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Embracing Eco-Friendly Travel: How to Prioritize Sustainability Having Booked Your Trip

Updated: May 13

So, imagine your tickets and accommodation are booked, you're ready for a relaxing time ahead, exploring new places. Whist carbon emissions of Travel & Tourism sector are unsurprisingly large, the little sustainability steps we take on our journey, together, will make a big difference and might even be something you are already doing.

In November 2021, the World Travel & Tourism Council report presented a range of studies with estimates of Travel & Tourism sector emissions ranging from 8% to 11% of global green house gasses emissions or 3.9 to 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions out of a total of 48.9b tCO2e in 2019 (2).

So many industries make up this sector: aviation, transportation, booking sites, accommodation, operators and other intermediaries. Before we know it, we'll go mad with trying to decipher our over all impact in taking a one week break in [insert your beautiful destination, because I was torn between Spain and Italy!]. Not to mention the potential greenwashing we'd need to navigate through and the cost of living...because let's face it, we're all trying to make our dollar go further these days.

Though the impact of travel is not decisively conclusive and evidence not 100% reliable, there are small easy ways to begin offsetting the emissions from a flight or less sustainable accommodation.

#1 - An empty insulated stainless steel water bottle to the airport

I've tried my fair share of reusable bottles! The most logical option to me, turns out, is stainless steel. It keeps water cool in hot destinations and warm if you are a cold weather adventurer.

Most airports now offer a free water point after you clear security, but remember to drink up as you join the security queue.

Most local cafes abroad will be happy to refill your bottle when you purchase a coffee or an Aperol Spritz, in my case.

If you drink the usual 2l a day, this will save you 4 x 500l single use plastic bottles and approximately £4! Over a 1 week trip, that's 28 possible bottles not used per person - that's my back of pack maths though... and if you're travelling with another person, that quickly becomes 56 bottles and nearly £60 saved in a single week.

#2 - Reef safe sunscreen

The researchers found that among the several brands of sunscreen tested, commonly found ingredients, can stimulate dormant viral infections in zooxanthellae (the cells which live in corals and help corals survive). The sunscreen chemicals caused viruses within these cells to replicate until their hosts exploded, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, which could then spread infection to nearby coral communities (3).

"By the numbers, the problem is daunting: 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year; 82,000 chemicals from personal-care products may be tainting the seas; about 80 percent of corals in the Caribbean have been lost in the last 50 years due to pollution, coastal development, and warming waters." (4)

Unfortunately, we cannot 100% rely on "reef safe" or equivalent labelling on sun screen products - it is not market regulated.

So here is a list of ingredients to avoid and look out for (5):

  • Oxybenzone

  • Octinoxate

  • Octocrylene

  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor

  • PABA

  • Parabens

  • Triclosan

  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)

  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”

#3 - Lighter luggage but sneak in a reusable tote

Reducing the amount of stuff you take away with you will also have some impact on emissions. The more you pack, the heavier your bags will be, and this adds to the amount of fuel being burned (6).

Packing light isn't always possible (winter holidays, I'm thinking of you!) but grabbing a reusable bag saved me needing extra carrier bags on my journey every time.

#4 - Eating, shopping and exploring local

Perhaps transportation and accommodation booking is not something you can or even want to control, but planning more local activities will massively reduce your carbon footprint.

Searching for bike or walking tours is a great way to find out more about the city you're staying in and meet new people.

Perhaps even asking where the locals prefer to eat and being open to trying local cuisine instead of eating something you are used to eating at home, will also help reduce the impact of our travels.

It's a good idea to avoid shops and chains you can find at home, and instead supporting small local businesses.

#5 - Giving back to the community

Starting an ocean, forest or town clean up can be an affordable, kind way to give back to the community.

If that is something not for you, you could just consciously pick up that extra discarded drink or wrapper and pop it in the bin as you go.

All small steps, collectively will make a big difference

If one person's small step on their journey inspires action from another individual, from saving 28 bottles a week, we'll save hundreds and maybe thousands. Tomorrow, all industries will have have no choice but make more sustainable choices available, including across Travel & Tourism sector.


(1) World Travel & Tourism Council, A NET ZERO ROADMAP FOR TRAVEL & TOURISM NOVEMBER 2021 Proposing a new Target Framework for the Travel & Tourism Sector

(2) National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, April 2008

(3) National Geographic, "What sunscreens are best for you—and the planet?" 22 May 2019


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