After a year that will be remembered for severe bush fires, floods and introducing us to the Swedish word flygskam (‘flight shame’), you can expect sustainable travel to become even more of a hot topic in 2020.
While it’s not possible or practical to enlist a carbon-neutral ship to sail us across the ocean like climate activist Greta Thunberg, there are plenty of other ways we can travel more sustainably in 2020.
Here are six easy (and not-so-easy) changes you can make to the way you travel.
- Travel by train rather than aeroplane
The most obvious way to travel more sustainably is to quit flying. For avid travellers, it can also be the hardest change to make. But if you can’t go cold turkey on the flights, you can at least cut down; one long vacation a year is will leave you with a smaller carbon footprint than multiple long weekends, for example.
If you can reach your destination by train then book that train ticket and adjust your mind-set so the journey becomes a fun and relaxing part of your trip.
And if you really can’t avoid getting on a plane, I have three words of advice for you: offset, offset, offset. It’s not the answer to the problem but it’s better than nothing.
“Pedal power or on your own two feet is healthier too.”
2. Take public transport, cycle or walk instead of driving
Leave your driving licence at home and commit yourself to using public transport, walking or cycling when you arrive. As well as being more environmentally friendly, travelling alongside the locals is a more personal way to get to grips with your destination.
Places such as Finland and The Netherlands are well-known for their cycle-friendly approaches, and it’s often the locals’ preferred way of getting around. Pedal power or on your own two feet is healthier too. Win win.
The same goes for getting to the train station/port/airport when you set off from your home too.
3. Book environmentally friendly accommodation
As well as bed size and location (two very important factors to me!), consider your accommodation’s environmental credentials. Look out for places that use renewable energy, employ local staff and care about conserving the surrounding wildlife and nature.
You’ll find that your trip benefits from these factors too, as you’ll likely have a more-immersive experience.
Image by Anna Kaminova on unsplash
4. Choose your food carefully
Whether you’re eating out in restaurants or self-catering, choose to eat fresh, local and in-season foods.
Bonus points if you opt for vegetarian or vegan food – especially if you’re not habitually a veggie or a vegan. Apart from quitting flying, switching to a plant-based diet is the best thing you can do for the environment.
Plus, it could be a welcome change from routine if you usually eat meat at home. Who knows, you might even like it and continue the diet at home.
“Only buy clothes if you really need them, preferably made of natural fibres by local craftsmen.”
5. Avoid buying tat!
Does your friend back home really need another magnet for their fridge, or a polyester t-shirt with a cheesy slogan?
If you’re a souvenir hound, buy them from independent shops, and local markets and avoid plasticky gimmicks.
Only buy clothes if you really need them, preferably made of natural fibres by local craftsmen.
6. Buy your travel gear thoughtfully
Once you’ve worn out your current travel gear, replace it with the environment in mind. Check out what’s available in the second-hand shops near you, share backpacks with friends, learn to hustle on eBay or, if you must buy new, turn to sustainable travel brands such as those who make their clothing out of bamboo or recycled plastic bottles.
Don’t forget to pack your refillable water bottles, eco-friendly soap, shampoo and conditioner bars, reusable cutlery and straws and pack-away shopping bags. Your efforts to avoid single-use plastic shouldn’t stop at Departures. If you’re heading somewhere hot, get hold of some plastic- and harsh-chemical-free sunscreen; pollution from sunscreen is a real problem that’s harming reefs around the world. The same goes for insect repellent; natural, plastic-free solutions are available.
Do you plan to travel more sustainably in 2020? What will you do differently? If you’re not planning to make any changes, why not?