Travelling on a carbon diet

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

It’s a challenge to travel anywhere without leaving a carbon footprint, but by adding more planet-healthy choices to your travel diet, you can help to keep yours to an absolute minimum.

Gone are the days when sipping lurid cocktails through novelty plastic straws and stuffing our suitcases with single-use bathroom amenities signified nailing the art of travel. 

With the global travel industry estimated to be responsible for nearly a tenth of global carbon emissions, taking conscious steps to reduce our carbon output on the road has never been so important. This hasn’t always been a simple task, but as a growing number of destinations, hotels and other travel providers commit to greening up their act, it’s becoming easier for globetrotters to support carbon-cutting leaders. Keep in mind that not all green claims are legitimate, so be sure to check them out before taking them at face-value. 

SLEEP GREEN 
Required to reduce its emissions by a whopping 66% by 2030 to meet its Paris Agreement target, the global hotel industry needs your help to get there. 

No longer does a water-saving commitment notice in a hotel guestroom give the property ‘green’ status. Today, accommodation providers that take sustainability seriously will outline their eco credentials (such as LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – status) on their website. When the property’s environmental commitment is not clear, or perhaps it doesn’t have a website, ask questions. Not all hotels can afford the legwork involved in securing eco-certification, but many make efforts to minimise their impact via initiatives such as sourcing food and other supplies locally, eliminating single-use plastics, promoting recycling, offering water bottle refills, conserving water and energy and providing locals with meaningful employment opportunities. 

Treating hotel rooms as you would your own home can also help to minimise emissions, for example, turning off lights and appliances when you head out, resisting the convenience of unsustainable in-room freebies and requesting your linens aren’t unnecessarily laundered. 

If you feel your accommodation could make improvements, don’t be afraid to provide constructive feedback, ideally in person – they can’t evolve if they aren’t aware they need to. 

Dining area at Mashpi Lodge. Credit: ©Philip Lee Harvey/Lonely Planet


GO PUBLIC
We might be waiting a while for a more carbon-light alternative to air travel, but there are plenty of ways we can keep our emissions down when we arrive in our destination. 

Where you feel comfortable, embrace public transport – not only can it be a travel experience in itself, but many cities use pedal-powered or electric vehicles, which reduce your impact even further. Some regions are also serviced by eco-friendly taxi companies – such as London’s Green Tomato Cars (www.greentomatocars.com), the city’s first and largest hybrid car service, and New Zealand’s Green Cabs (www.greencabs.co.nz), which contributes a portion of each fare to native-tree-planting projects. If you need to hire a car, consider choosing a more planet-friendly electric, hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle. Avoid driving at peak times, and keep an an eye on traffic updates with apps like Waze to help steer clear of fuel-guzzling traffic jams. 

Finally, walking and cycling tours aren’t just great carbon-neutral alternatives to bus tours, but they also facilitate deeper engagement with your destination.

WATCH YOUR CARBON CALORIES
Discovering new cuisines is one of the great joys of travelling, but with a quarter of global emissions coming from food, it’s important not to lose sight of the effect of our food choices when exploring new destinations through our taste buds. 

The easiest way to cut carbon calories is to avoid climate-damaging foods wherever you go, namely beef and other animal products, particularly if you can’t be sure of the origin. The HappyCow app will help you locate plant-based and vegan options in more than 180 countries. Whatever you dine on, try to ensure it’s local, seasonal, sustainable and ideally organic, all of which reduce the food’s carbon output. When this isn’t clear on the menu or the label, do your research. Sustainable seafood guides for nearly 30 countries can be found on the World Wildlife Fund website (wwf.panda.org).

Keen to save a bit of money? With homemade sandwiches found to produce half the emissions of shop-bought versions, self-catering can curtail your carbon impact, too. Packing your own reusable cutlery and crockery can also help you avoid the carbon cost of relying on single-use utensils on the road.

• By Sarah Reid

TEN AMAZING CARBON-FRIENDLY SLEEPS

KOLARBYN ECOLODGE, SWEDEN
Learn how to forage for your meals while staying in a cosy mud-and-grass cabin in the Swedish woods. There are no showers, but it does have a floating sauna! www.wildsweden.com/kolarbyn-ecolodge 

OTENTIC, MAURITIUS
The nation’s only glamping outfit eschews plastic and grows its own produce at its two idyllic locations. https://otentic.mu 

BARDIA ECOLODGE, NEPAL
Bed down at this affordable lodge made from local materials after a day tracking tigers in a remote national park. www.bardiaecolodge.com

JAO LODGE, BOTSWANA
Be among the first to experience this newly revamped safari lodge from the sustainable-tourism-award-winning Wilderness Safaris Botswana collection. https://wilderness-safaris.com

FEYNAN ECOLODGE, JORDAN
Enjoy traditional Bedouin hospitality at this stunning off-the-grid eco-hotel pioneer in the rugged Dana Biosphere. https://ecohotels.me/feynan

NIHI SUMBA, INDONESIA
Running entirely on house-made biofuel, this luxe beachfront resort empowers locals to protect the environment. https://nihi.com

1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE, USA
This conscious New York City option has egg timers in the showers, boxes for donating unwanted clothes and a monthly ‘dark sky’ night when candles replace lights. www.1hotels.com

MASHPI LODGE, ECUADOR
Hang out with scientists at this beacon of sustainability in the Ecuadorian Choco. www.mashpilodge.com

SWELL LODGE, AUSTRALIA
Run by wildlife photographers, this new Christmas Island eco-glamping retreat is the perfect base for experiencing the island’s famous red crab migration. https://swelllodge.com

SLEEP GREEN, SPAIN
Reduce the tourism pressure on Barcelona by choosing this hostel committed to helping travellers reduce their footprint. http://sleepgreenbarcelona.com

Extract taken from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020. Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2019

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