Sustainable Travel

How to have a sustainable holiday in the UK

Written by Molly Dyson

While travel abroad is more feasible this year than it has been the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are a number of factors leading UK residents to choose to stay within the nation for their holidays. This is good news for our economy, but more importantly it could be good news for the environment. If the climate crisis is playing on your mind as you plan your trip, there are lots of ways you can have a more sustainable holiday right here in the UK. With Earth Day coming up this week, we look at just a few of the things you can do to have a positive impact while enjoying your well-earned time off…

Try public transport
We know us Brits love to complain about our railways, but let’s be honest: it’s not all bad. Even diesel trains are considered to be more environmentally friendly than most other forms of motorised transport when comparing greenhouse gas emissions – though obviously advances in electric vehicles may once again put cars on the map for sustainable travel (more on that in a moment). Almost half of the UK’s rail lines are now electrified, which makes them even better for the environment. Coaches also fit into a sustainable travel remit, though this depends on how many passengers are on board – a full coach will emit fewer emissions per kilometre travelled than one with only a few passengers.

While it’s not possible to reach all of the UK’s popular holiday destinations by public transport, and tickets can sometimes be expensive, it might be worth including the locations of train or coach stops in your considerations when choosing where to go.

Go electric
If taking the train isn’t an option, why not use your holiday as an excuse to test out an electric car? The driving range of most electric cars is beginning to make them a more viable option for long-distance journeys, particularly if you plan your route ahead of time with public charge points – which are becoming more widely available at service stations – in mind. There are also affordable hybrid options on the market, and plug-in hybrids allow you to drive short distances purely on electric power while still giving you the range of a traditional petrol car – meaning you can potentially go emissions-free for excursions once you arrive at your destination. Many hotels and holiday rentals across the UK have installed charging points for guests too. And car rental companies are adding electric and hybrid options to their fleets, meaning you could rent a vehicle for the duration of your holiday or rent one at your destination to use for day trips to attractions. If that’s not an option, there are organisations that allow you to buy carbon offsets for the emissions from your car travel.

Choose sustainable suppliers
If you’re thinking of booking a guided tour or taking part in any activities like adventure sports or boat trips, check the sustainability and social responsibility credentials of the provider. For instance, do they pay a living wage? Do they limit or otherwise mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions? Do they partner with environmental protection organisations to ensure the conservation of local wildlife? This goes for your accommodation and dining options, too. Does the hotel have a sustainability policy in place that includes aspects such as energy-saving measures, renewable energy, water conservation and waste reduction? Does the restaurant source its ingredients as locally as possible? Do they use single-use plastics where there’s a reusable or recyclable alternative? These are all important questions to ask when choosing suppliers for your holiday. Most companies now disclose this information somewhere on their website, but you can also ask them about it.

Support the local economy
When visiting new places within your home country, it’s easy to fall into a similar routine as you have at home – eating at your favourite chain restaurants because you know what you’re getting, grabbing a coffee at your usual chain café, or shopping at your usual chain grocery store. While doing this does support jobs for residents of the place you’re visiting, much of the money you spend there does not stay in the local area. A better way to support the local economy is to try independent businesses, whether that be the hotel you stay at, the restaurants you visit, or even the shops where you buy souvenirs. This isn’t just a plug for the Maverick Guide – we encourage you to look beyond the recognisable franchises and step into that cute little café you spotted on your way to the beach, or buy supplies for your holiday rental at that corner shop run by a local couple, or pick up your holiday reading material from the independent bookseller in town. More importantly – particularly as the country recovers from pandemic lockdowns – be understanding; these businesses are going through a difficult time with staff shortages and supply chain issues while they’re trying to get back on their feet.

Be responsible
A sustainable holiday isn’t just about travelling to your destination. When you get there, be conscious of how your activities impact the local environment. If you’re able to, walk to the things you want to see and do rather than drive. You could even take a bicycle with you or find out how to rent one for the duration of your stay, or at the very least take public transport where available. If you go for a hike, be sure to stick to established trails and don’t litter. Bring a reusable water bottle – there are a lot of businesses that will refill it for free, though purchasing something will help the local economy. Be sure to turn off the lights, heating/air conditioning and other electrical items in your hotel room or rental when you don’t need them. Recycle whatever waste you can. Pick a sunscreen that doesn’t contain chemicals that can be harmful to local marine life. Bring a bag to pick up litter during your trips to the beach or hikes in nature. Lots of small considerations can make a big difference for the environment.

And finally… Enjoy yourself!
This article is not meant to come across as preachy or judgemental, but educational. One of the best things you can do while on holiday, whether that be abroad or here in the UK, is enjoy your surroundings. Take a moment to truly appreciate the natural beauty or the strong community vibes around you. Engage with the local culture and try something new. When you have a good time and make great memories in a place, you’re more likely to recommend it to family and friends or come back year after year, which keeps the local economy ticking over – something that’s really important following two of the hardest years in recent memory. Just remember to leave glowing reviews wherever possible!

To start planning your sustainable holiday in the South West, pick up copies of our Maverick guidebooks from our shop or check out our online directory of carefully curated places to stay, eat, shop and explore.