Clean conscience: sustainable travel in the age of the climate crisis

With the world's future uncertain, we all need to turn to sustainable travel. Ways that you can minimise your carbon footprint and still discover the world.

There’s no denying it. In the last couple of years, most of us have started to wake up and realise that climate change isn’t some vague, far-off concept.

We’re in a climate crisis. It’s happening now, and we need to take radical action within the next decade in order to prevent irrevocable damage.

You’re sure to have seen all the protests in the news recently, but you’re probably wondering whether anything you can do will actually make a difference. The good news is, it can.Thinking about sustainable travel is just one way in which you can reduce your impact on the earth, but it could be a hugely significant one.

Travel and sustainability: how can travel contribute to global warming?

Travel can contribute to climate change in all kinds of ways, but the biggest issue is usually how get people get to their holiday destinations.

These days, plane travel is largely affordable and reliable. If anyone who lives in the UK is going any further than Ireland or Paris, then hopping on a plane is normally the easiest, quickest and cheapest way of getting there.

But plane travel has been recognised as being a massive contributor to climate change. The air travel industry is growing exponentially, with prices falling and new routes continually opening up, meaning that it’s contributing to climate change more and more, just at the time when we need to be taking drastic action to slash our carbon footprints.

Moving towards sustainable travel

If you love travelling and discovering our beautiful planet, then I’m sure the idea of giving up exploring is one that’s hard for you to face.

The good news is that there are plenty of things that you can do to reduce the negative impact you’re having on the planet when you travel whilst still discovering pastures new.

If you’re serious about green travel, then take the train

When flying is so easy and eco-conscious travel is much more time consuming, it can be hard to resist booking that flight. The key is to look at eco-friendly travel as an adventure in itself, rather than your sustainable holiday only starting when you get to your final destination.

All it takes is for you to hop on a ferry as a foot passenger, which is generally much better for the sustainable traveller than taking your car with you. Depending on where you are in the UK, you can hop on ferries to the Netherlands, France or even the north coast of Spain.

Or, for even more eco-friendly points, book a seat on the Eurostar, and head for the European mainland. Once you’re there, get yourself on a train, and the world is your oyster.

You can explore the Netherlands, Belgium, France, or even head down to magical Italy or Barcelona. Head up north to Scandinavia or go on the ultimate adventure and spend a few days making your way down to Constantinople, following the route of the legendary Oriental Express.

Look at eco-friendly travel as an excuse to add a couple of extra stops to your holiday and stop off in Paris or anywhere en route that takes your fancy.

Make your sustainable trip about the journey, rather than about the final destination. With a little prior planning, you’ll be amazed how far you can get in such a short time, for surprisingly little money.

Who knows, you might soon be planning sustainable travel that will take you even further afield. Ever heard of the Tran Siberian railway?

If you do have to fly, think green air travel

To be honest, no air travel can really be said to be green, but direct flights are better for the environment that ones with stopovers, so if you’re only flying short haul then it’s best to fly direct, even if it is a little more expensive.

On top of that, buying carbon offsets goes some way to making up for your emissions, as your money gets invested back into projects that help combat climate change, like planting trees.

How to travel more sustainably: other things you can do

If you want to know how to travel sustainably and go on eco-friendly trips, then there’s plenty you can do to make a difference besides your mode of transport.

Look for hotels that are committed to minimising the waste of water and energy, and don’t go crazy on eating animal products just because you’re on holiday.

The meat and dairy industries are a huge contributor to climate change, so whilst no one’s going to deny you a taste of classic local dishes or an ice-cream or two, it’s important to consume animal products consciously if you’re serious about sustainable travel.

Last but not least, think carefully about the things you do whilst you’re at your final destination and remember that green travel may require compromise, but that doesn’t have to mean you have any less fun.

Consider whether you really need a rental car on your trip, and prioritise activities that involve walking or cycling, or harnessing the power of the wind or waves. Go sailing, surfing or kiteboarding.

If you put your mind to it, you’ll soon find that sustainable travel can be incredibly rewarding and not at all limiting, allowing you to unlock the world without a guilty conscience.