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Top tips for sustainable tourism

We're all about making travel greener at Holiday Extras, but we know it's not always that easy. So here are some little tips which could help you make a big, sustainable difference while you're away.

In some ways, travel is unavoidably bad for the environment – we don't expect you not to fly or not to drive if they are your only options but there are plenty of things you can do before you go and while you're away to help reduce the impact of your trip.

Before you go

If you really want to make your holiday as sustainable as possible then the best thing to do is to factor it into your planning. Here are some ways to help you do that:

1. Do your research

When planning a trip you'll start with researching your destination anyway – so why not factor in sustainability at this stage?

Consider things like the travel company you're choosing and whether they have any environmental and ethical policies, and how your trip might impact the destination. Tour operators like Intrepid Travel are completely carbon neutral and are dedicated to creating journeys that are planet friendly.

The European Safari Company offers incredible wildlife holidays and a portion of the proceeds goes towards rewilding projects – combating deforestation and supporting local wildlife. Plus you don't have to fly all the way to Africa for a traditional safari, reducing your carbon impact.

If you're after that classic beach holiday vibe, Charitable Travel offers hotel stays and every booking includes a free donation to a UK-based charity of your choice, allowing you to support a cause you believe in.

2. Plan your journey to the airport

Obviously, right? But thinking about how you get to the airport could help you save on CO2 emissions.

If you don't necessarily need to drive, why not get the train instead? It's greener and pretty much guarantees you won't hit any traffic.

If you need to drive, try and fit everyone into as few vehicles as possible. Bonus points if you're using an electric car – plus if you are, and need parking, you can opt for one that provides charging as well. Look out for the electric parking symbol on our car parks.

Ecofriendly travel

3. Pack light

Just stick to a cabin bag if you can as every bit of extra weight on the plane adds to the amount of fuel needed for takeoff. You'll save money too as hold luggage often costs extra.

A handy way of saving space and reducing weight is to take shampoo and soap bars instead of bottles – plus there's the added benefit of no plastic and less faff at security. Try to avoid the temptation of buying new clothes just for your holiday. It's fun, but it's also wasteful.

While you're there

Once you're abroad there's plenty you can do to minimise the impact of your visit. A lot of it is the same as what you'd do at home – using reusable cups and shopping bags, stuff like that – but there's more you can do if you want to go the extra mile.

1. Go electric

Depending on where you go, you may be able to score an electric transfer to your resort. If you need a transfer, check if an electric option is available first before going with the standard.

Similarly, if you're planning on hiring a car why not go electric? A lot of popular destinations have the infrastructure to make using an electric car super easy, and many even encourage it – for example in Mallorca the local authorities offer free parking to those opting to drive electric cars.

Electric car hire abroad

2. Cut out single-use plastic

You're probably doing this, or trying to at least, at home already, and there's no reason you can't carry on doing so while abroad.

Bring a reusable water bottle and coffee cup for when you're out and about and install the Refill app on your phone. This nifty app shows you places nearby where you can get your bottle filled up for free, as well as shops that give you discounts or bonuses for bringing your own cup. And if you really want to go the extra mile, it even tells you of any restaurants that let you bring your own food container if you want your meal to go!

3. Eat local and organic

When you're eating out try to learn if the produce is locally sourced as this means that it hasn't travelled as far to reach your plate and you're likely supporting the local community. So try and avoid chain restaurants if you can and stick to the smaller business.

If you're being extra conscious of what you eat, try to reduce or cut out meat altogether – beef in particular has a proportionally large carbon impact (around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions!). If you're eating fish, try to ensure it's either line caught or sustainably farmed.

Another small tip is to avoid buffets as they tend to create more waste than traditional dining.

Is offsetting worth it?

This is up to you really. One of the concerns with carbon offsetting is that it doesn't prevent emissions, so in essence the damage has already been done even if you've offset it.

We think that offsetting should be a last resort and that you should try and make your trip as green and sustainable as you can first. Then, if there are some unavoidable carbon emissions as a result of your trip, such as the flight or airport transfers, you can offset those if you really want to.

If you are going to offset first you'll need to calculate your carbon footprint. Then you can decide how you want to offset it, whether by supporting reforestation projects or renewable energy production – it's really up to you.

You don't even necessarily have to offset with a donation either. For example, if you eat beef regularly you're contributing around 1,600kg of greenhouse gas emissions per year, which is roughly the same as 5 return flights to Malaga. So if you'd rather not donate to an offsetting scheme, maybe you could give up beef for a few months instead.