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All-you-can-fly: the balance between traveller and environmentalist

Noa shares her top tips on how to strike the balance between being a traveller and an environmentalist.

When I first heard of the 'all-you-can-fly' pass, my mind naturally raced instantly with the infinite possibilities of travel. If I could somehow find a grand a month, I could literally be anywhere with the click of a mouse button. And if there was some way of using carbon-neutral fuel in planes, I wouldn't feel guilty about it...

But I don't have a grand a month – and flying is still detrimental to the environment (sorry).

This luxury pass (for those who can afford it) trivialises something so important to the invisible conservationist. The Guardian estimates that ‘aviation's true impact in the UK is around 13%–15% of total greenhouse gas emissions’. Now the 21 flights of my gap year don’t seem just excessive, but also selfish.

So what is a good balance between travel and sustainability, and how can we achieve it?


Being eco-friendly does not dictate where or when you travel. Only how. Ecotourism is becoming an increasingly popular way to both see the world and preserve it.

Here are my 5 ways to remain both a traveller and an environmentalist:

1. Be prepared to travel slowly

Use as many local modes of transport as possible – taking the train emits one ninth of CO2 given off by an airplane over the same distance. In her gap year, my old babysitter vowed to never get on a plane and travelled from England to Brazil on a banana cargo ship over 4 weeks!

2. Go to green places

Locally owned businesses are often more responsible in their community than larger chain hotels. Many will even advertise with an ecotourism certification, so look out for eco-labels like ‘Nature’s Best’. The website ‘’, for example, provides lists of sustainable accommodation in Kenyan camps with a sustainability rating.

3. 'Take only photos, leave only footprints'

Your behaviour when you travel defines you as a green citizen. It is important to treat the local environment with respect – which, when you leave, should not have changed (unless for the better). That said, it is important to buy from and support local sustainable business. This bag I bought in Central America, for example, is made from plastic bags fished from the sea and offered to tourists as souvenirs.


4. Take it to the next level

If possible, don’t just respect but improve the environment. Don’t be patronising, but make an effort to be part of the community. Try volunteering as part of your trip, or incorporating community aid into your fundraising… but be careful about the company you choose – make sure you are doing real work and not just paying for a ‘gap yah’.

5. Make this a way of life

Share your ideas and learning with friends and travellers – and when you return from your travels, implement your green techniques into your day-to-day life!

If green travel interests you, I highly recommend the travel guide ‘Clean Breaks’, which gives 500 places and ways to travel which benefit both you and the world.

All photos by Noa Leach.

What are your thoughts on eco or 'green' travel? Let us know in the comments below or via social media.

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