If you’re planning an escape to faraway lands this summer, these eco travel hacks will help make your holiday as planet-friendly as possible.
1. Buy a bag for life
Of course that leopard-print suitcase is eye-catching, but will it survive baggage claim? Your choice of luggage may not exactly be a fashion statement, but during your travels a suitcase can end up in all sorts of places and needs to be durable.
Resist buying something too cheap, and invest in a decent suitcase that will last you a lifetime, reducing the chance of buying poorly made, disposable cases that can end up in landfill.
Vegan leather is a sturdy choice, and buying second hand can often give years of new life to an otherwise unwanted item. The same applies to your carry-on bag and laptop case, too, which can both last for decades despite being squashed into countless overhead lockers.
Coast vegan leather suitcase in black, £180 at Matt & Nat
2. Love low waste
We all use our reusable coffee cups, water bottles and metal straws at home, so why do we forget them on holiday?
There’s nothing better than a fresh cortado on the streets of Portugal, but it’ll taste far nicer without a paper cup to throw away afterwards.
Find out whether you can drink tap water at your holiday destination (and whether you’ll need a reusable bottle) at tappwater.co.
Going food shopping? Canvas tote bags are always useful and take up hardly any room in your suitcase. You can also avoid single-use plastic (and high prices) by taking a packed lunch to the airport.
3. Do your research
Not sure how to ask for ‘almond milk’ in Turkish? How about ‘coconut yoghurt’ in French?
Try learning a few basic words in the native language of your destination, such as ‘beef’, ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, ‘chicken’, ‘soya’ and ‘fish’. It will help you work out what’s on the menu and ensure you find the tastiest plant-based option available.
If you’re looking for the hottest vegan café in town, visit happycow.net or download the Happy Cow app for an easy way to find local restaurants and shops specialising in vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
It also helps to research local cultural taboos and eating habits. For example, if you’re staying in a predominantly Hindu area, you’re unlikely to find beef on the menu, whereas many Jewish communities steer clear of pork.
4. Support local
Where’s the fun in travelling to a new European city and getting all your food from the nearest Lidl?
Embrace the native cuisine and reduce transport emissions by buying your food and drink from local farms and independent shops nearby.
Many places have a local plant-based delicacy that’s worth trying, and nothing tastes better than a glass of wine in the vineyard it was grown in.
Looking for a souvenir? Seek out indigenous artisans where you can, as you’ll be reducing mileage and helping them support their families.
You might also meet someone new, develop your language skills, find the best restaurants and get great travel advice for the rest of your trip.
5. Embrace public transport
Did you know that most of an aeroplane’s carbon emissions come from take-off and landing? If you’re choosing to fly, aim for a non-stop flight to reduce excess emissions, or better yet, enjoy the view and take a train or boat!
In the UK, the largest share of transport emissions (86%) is from road passengers, whereas buses and trains add up to a tiny 6%. When you reach your destination, the best way to take in the city is through public transport, so ditch the extortionate hire cars and grab a bike, take the bus, hop on a tram or get your steps up with a walking tour.
Public transport can be a sightseeing experience in itself (just think how iconic the London Underground is!) so use it as an opportunity to get up close and personal with new people and cultures.
6. Feel at home in your hotel
Staying in a luxury hotel is always a treat, but just because the cleaners are willing to replace your towels every day doesn’t mean they should! Treat the place like your own, and be as eco-conscious as if you were paying the bills yourself.
Turn off unnecessary lights and plug sockets, find out about the hotel’s recycling programme, and leave suggestions on their comment cards for greener energy sources, rainwater harvesting, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow toilets.
Hang up your towels after each use, and let the housekeeping staff know they do not need replacing every day.
7. Offset your carbon
Reducing our carbon emissions should always be priority, but if there’s no way to avoid that 18 hour flight, you could try offsetting your carbon to reduce its overall impact.
A carbon offset is a way to compensate for your emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere, such as planting trees, building wind farms and creating renewable energy sources in developing countries.
Visit carbonfootprint.com to calculate your carbon footprint and start making your holidays carbon neutral.
8. Go holistic
Eschew chain hotels, busy beaches and shopping trips in favour of a back to nature, eco escape. The Austrian Alps offer a getaway with a difference – we love the the MoaAlm Mountain Retreat (wearactive.com) which has been designed to leave as little impact on its environment as possible.
Enjoy locally sourced, organic plantbased three course meals cooked by the in-house chef, practise daily yoga in a panoramic studio and explore the scenery on foot, bike or skis with a local guide.
There’s even a wood-fired hot tub to watch the sunset. By choosing a holiday that aligns with your own values, you’re much more likely to come away feeling inspired.