How to travel sustainably this summer
For over 25 years Helen Littlejohn has been organising adventure holidays, school expeditions and charity challenges in the UK and abroad. From travelling across China by train and cycling coast to coast in Mexico for charity, to more recently cycling 220 miles of the King Alfreds Way, Helen is passionate about the outdoors and getting people out in nature. Here she shares her tips for travelling in a more sustainable way.
I am sure many of you can remember how formative experiences have shaped how you see the world, your habits and possibly careers - what becomes your 'normal'. Recently we have been bombarded with climate change facts and images, encouraging us to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. What we impart to the younger generation can shape how they will see the world. Therefore, if as a society we wish to become more sustainable, then the way we live and travel needs to change.
Sustainable travel needs to balance economic growth, human well-being and environmental impacts but becoming more sustainable seems like climbing a mountain, whilst we juggle work, family and leisure time and our ever-decreasing budgets. The top seems insurmountable, but by making small steps with base camps in the way, if we set ourselves goals then we can reach our summit.
With the summer holiday season getting underway, I wanted to share a few ideas and links to think about different ways to use our leisure time. These might help you plan a more sustainable travel holiday. Change of course comes with a cost - time, money and effort, but we have a choice, like everything in life.
As Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.
To fly or not to fly?
Tourism brings huge benefits to poor countries through income, conservation and development. However, many well documented reports identify flying as one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions.
Harold Goodwin, a world-renowned expert in Responsible Tourism has this to say on flying.
Check out this podcast from Vicky Smith from Earth Changers, another expert in responsible tourism.
Jocelyn Timperley talks about Flygskam (Flight Shame) - an anti-social no flying movement originating from Sweden in 2018.
The Flight Free Campaign challenges people to take a whole year out of flying.
Byway is one of the operators promoting no fly holidays.
Check out other ethical travel businesses on the B Corps website.
Slow Travel offers other inspirational ideas.
Rather than packing up the car, could you use public transport such as trains, buses or coaches? Could you consider walking or cycling from your front door? Take your holiday closer to home so it’s more accessible.
Great Western Railway is now offering help with group bookings of more than 10 people.
Seat 61.com is another excellent planning website to travel by train in the UK and overseas.
Cycling is one of the most sustainable forms of transport. If your bike is festering in the back of a shed or garage why not take it to a local bike shop or find a mobile bike mechanic using the website Bike Book?
Children grow out of bikes very quickly. In 2016, two young parents set out to make children’s bikes affordable and sustainable by developing a subscription-based hire-exchange system: Bike Club
Sustrans is a national cycling charity promoting cycling for healthier places and happier people. Their online cycling map linked to OS maps is invaluable in showing cycling routes.
Ordnance Survey (OS), based locally in Southampton, is our national mapping agency. They have an app which shows walking, cycling, running and paddling routes.
The National Navigation Award Scheme offer training courses.
As a tourist you will use energy for heating or cooling, lighting and electricity, which will impact local resources. Small steps, such as taking a shower rather than a bath, switching off the air conditioning when leaving your room, choosing not to change towels every day and selecting eco friendly venues, will reduce your carbon footprint.
Green Key is an initiative supported by the UN and Global Sustainable Tourism Council, listing hotels, B&Bs and campsites meeting stringent eco criteria.
www.Booking.com has introduced a filter to show sustainable properties.
Second home holiday lets can negatively impact the local housing market so making use of organisations like the Youth Hostel Association can reduce your carbon footprint through the sharing of resources.
The Field Studies Council have centres based all over the country, offering environmental holidays for families with bushcraft, pond dipping and bat watching activities, and support local food suppliers.
The Greener Camping Club provides a list of eco-friendly owner managed small campsites in the UK.
House swapping is a fantastic way to reduce costs and the environmental impacts of traditional hotels. If you work for an international company this could be a way to swap between overseas colleagues, creating a better bond between teams. Have a look at Love Home Swap.
Food and water
Supporting family run businesses, farm shops or community not-for-profit cafes not only keeps money in the local economy, but it is better for the environment too as it reduces food miles. They are often also plastic free. Taking a reusable water bottle reduces the need to transport single use drinks to fragile areas. If you are travelling abroad, Water to Go has an in-built filtration system.
Many tourist destinations see an influx of visitors just for the holiday season and then bear the burden of cleaning up our rubbish, putting pressure on local recycling centres, water courses and beaches.
Eating local fresh food reduces food miles and means we aren’t relying on imported food wrapped in plastic, and remember to travel with your refillable bottle and reusable cutlery.
An organisation called Leave No Trace, which originated the USA, has seven key principles to respect the environment. Like the UK Country code, Leave No Trace Principles are now being introduced in the UK through Outdoor Educators: https://naturetraining.co.uk/courses
BBQs are synonymous with holidays but due to climate change with dry conditions and high temperatures, there are an increasing number of wildfires. Many of them result from the use of instant barbecues.
Many of the national supermarkets have stopped the sale of disposable BBQs near holiday destinations, with a bill going through parliament for a ban on open moorland.
Why not consider taking part in activities with an environmental education element, and use companies which support nature conservation?
TYF Adventures in St Davids, Pembroke are a B Corps company and their retail shop only offers sustainable brands.
Consider doing a 2-minute beach clean – there plenty of locations all around the country.
Land and Wave in Dorset recycle all their old kayaks and send them to be made into surfboards.
Why not consider volunteering your time on holiday? www.workaway.info
Willing Workers on Organic Farms – (WWOOFing). Using this site, I stayed with a family for 3 weeks in the mountains in Australia, an immersive experience in local Aussie life.
Equal Adventure are a company based in Scotland providing sustainable experiences for those with impairments.
The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain is another great resource.
Sensory Walks are an amazing way to access the countryside too.
Rather than wait for our holidays, how can we ensure that we keep our mental and physical batteries topped up every day? Slowing down, perhaps going for a walk in the evening or watching the sunset rather than watching TV is a good place to start.
Hopefully some of these ideas have inspired you to change your habits, or shift your ‘normal’.
Carefully watch your thoughts for they become your words. Manage and watch your words for they become your actions. Consider and judge your actions for they become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values for they become your destiny. ~ Ghandi