How to travel sustainably at christmas
Sustainable travel is a practical approach to travelling that results in a reduced impact on the environment and local people. Sustainable travel seeks to correct issues like overtourism, high carbon dioxide emissions, cultural degradation, and plastic pollution. Think of travelling sustainably as a meaningful and intentional way of connecting with the world.
This is no more important at Christmas than any other time of the year! Your best gift for the planet might be as simple as cutting out flights or trading the ski slopes for an eco B&B. In this blog post, we’ll help you have a greener Xmas getaway without turning you into the grinch.
Top 7 Tips For Sustainable Xmas Travel
1. Stay Closer To Home
According to 2019 data from Kayak, 10 of the top 15 destinations for Xmas are in europe. This is good news for our continental customers - who can enjoy a sustainable holiday on their own doorstep. Ideally, you’ll pick places in your country that do not normally benefit from high rates of tourism. What could be cosier (or more christmassy) than escaping to a remote rural location, like an island, a fjord, a farming town, or a fishing village? Doing so helps reduce overtourism and, if you stay national, your travel miles too.
2. Travel By Road Or Rail
We all know that travelling by plane is bad for the planet. Why? Because it emits a potent cocktail of substances that include methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour, soot, and CO₂ - all of which means it has a higher “radiative forcing” effect than other forms of transport. The aviation industry is also shockingly unsustainable, with 100,000s of empty or near-empty “ghost flights” polluting Europe's skies every winter. You can make a positive difference by adopting more efficient modes of transport, especially rail or coach.
Did you know? Germany’s 9 euro summer rail fare saved an estimated 1.8 million tonnes of CO₂. This shows how much of an impact plane-free travel can have.
3. Seek Eco-friendly Hosts
Travel sustainably by finding sustainable accommodation. This will usually take the form of local businesses that have zero waste policies, invest in climate offsets, and pose a net benefit to the community. It’s best to avoid big hotel chains unless they have a demonstrable environmental program. Do some digging!
Websites like fairbnb, and responsible traveller provide helpful and inspiring eco destinations, experiences, and of course - accommodation. They should make planning a sustainable xmas getaway much easier.
4. Save Water And Energy
While it can be tempting to take multiple showers and leave the heating on all day while on holiday, sustainable travel involves being conscious of water and energy. Skip room service and make sure the heating is off while you’re out. This rule applies even before you’ve left home: make sure all appliances are unplugged and the xmas lights are unhooked!
This is one of the reasons going to a colossal ski resort is, unfortunately, not a sustainable travel option. Snow cannons and piste bashers use a lot of energy and water to keep the slopes user-friendly. That’s not to say eco alternatives don’t exist - you just have to look up the right mountain.
5. Bring Reusable Goods
Be part of the reuse revolution! Travelling can produce a lot of waste, especially in the form of coffee cups, water bottles, and plastic bags. Eliminate all three by checking out our range of handy sustainable travel accessories. You’ll find cups made from bamboo, refillable bottles, and organic cotton tote bags. Given that it’s winter, you may also want to bring along warm TWOTHIRDS clothing that has the climate in mind.
6. Support Local Industries
A key principle of sustainable travel is supporting local people. This can be as simple as tipping a local tour guide as they take you through the ins and outs of their region’s history, or eating at small local restaurants, which also reduces food miles. Taking up local people’s offers of cooking or crafting classes can also be a great way to engage in local traditions, reducing the chance that they’ll be lost to the snatch-and-grab of mass tourism. Sustainable travel always opts for authenticity over superficiality.
If looking to make a lasting contribution to a community you’re staying in, consider donating to local charities that look after the most vulnerable. As sustainable travel international note, this is likely to be a better option than giving money to beggars.
7. Practise Regenerative Tourism
Underneath the broad umbrella of sustainable travel, you’ll find other interesting approaches like “regenerative tourism”. This is about going one step further and turning travel into something that is positive for local people and the environments they care for.
At Christmas this could include visiting and supporting a reindeer sanctuary, choosing to stay in protected wildlife parks, or staying with a host that gives some of their proceeds to charity. These days there are even cabins that help rewild endangered forests!
Though sustainable travel does entail taking the road less travelled and (probably) not going so far afield, it can be a rewarding experience that deepens your relationship with a new place. That’s why many sustainable travel experts encourage people to stay where they are for longer. Rather than booking multiple weekenders throughout the year, block out 2 weeks and really get to know the place you’re visiting: talk to locals, adopt a new way of thinking, explore local areas, and fully embody the act of travelling. This is better for the community, for the planet (less travel = fewer emissions), and ultimately for you! Give yourself - and the planet - a well-deserved break.
Helpful Resources For Sustainable Travellers
- The Guardian has found “Five of the best sustainable holidays across europe”.
- The New York Times has collated a list of “52 destinations helping to fight Climate Change”.
- They also have a piece on how to travel to ecologically vulnerable places like Antarctica.
- Fairbnb offers an ethical alternative to its silicon valley counterpart.
- The Man In Seat 61 is a helpful directory for rail travel all over the world.
Plenty of personal carbon footprint trackers exist. Here’s one we’ve found.