Planes, Trains and Automobiles
It's almost second nature to climb aboard a plane and head off to the sun each summer. But it is now certain that the pollution belched out by the thousands of planes that criss-cross our skies is damaging the environment.
Aircraft in particular, are bad, since they give out carbon dioxide and other pollutants high in the sky where they are most damaging to the planet's atmosphere. The pollution from planes is rising so fast that in a few decades it will be one of the largest contributors to global warming. So what can we do about it? Is there a way to travel, to still enjoy our holidays or get away on business, yet not destroy the planet?
Flights of Fancy
Encouraged by the rise of the low-cost airlines, more of us each year are jumping on a jet and flying off on trips which we might never have made a few years back. Yet there are ways to minimise the damage we do to the environment, and still get about.
Of course sometimes it’s difficult to avoid flying if you are being sent away by work on a business trip, say. But there are often alternatives. Firstly, how about suggesting to your boss that you video conference rather than take a long distance flight to a meeting?
If you must fly, it turns out that short haul flights are worse for the environment per mile travelled since they are less fuel efficient. And once you’ve booked your flight, you could help offset those carbon emissions by paying charities involved in projects to install renewable energy sources in the developing world.
Take the Slow Boat
If you are flexible and want an adventure, why not make the journey to your destination all part of the holiday? If you are travelling in Europe, you could easily book a train or ferry rather than a plane, and take a slower but more exciting route. You’ll be impressed at how the family will enjoy experiencing a country rather than just glimpsing it from a plane’s window. At the same time it is possible to reduce your carbon emissions by up to 90%.
So why not become part of the new trend for slow travel and see the world in a new light. There are a growing number of websites where you can book train tickets and get advice or inspiration: visit The Man in Seat-61, Die Bahn, or even find out how to travel the world on a freighter ship at Freighterman.
As well as changing the way we travel, we should also reconsider the kinds of destinations we chose if we want to help protect the planet from global warming. As well as the growth in slow travel, many environmental groups suggest that where possible we spend our holidays closer to home, travelling to the more interesting parts of Britain or northern Europe, say, rather than jumping on a plane to Florida.
If you think creatively it is possible to have a far greener holiday that will leave both you and the environment better off. It’s hard to get much greener than a cycling holiday spent touring Cornwall or the Cotswolds, for example. Visit the English Riviera rather than travelling thousands of miles to the Med. And walking tours in stunning locations such Massif Central in France, or through the highlands of Scotland will keep you fit and if you travel by train, you will release relatively little carbon to get there.
Other tips for cutting carbon include using public transport rather than car hire, or where you can’t avoid driving, think about car sharing via Bugride or UK-based Liftshare.
For a more relaxing but low carbon holiday you might also try a cruise or a sailing holiday.