the waste you’re leaving behind
When we’re in holiday mode it’s easy to get a little too relaxed and forget about how much waste we’re producing. Buying bottled water or a coffee on the go can seem like the easiest option, but it’s not too hard to avoid that single-use waste. Add ‘drink bottle’ and ‘KeepCup’ to your packing list, or choose to eat in at cafes or restaurants instead. You’re on holidays now – take the time to sit in a nice cafe and relax!
Choose a sustainable transport option
The bulk of travel’s environmental impact comes from carbon emissions from plane and car travel. To reduce the impact of your plane travel, consider going somewhere closer to home and cut down on your air miles.
"Say if I'm taking a holiday, I might go somewhere beautiful in New Zealand, instead of somewhere beautiful in Europe. And if I do want to go to Europe, I'll save up my 'carbon budget' and my financial budget, and travel in a few years' time," said Professor James Higham from the University of Otago in New Zealand.
You can also choose to offset the emissions from your trip, either through the airline or through an organisation like Greenfleet.
If you’re travelling by car, find a sustainable car rental option. With Car Next Door you can rent cars from real people in your community, so unlike other car hire and car-sharing options you’re making use of existing cars rather than brand new cars manufactured just for you to borrow. Plus all the emissions from your driving will be offset through Greenfleet and their native reforestation programs, so your transport will be carbon neutral.
Find eco-friendly accommodation
We don’t always think about the green credentials of the hotels, resorts and holiday houses we stay in, but there are lots of ways our accommodation can help or harm the environment. For your next holiday, choose somewhere that’s working to reduce waste through sustainable building design, good recycling practices, or the use of renewable energy. Directories like Green Getaways have plenty of eco-friendly resorts, cabins and hotels to choose from.
Make your next suitcase planet friendly
If you’re in the market for some new luggage, choose something that’s been designed with both function and the planet in mind. Patagonia’s Black Hole Wheeled Duffel is made from bluedesign approved materials, which means it’s made using a textile production process that eliminates harmful substances and uses resource-efficient practices. HADAKI and Timbuk2 also produce bags and suitcases with sustainability in mind. Eco Warrior Princess has a great list of eco-friendly luggage options to choose from.
Say ‘no, thanks’ to straws and tiny umbrellas in your cocktails
If you’re staying in a resort or going on a cruise, chances are you’ll be enjoying your fair share of cocktails. Fun fact: cocktails taste just as good without a straw and extra embellishments. Ask the bartender to hold the straw and you’ll be helping reduce the number of straws we use and throw out every day (it’s about 10 million in Australia alone).
Get some reusable toiletry containers
International travel is exciting, until you remember you need to have all you liquids in tiny packages and a separate plastic bag. Buying your favourite products in travel size is an easy option, but it’s also creating extra packaging that you’ll need to chuck out (no matter how mini and adorable it might be). If you’re a frequent traveller, invest in some reusable containers that you can fill with your liquids each trip. The Biome Plastic-Free Travel Kit comes with eight glass and metal containers all in the right size to meet air travel restrictions. For something a bit more versatile, get a few bottles from the GoToob+ range. These are silicone, squeezable and stand up for easy filling.