An insider’s guide to sustainable summer holidays

All UK schools have now broken up for the warm weather months – not that recent British temperatures have been up to much. But as families take time out from work sustainable habits must continue. 

man, woman and child holding hands on seashore

In the latest of our summer vacation features, travel expert Alonso Marly, of Skyluxtravel, has partnered with SkyParkSecure for this guide to having a positive environmental impact while on holiday. 

‘[Travelling sustainably] essentially means making more responsible choices to reduce environmental impact. One of the simplest ways to do this is to fly less often, and choose local travel destinations instead,’ says Marly. ‘But… there are ways to make trips more sustainable, starting from getting there to making a positive impact whilst abroad.’ 

Embrace Sustainable Practices Abroad

Recycling shouldn’t be limited to your home. It’s equally crucial to prioritise recycling while travelling abroad. However, it’s important to note that each country may have different recycling rules and regulations. Some countries have a more extensive range of waste categories compared to the UK, making it essential to educate yourself before you embark on your journey.

Moreover, it’s not just about recycling. When you’re on holiday, there are other environmental considerations to keep in mind. For instance, refrain from collecting shells from the beach, as this may disrupt the natural habitat of marine creatures and harm the delicate ecosystem. Additionally, in certain countries like Greece, it’s recommended not to flush toilet paper due to limited pipe capacity. Being aware of and adhering to these guidelines will contribute to responsible and sustainable tourism.

Champion Local Businesses

Supporting small businesses is just as important abroad as it is in your hometown. While opting for the convenience of familiar fast-food chains like McDonald’s or Burger King may be tempting, consider exploring local establishments instead. Even in popular tourist destinations, numerous independent businesses are likely waiting to be discovered.

Although they might be a bit more challenging to find, reaching out to hotel staff or browsing local online forums before your trip can unveil hidden gems. Not only will you experience authentic local flavours and products, but you may also save some money in the process. Alonso also adds that this is a great way to pick up gifts for friends and family.

blue and white happy birthday signage

Embrace Public Transportation

Navigating an unfamiliar transportation system in a foreign country can be daunting, leading many travelers to opt for taxis. However, it’s worth noting that numerous countries boast excellent public transportation networks that can efficiently take you wherever you need to go at an affordable cost. Even if you’re staying at a beach resort with limited public transport options, many hotels provide regular shuttle buses to nearby towns, allowing you to explore the area easily and sustainably.

However, if you’re in an area not well-serviced by public transport, or you’ll be travelling a lot and still want to use a rental car. Alonso says: ‘The lower the carbon footprint per mile for each person. Also, today electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming a more popular means of transportation, however, remember that they are generally more expensive to rent, and you need to charge most of them occasionally, which is slightly less convenient. I always suggest renting the smallest vehicle available that suits your needs to eliminate its emissions’.  

white and brown tram in between buildings at daytime

Pack Thoughtfully and Minimise Waste

While shopping for holiday essentials can be thrilling, it’s crucial to pack only what you truly need and avoid leaving behind items that can’t be responsibly disposed of. Opt for travel-sized toiletries in reusable bottles, which you can also utilise for future trips. If you plan on bringing items like inflatable pool floats or beach toys, ensure they can fit back into your suitcase for the return journey. By packing thoughtfully and minimising waste, you’ll contribute to reducing your environmental impact while enjoying your vacation.

If you’re deciding what to pack, Alonso recommends you ‘consider taking essential items only. For example, pack clothes that mix and match well and can be layered. Not only will it make your life easier, but it will also help reduce your overall emissions footprint. Since your luggage is likely to be lighter, it will take up less space and will be easier to transport regardless of whether you’re taking a plane, train, car or boat.’

Travel Outside Peak Times

When it comes to travel dates, consider going abroad outside peak summer months to avoid overcrowding popular tourist destinations. Also, I suggest staying in one place for longer and choosing accredited eco-friendly accommodation that puts money back into the local economy.

Alonso suggests: ‘If you want to further reduce your own footprint, try to find local activities that give back to residents, instead of the most popular tourist attractions. One of such options is going to destinations that are being rebuilt after natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. Travelers can help locals by volunteering in environmental and social projects to rebuild devastated communities, clean beaches and so forth. That way you can combine new experiences with environmental benefits.’ 

More on sustainable travel: 

‘We have to fly less’: Planes, trains and climate-friendly travel

London-Edinburgh rail success proves grounding flights is possible

Can aviation ever be truly sustainable?

Images: Natalya Zaritskaya (top) / Arthur Franklin (middle)



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