How to find a low carbon holiday

It’s that time of year when lots of us look forward to some sun and start planning for the holidays. As well as it being a time to treat you and your family, it can also be. time for big carbon footprints. 

There are many options, choices, places to visit, promises of eco-travel and eco holidays, but which one do you choose? It can be hard to work out which options are best. If you are thinking about making your holiday getaway more sustainable, here are some tips to help with your planning.  

There are three key areas where your choices will have the biggest impact on the environmental footprint of your holiday: 

  1. How you get there 
  1. Type of accommodation you choose 
  1. How far you go 

How you get there 

Road, rail and air are the frequently used forms of holiday transport. 

Trains are the clear winners when it comes to a lighter footprint. They emit 80% less carbon than cars, so for a 100-mile journey, a petrol car pumps out over 30kg of carbon. For a train, it’s just 4kg per person. 

Cars are the second most carbon-emitting holiday transport after air travel. But driving more efficiently can make a surprising difference. If you take it at a gentler speed of 50mph, this is 25% more efficient than 70mph! In addition, having a full car of people is much more efficient than driving alone. And the most carbon-efficient form of all is an electric car. 

Air travel is the option that has the heaviest footprint. It has higher emissions than many other forms of travel because of the substantial amounts of fuel burnt, and the vapour trails that planes leave create a type of cloud that traps heat. The emissions from one return ticket from London to New York are equivalent to that of heating a typical home in the EU for an entire year. So, planes ratchet up the footprint of your holidays and are frequently the largest component. 

How far

This one is overlooked. Distance is key. The further you travel, the heavier the footprint. So, an economy return flight to New York will emit five times more carbon emissions compared to a short-haul flight to Ibiza. 

Equally, driving to southern Europe will have a much higher impact than nipping down the motorway in the UK for a few hours. 

Where to stay 

Camping is the best option when it comes to light footprint holidays. If you choose a tent, your accommodation footprint will be 95% less if you stay the same period in a 5-star hotel. But if a tent does not appeal, self-catered apartments can have a light footprint too. 

In contrast, a luxury hotel has one of the heaviest carbon footprints per person per night due to the combination of electricity and power that enable all the luxury items to function. If you opt for a 3-star hotel instead, the footprint here is more than halved – and is around the same as a self-catered house. 

But if you are a lover of luxury holidays, there is one option that is best to avoid for the benefit of the planet, and this is cruises. Even the footprint of a 5-star hotel is dwarfed by that of a cruise holiday. This is because cruises combine transport and a hotel all in one, giving you big emissions, and on top of that, they also emit pollutants into the sea that harm wildlife.  

Plus, you generally have to fly to get to the starting point! 

Weighing up the options 

With the choice of thousands of holiday options, there is so much we can do to lighten our holiday footprint. We have mapped out the footprint for three types of holidays, each for a week, showing the differences.. 

  • Camping in Cornwall
    Travel by train from London.
    35 kilos per person. 
  • Holiday Apartment in Malaga
    Economy return flights
    548 kilos. 
  • Disney World Florida
    Economy return flights and 5-star hotel.  
    2835 kilos. (Or if you took a private jet to Malaga, the footprint would be around the same!) 

So, if you are on the hunt for a super eco holiday this year, trains rule, try camping or self-catered apartments and don’t go too far! The UK has so many beautiful spots, and the trains in much of Europe work so well!