We talk until the cows come home to roost about the effect of meat consumption on the planet. We discuss in length the impact of plastics on our oceans and we rightly shame the fashion industry and refuse to buy new clothes. Hell, we’ve even started to pick a fight with avocados and almond milk. The one thing, I have noticed us eco-warriors don’t seem to want to talk about quite so loudly is aviation.
Since the Wright brothers invention in 1903 we have been perfecting the aircraft. It is now possible to acquire a “hotel suite” on the fancy Emirates Boeing flights and, if you please, a spa shower, a fully flattened bed that is turned down for you and a separate bar area in case you want a little nightcap. It really is one of the greatest human inventions, and even conceptualising something so heavy being able to fly very long distances at such great heights, is pretty phenomenal. It is no wonder that we are not flocking to cut out fast flights quite as quickly as we are cutting out fast fashion. As a form of transport, it is extremely convenient and has never been so economically accessible. Thirty years ago, you would need to be on a pretty good wage packet to take a flight, these days flying can often be the cheaper option, particularly for short distance flights (Amsterdam to London Eurostar I am looking at you here).
Nevertheless, using an aircraft, because of its carbon emissions, has one of the most detrimental effects on our planet. It is no wonder that aviation is creating a huge carbon footprint. Global tourism now counts for 8% of carbon emissions. According to drawdown you could drive 336 cars from Heathrow to Edinburgh for the same CO2 as one full plane to the same destination. It is contentious topic. We want to be environmentally friendly, but we also want to see the world in as little time as possible. Since moving to a rookie eco-warrior lifestyle I have really tried to clamp down on my flying and only fly when I really need to. Living in Amsterdam has not helped this, but for our next trip to the UK we are taking a train and we try to combine as many things as possible in our trips to result in less travelling. Whilst skipping the flight is definitely one of the greener things to do, there are some great ways we can reduce our tourist emissions:
- Do you really need that trans-Atlantic flight? Go local and explore somewhere closer to home. This could be a shorter flight or maybe you could even take the train, particularly if it is within Europe.
- If you do need to take a flight see if you can invest in bio-fuel. Bio-fuels are combustible fuels created from recently living plants as opposed to fossil fuels. Biofuels are a good way to off-set your emissions, and lots of airlines are now offering them. There is an argument that the land used for biofuel is taking over land for crops, so be aware of this. Also be careful; eating a salad after your burger does not cut out the unhealthy burger
- Get in touch with nature. Look into booking a camping/ glamping trip, or do some research on some eco-friendly hotels in the area. Ask your hotel what they are doing to reduce their impact, the more you ask the more they feel the pressure to make a change
- Wear sunscreen. But make sure it’s a biodegradable one. That film of oil you see floating on the water after you have been for a dip? That can be very harmful for the marine life and can result in coral bleaching. Look for “reef friendly” or biodegradable sunscreens.
- Don’t go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for your holiday. Instead look at what you have got, look into secondhand shops and even ask friends if you can borrow their clothes. Let’s be honest, these are clothes you can probably only wear for a few months of the year
- Avoid single-use plastics at all costs. Say no to straws with those cocktails, take your own Tupperware and reusable cups and take a tote bag when shopping
- Eat local; eat foods that are sourced locally, and better yet have a meat-free holiday!
- Go for a nice beach walk, and pick up plastic on the way. Imagine if everyone picked up one handful of plastic when they travelled and stopped it going directly into the ocean.