Your next vacation doesn’t need to be a sustainability disaster - Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Your next vacation doesn’t need to be a sustainability disaster

About the author:
Nat

Nat

Climate Expert
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Updated: 
March 24, 2022

In this article:

The global tourism industry has a massive stake in the climate crisis. Now on the tail end of a separate global dilemma, COVID 19, we have to be thoughtful in deciding how to spend our time off. After all, the weather is warming and it’s getting easier to slip away from the office and into the outdoors. In this article we will review ways we can all book a vacation with the environment in mind. 


Upward trend in vacationing

At long last, with the COVID-19 peak over the holiday season receding into memory, vacation season is approaching. What’s more, in the past two years, millions of people around the country didn't use their personal days off from work. The result: practically everyone is feeling ready to use their time out-of-office on a week out-of-town. Already, booking agencies are seeing increased activity compared to recent stagnation. 


What’s the issue?

Even when on vacation, it's important to consider the environmental impact of our activity. One study conducted at the University of Sydney concludes that annual emissions from the tourism industry reaches up to 4.5 gigatonnes – representing 8% of global emissions. 

The majority of these emissions originate from air travel, a known villain of environmental sustainability. Air travel is by far the most emissions intensive method of transport available to consumers, with a one hour flight registering up to 70 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. 

Other purchasing decisions that play into this figure include food and electricity consumption, shopping, and infrastructure demand. 

Ultimately, one must take this issue into their own hands when scheduling a vacation. Here are a few do’s and don'ts to sustainable vacationing.  


Tips for sustainable travel

There’s a whole lot you can do to minimize the emissions footprint from your upcoming vacation. Here are just a few!

  1. Stay closer to home – though an exotic vacation may be appealing to some, especially those from colder climates, staying close to home is a terrific way to reduce emissions from travel. If a staycation isn’t quite your speed, consider taking the train or driving a few hours away. Local beaches, skiing trips, or even shorter flights are much better options than intercontinental travel.
  1. Skip the luxury seats – think about it, by taking space that could be filled with economy seats, one is taking on a larger share of the emissions from the flight. Stick to economy seats and reduce the emissions from your flight by a good margin!

  2. Fly direct – if at all possible, avoid unnecessary layovers en route to your destination. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that a family vacation’s emissions can be cut to a half or even third by flying direct. 
  1. Consider emissions from infrastructure – if you’re vacationing in a developing country, think of all the infrastructure that was built just for extravagant travelers. Instead of a brand new, five star hotel, look for historic or locally owned establishments. Alternatively, book more efficient rooms, such that you’ll need less air conditioning and square footage per traveler. Also try to limit your electricity and water use, as these strain local infrastructure systems shared with local people. Moreover, local power plants may be significant polluters. 
  1. Shop sustainably – when preparing your wardrobe for your upcoming trip, try to limit your purchases to companies with solid commitments to making their products sustainable. Keep an eye out for the Neutrl badge when shopping online!

Expenses of sustainable travel

By following these tips, you’ll not only be doing the environment a favor, but your bank account too. Skipping pricey flights in favor of local destinations is one great way to cut expenses, as is opting for economy seats if you do decide to fly. 

Though flying direct may incur some extra cost, this can be balanced by booking fewer hotel rooms. 


In conclusion

Vacationing has the potential to make a devastating addition to one’s environmental impact. Flying, shopping and eating out, as well as increasing infrastructure demand all contribute to the tourism industry’s emissions intensity. But this does not need to be the case! There are a number of considerations you can keep in mind when scheduling your next vacation to minimize its emissions. 

FAQ

Want to learn more?
Sustainable Travel FAQs

Why is the tourism industry bad for the environment?

Air travel is the main offender in the tourism industry, as it produces huge amounts of emissions. Combined with electricity use and food consumption, tourists spell environmental trouble wherever they land.


How can I reduce my travel emissions?

Using other methods of travel than airplanes and staying closer to home is an easy way to avoid emissions. Preparing a sustainable wardrobe is another method – Neurtrl can help with that!


How does booking economy seats impact my emissions?

Luxury seats take up space that could be filled with more economy seats, which means sitting in one makes you responsible for a greater share of the flight’s total emissions.


Will traveling sustainably cost me more?

No! Considering environmental impact has the potential to even bring down the costs of your travel plans!!

Sources:

The New York Times on recent travel trends

University of Sydney Study 

Report on reducing emissions from traveling