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Holidays: greener choices

UK residents take over 40 million holidays abroad and more than 100 million overnight stays in this country each year. Choices made about where to go, how to get there and what to do while there can either benefit or harm the environment.

Making travel choices

A quarter of the UK’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from transport. A high proportion of this relates to travel for leisure – for example, five out of six flights made from the UK are for holidays.

Choosing a destination closer to home, or taking fewer longer breaks rather than several short ones, will reduce the climate change impact of your holidays.

Travelling by air

Air travel makes a growing contribution to CO2 emissions, currently accounting for around 6 per cent of the UK total. The further you travel, particularly by air, the more you contribute to climate change.

If you have to fly, one choice is to offset the carbon emissions your trip generates by paying for projects that reduce emissions elsewhere.

Travelling by train

There is often an alternative to flying or driving, especially when you’re going away for longer. On average, travelling by rail will result in about a third of the CO2 emissions of the equivalent domestic or short-haul flight in Europe.

If you’re travelling to the ski slopes of Europe, getting the train is often as convenient as flying.

Travelling by car

If you’re driving to your destination, using efficient driving techniques can help reduce your fuel consumption, saving you money and reducing your environmental impact. You can also help by choosing a more efficient model when hiring a car on holiday.

While on holiday

Keeping the good energy and water-saving habits you have at home will help make your holiday greener:

  • switch off heating, lights and air conditioning when you’re not using your accommodation 
  • try not to waste water – some countries suffer from water shortages, and saving water can help avoid damage to natural habitats

Making the most of locally produced food and drink, and local activities and attractions, supports people in the area you are visiting. It also cuts down on the amount you travel, reducing your environmental impact. 

Endangered species abroad

Some gifts and foods available in some countries can be made from endangered plants or animals – for example, animal skins, ivory, orchids, caviar or coral.

See ‘Souvenirs and endangered species’ to find out what to avoid and help protect wildlife in the country you’re visiting.

Making a contribution to the place you're visiting

There are ways in which your holiday can help support local people and the environment:

  • some companies organise holidays that aim to minimise impacts on the environment – for example, by using low-energy accommodation or offering activities that benefit local communities 
  • there are reliable accreditation schemes for green accommodation, like the European Ecolabel and the Green Tourism Business Scheme 
  • there are many opportunities to volunteer and help with projects that conserve and improve habitats (living spaces) and nature reserves 
  • you can support projects or attractions that protect wildlife, like nature reserves and conservation projects

More useful links

  • Source Direct Gov
  • Last Updated: 06 Jan 2012