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Flying in (green) style

Issy Turnill discusses how to travel around the world in a more environmentally friendly way.

By Issy Turnill 2nd year Anthropology

Issy Turnill discusses how to travel around the world in a more environmentally friendly way.

With the recent United Nations report warning us that carbon dioxide emissions must reach ‘net zero’ by 2050 in order to prevent global warming rising above 1.5C, it’s time we start seriously considering the environmental impact of our spontaneous summer getaways. Now, I’m not saying we need to eliminate the iconic ‘gap yah’ tradition or never book a holiday abroad again, but it is important that we think about how to travel in the most environmentally friendly way possible. With such dire prospects for the future of our planet, it’s hard to avoid the reality that flying to the other side of the world for a fun few months, may not be the most beneficial activity for the climate. I’m just as guilty with plans to study abroad in Australia next year and although this report has not made me cancel my trip, it has definitely been a good reminder to explore how to make my trip as environmentally friendly as I can.

In terms of travel, there are a number of things that can be done to make sure you’re environmentally conscious. Aviation is an ever-growing contributor to carbon emissions, with greenhouse gas emissions from flying increasing by 87% between 1990 and 2006 in the EU, therefore the most obvious way to be environmentally friendly would be to look into other methods of travel. For a European holiday it is definitely worth exploring the option of taking the train and using a company such as Interrail, means it can still be an easy efficient form of travel while emitting far less carbon dioxide than flying. I’ve also found trains can be a good opportunity to see some more of the country you’re visiting on the way, for example travelling by train from Berlin to Vienna is a great chance to see some beautiful areas of the Czech Republic. If you’re travelling with family or a group of friends, a road trip is another more environmentally friendly means of travel that can be a really fun way to freely travel around a country and see many different places on your trip.

Flickr / Michel_Rathwell

When travelling further such as to another continent, a plane is clearly the most sensible option, however there are still ways to limit the environmental effects of flying. Whilst packing light and taking the minimum number of flights possible are very useful actions, the most beneficial way to reduce the impact flying has on the climate, would be to offset the carbon emissions from your flight. This is done by contributing to a project that funds the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in order to offset the emissions you are responsible for from your flight. Research and fly with airlines that offer a carbon offset programme such as British Airways and Qantas, as this makes it so simple for you to do so and if otherwise is a handy website enabling you to calculate and offset your carbon emissions from flights, car journeys and even energy usage. The cost to offset the carbon emissions from a flight from London to Dubai is only £6.00, which is a very reasonable price to pay, yet one which will make a huge difference in limiting the effects of climate change if every flyer adopts this strategy.

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Your means of transport is not the only factor that should be taken into consideration when travelling in an environmentally friendly way. It would be great for more people to look into ecotourism and favour resorts that are environmentally sustainable. The UK uses the Green Tourism Business Scheme to identify trustworthy businesses that promote sustainable tourism, and finding the equivalent to this wherever you’re going is a really useful way to ensure you’re supporting businesses that consider their impact on the environment.

It is great that in the 21st century travel has become so accessible and popular, however it is our job to take responsibility for the effect our travel will have on the environment and hopefully this recent climate change report highlights the urgency that is required for us to protect our planet and will encourage people to make a continuously conscious effort to limit our impact as much as possible, especially when travelling.

Featured image: Flickr / Nicolas Raymond

Do you have any tips on eco-friendly travel? Let us know!

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