How to be an Eco Traveller

Eco Travelling

Travelling can be a tricky business if you have an eco conscience. From flying to staying in luxury hotels, our choices can mean battering the local and global environment.

But enjoying travel needn't be guilt-inducing, and ecotourism needn't be a drag. See Essential Travel Magazine's top ten tips on how to be an eco traveller and learn how to make ethical, responsible (and exciting) travel choices that will leave you feeling innocently green.

  • Do

    1. RESEARCH your options and book with a responsible travel agent. Try booking through a well-regarded company such as Responsible Travel who organise ethical global trips. Or see The International Eco Tourism Society - an organisation that can point you in the direction of green travel solutions.
    2. DITCH THE PLANE TICKETS. Planes are the least eco-friendly way to travel and there are plenty of alternatives. Train, bike, foot, ship... losing the plane tickets will make a difference. See The Man In Seat 61 for excellent advice on how to reach your destination by train. For an added quirk, try arriving by cargo ship. Freighters travel all over the world and, while carrying cargo, most offer passenger space (cabins and a restaurant). See Frieghterman for advice, or an agent such as Strand Travel.
    3. OFFSET CARBON. A round trip to Sydney emits a whopping 5.62 tons of C02 into the atmosphere. Offsetting this with a company like Climate Care or The Offset Carbon Company costs around £8 per ton. The money is used to fund projects that help reduce emissions and develop low carbon sustainability. You could also try taking direct (rather than stop over) flights as most CO2 is emitted during take off and landing.
    4. VOLUNTEER. Even if you don't fancy WWOOF-ing (see 'don't' tip 2), you can still help the eco cause. Try animal conservation work, volunteer your time to a rescue centre, join a rainforest conservation project or help locals to create a sustainable environment. Projects Abroad, Go Eco and Real Gap are good places to start.
    5. BE PICKY ABOUT ACCOMMODATION. There's been a boom in green accommodation in recent years leaving the eco-conscience spoilt for choice. Be careful about what you opt for, however, as not every hotel boasting green credentials is as innocent as it seems. Our pick in the UK is Trelowarren in Cornwall: a group of eco cottages with rainwater harvesting systems, CO2 neutral emissions and even organic paint. Further afield, try Belize Jungle Lodge where solar power provides off the grid electricity, and organic food is sourced locally.
    6. CONSIDER THE LITTLE THINGS. Every effort makes a difference when it comes to the environment, so stop and think about the little things. Opt not to have your room serviced to save on water (washing towels and sheets) and electricity. If there's no recycling, take redundant packaging home and recycle. Consider the locals and treat your surroundings with respect. Lastly, think about your food choices on holiday... for example, endangered fish is a no no!
    7. HEAD TO THE HILLS. Ecotourism doesn't have to mean staying in a mud hut in the middle of a forest. Urban, city breaks can also be green. Start by heading to one of the greenest cities in the world such as Copenhagen, Vancouver or Freiburg in Germany. Stay in eco-accommodation and travel by foot and local transport instead of taxi.
    8. GO SHOPPING. Forget the duty free and shop local. Buy local produce from markets (saves on unnecessary packaging and supports local farms) and buy handcraft souvenirs to support trade. Just be wary about what you're buying: indulging in an ivory knick knack or alligator skin bag could defeat the point.
  • Don't

    1. JET OFF. The staycation is on the increase this year (an increase of more than one million holidays were taken in England this year) and with good reason. As well as being cheaper, it can be eye-opening to discover what's on your doorstep. The Rail Rover offers travellers a jump on, jump off pass to most national rail lines, or try websites such as Visit Britain for inspiration.
    2. SLACK OFF. Get involved in making the world a more organic place by joining the World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF). Once a member, you'll have access to the contact details of more than 400 organic farms in the UK who offer accommodation and food in return for a few hours free labour a day. You can also WWOOF across the world, with branches of the organisation in Italy, Portugal, France and beyond.
    3. HEAD TO THE HILLS. Ecotourism doesn't have to mean staying in a mud hut in the middle of a forest. Urban, city breaks can also be green. Start by heading to one of the greenest cities in the world such as Copenhagen, Vancouver or Freiburg in Germany. Stay in eco-accommodation and travel by foot and local transport instead of taxi.

Last Updated: October 2009