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Reducing your carbon footprint when travelling abroad


The more you fly, in other words, the more you harm the planet and, long before the virus temporarily shut down society, this was one of the primary deterrents against travelling abroad for the eco-conscious.

The idea of the “staycation” has had some currency in the UK for a while. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which made it all but compulsory for a time, travelling abroad has been criticised for its environmental impact. Chiefly, it is air travel that has come in for the strongest criticism, with air miles long being associated with environmental harm. The more you fly, in other words, the more you harm the planet and, long before the virus temporarily shut down society, this was one of the primary deterrents against travelling abroad for the eco-conscious. 

But of course, as popular European holiday destinations once again open after nearly two years of being off-limits to the majority of holidaymakers, people are once again beginning to venture overseas. Most of these people might have already been staycationing for two whole summers, perhaps it’s only natural that travellers are eager once again to taste the freedom they possessed before the pandemic. This then raises the question, is it possible to travel abroad and still do so in an environmentally conscious way? 

In one sense, the answer to this is “no”. The further you travel – by any means besides walking – the more carbon emissions are released in order to get you to your destination. But then, so much of everyday eco-practice revolves around the idea of offsetting carbon emissions, cutting them back in one area of your life in order to compensate for your carbon footprint in another. For example, you might calculate that your daily commute has a certain unavoidable carbon footprint, and so you might offset this by using more energy-saving lightbulbs, buying more eco-friendly produce, or looking to buy fire extinguishers filled with environmentally friendly extinguishing agents.

The same principle, unsurprisingly, can be applied to foreign travel and there are actually several ways you can at least cut back your emissions – or offset them against another part of your trip. 

As the borders of popular destinations open once again, it is understandable that many might be a little fed up with the staycation and are looking to strike out once again. And for the eco-conscious among these intrepid explorers, it might help to know that there is actually a more environmentally conscious way of travelling abroad. The endeavour will never be entirely environmentally neutral, but there is a lot you can do to at least limit the damage. 

Tips for reducing carbon emissions when your travel 
Cutting your carbon emissions when travelling abroad can at first seem like a daunting task, or that your potential to do so is severely limited (you are travelling after all). Many travellers already exhibit good habits when it comes to travelling abroad; things such as reusing hotel towels and remembering to turn off the aircon are certainly good habits that will help make your holiday less harmful to the environment. And yet, as the world opens for holidaymakers once again, you might be surprised at the number of effective carbon-cutting methods and habits that are all related to international travel. Here follows then a list of tips for more eco-friendly travel which may help you feel a little less guilty about getting on that plane. A little. 

Pack light 
There is a very simple reason you should consider packing light before boarding a flight for your first post-covid holiday. The more you pack, the heavier the aircraft; the heavier the aircraft, the more fuel required to get it off the ground and keep it in the air. It really is as simple as that. Fortunately for the eco-conscious, however, there is already a strong economic incentive for packing light. The more fuel required for aircraft, the more money the airliner must spend and thus it is usually significantly cheaper to take only cabin luggage and not three or four hefty suitcases when jetting off. This is one of the eco-tips on this list that can also save you money. 

Consider alternative travel means 
It might come as a surprise to learn that the majority of a plane’s emissions actually occur during take-off and landing. This means that, mile for mile, shorter flights actually have a greater carbon footprint. The upside of this is that short flights are more easily substituted for alternative travel means. It is unlikely that you would care to travel to Japan by boat, but going to France by train is a much more realistic option. You will also be delivered right to the heart of any city you visit, and you can skip all the security hassle at airports into the bargain. 

Use public transport 
In many of the world’s great cities and popular holiday destinations, public transport is excellent – so you should consider using it. Hired cars can be essential in some situations but, in the majority of cases, it is perfectly possible to get to where you want to go via train or bus. 

Eat local food 
But of course! This is certainly one of the tips that will require the least convincing. One of the joys of travelling abroad is sampling local fare that is worlds apart from a typical dish back in Blighty. And as well as being, in most cases, delicious, eating local is also the environmentally friendly option, simply because the ingredients have travelled less to get to your plate. Enjoy!

Seek out the most eco-friendly airlines 
Comparing airlines is one of the essential steps before jetting off on holiday. But as well as comparing price, you should look to compare eco-credentials as well. Look for the airlines that are doing more for the environment. A good indicator of this will be the degree of transparency that the airline exhibits in their day-to-day running. If an airline isn’t shy about sharing its CO2 emissions (as well as what it is doing to limit them) then, chances are, you are with a good one. 

Ultimately, traveling abroad will always come with eco-damage. There really is no getting around this salient fact. But, as this article has hopefully shown, you yourself can do a lot to limit the damage when jetting off to somewhere exotic.

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