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Living an Ethical Lifestyle: Eco-holidays

When it comes to leading an ethical life there are no breaks. Unless, of course, you take some time to relax on an eco-holiday!
man standing in the waves at sunset | wealthify.com
Reading time: 8 mins

When it comes to planning an environmentally friendly holiday, there are more options available than you might think – it doesn’t have to just be camping in your garden or visiting a local commune. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of eco-friendly destinations you can head off to and loads of ways that you can travel more sustainably.

Here are some eco-friendly holiday tips to get you started.

How to have an eco-friendly holiday?

Eco-holidays are rising in popularity – partially boosted by the restrictions put in place during the pandemic – but the ideology behind it is also growing. Because, although holidays can be amazing for your soul, jetting off on an aeroplane isn’t so kind to the environment.

So, where can you go that doesn’t cost the Earth?

Perhaps the most logical thing to do is to stay local – not only would you help to support local economies, but you could drastically cut the emissions you produce to get to your destination. The less you need to travel, the fewer emissions you’re likely to produce.

However, we do live in the UK, which is famed more for the grey skies and rain than bright, warm sunny afternoons (besides from maybe a few days in the summer months, that is).

If staying local isn’t quite what you had in mind, the next best option may be looking at staying close and thinking about how you get there.

The most eco-friendly types of transport

If you’re already looking at how to be more eco-friendly when travelling, then you probably already know that long haul flights are some of the worst contenders for pollution. But if you were wondering why long-haul is worse than short-haul, it’s because the flights are longer and at a higher altitude which can add more than 2.5 times the amount of pollution compared to a short-haul journey.[1]

However, there’s one mode of transport even worse than flying – cruise ships. Not only do they produce a huge amount of emissions, but they also produce significant issues with waste and sewage. The problem is so bad, in fact, that 47 cruise ships produce 10 times more emissions than all the cars in Europe![2]

However, this doesn’t mean you need to just stay in the UK, one option for going abroad with low emissions could be by taking the train. Did you know that if went from London to Madrid by train, you’d be looking at just 43kg of CO2 emissions instead of 118kg by plane - that’s over 60% lower emissions for the same journey![2]

Deciding how you’re going to travel may limit where you can go. But there should still be plenty of options available to ensure that your stay is eco-friendly too.

Environmentally friendly accommodation

Not all hotels, bed and breakfasts, or vacation resorts are the same, and some may put in a lot more effort than others to ensure their carbon footprint is as small as possible. Instead of just looking at the pictures and choosing whichever hotel suits your tastes (and budget!), it may be worth digging a little deeper to find out about their waste and energy policies. With the rise in eco-tourism, many hotels are now proudly displaying their environmental credentials on their websites, so it shouldn’t take much to find out.

If you don’t want to do the hard work yourself, why not look at websites like Green Pearls or Eco BnB that handpick accommodation that’s designed to be eco-friendly.

Choose an eco-friendly destination

What is an eco-friendly location? Well, that largely depends on what you’re looking for – it could be a vacation that prioritises conservation or supporting local communities, or it could be a holiday that has a minimal impact on the environment. Being ethical could mean many things to many people and choosing an eco-friendly destination that matches your ethical standpoint will depend on you.

One example could be going on safari. The carbon (and monetary) cost of getting there may be steep, but once you’re there many safaris run eco-camps using renewable power and local materials to reduce any disruption or emissions. Plus, your money will be helping to support the conservation and protection of some of the world’s most magnificent creatures and ecosystems.

Alternatively, you could choose to stay a little closer to home - for example, at an eco-lodge in West Wales, which will minimise the carbon you produce in both your travel and your stay while supporting a local economy.

Where are the most sustainable destinations?

A quick Google search will throw up thousands of sustainable destinations – and interestingly, what counts as ‘good’ is very similar to how ESG investing works. Independent sustainable organisations will set out certain criteria that towns or locations need to achieve to qualify to be on their list – and each of these criteria are scored to make it easy to show which location has the best environmentally friendly policies and performance.

Every year, Green Destinations challenges places that are working towards sustainable tourism in their area, sharing their innovations, what’s been effective, and the work that they’re doing. If successful, this location will then be listed and given accreditation with the top 100 being given Awards and listed in that year’s Top 100 list: https://greendestinations.org/programs-and-services/top-100-destinations/

Embrace the outdoors

Whether you’re hiking up a mountain or relaxing on a beach, enjoying time outside is good for you and the planet. And although camping in a muddy field somewhere in the English countryside may not appeal to you, how about a trip to Spain or the South of France where the weather may be a little bit different?

It may not be a five-star hotel experience, but you’ll get to explore more of this glorious world we live in and feel closer to nature, which could help to make your eco-friendly efforts feel even more worthwhile!

Making your own difference

Sometimes, your options are really limited – for example, if you get sent away on a business trip or need to visit family abroad. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go somewhere but the sustainable travel options are limited.

Well, don't worry! There are still ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and travel more sustainably even if it isn’t a specific eco-holiday. Here are a few ways that you can make a normal holiday that little bit greener:

  • Be sensible with water and energy – chances are you already think about your usage at home, so just extend this courtesy when you’re away to keep your footprint down.
  • Try to recycle – most hotels just have one bin in your room, but if you have waste that can be recycled it’s worth hanging on to it until you can recycle it properly.
  • Use eco-friendly transport – taking the bus instead of a taxi or walking instead of driving can not only reduce your emissions but you may just be surprised by what else you get to see!
  • Pack light – not only will this help to save you a few quid putting your luggage in the hold, but if everyone did this the plane could be significantly lighter, making it more fuel-efficient.
  • Eat local – if you’re going abroad, dive into their cuisine - not only may you enjoy some delicious food, but eating locally abroad offers the same benefits as eating locally at home: fresher food and a smaller carbon footprint!

Ethically saving for your holiday

It doesn’t matter how eco-friendly your holiday is. They always tend to cost a fair bit of money – whether that’s on meals out or transport – so it may make sense to save for your eco-friendly holiday in a way that’s also green.

One option – especially if you’re planning for a special holiday in the future – could be to invest in an Ethical Stocks and Shares ISA. By doing this, your money is being invested in companies that are committed to making a positive difference to the environment and society while also having the potential to grow.

While this may not be suitable for your annual getaway, as investing is typically for the long term, as your money can go down as well as up, it could be a great way to save for your dream holiday.

If you’re looking for a way to ethically save for the short term, then you could look into banks with a clear ethical standpoint, such as Triodos Bank, which has positioned itself behind sustainable banking that promotes quality of life and human dignity for all.

Take the time to turn off

When do you go away, why not take a few minutes to go around your house and turn off anything that’s typically left on standby – like your computer or TV? You could even choose to change the setting on your fridge and freezer if you wanted, as they’re like to be more efficient without people opening them regularly. Not only could this help to save you a little bit of money, but you may be shocked at how much energy your house uses when you’re not there.

While we’re at it, why not take some time away from technology? Not only will this slightly reduce your carbon emissions, but it could be great for your mental health and to help you relax – after all, it will still be there when you get back!

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49349566
  2. https://www.geekyexplorer.com/cruise-ship-pollution/

Please remember the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you could get back less than invested. 

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