By Goya Verity
With 2021 being a year of pivotal climate change victories, like the COP26 meeting, can we hope travel will become more sustainable in the new year? From packing more responsibly to learning to respect nature, our individual travel choices can seem a futile attempt to reverse climate change.
It is a subject that has grown in popularity in recent years, and the pandemic has accelerated personal commitment to sustainable travelling. We can easily channel this new devotion to protecting the planet and preserving the natural beauty, both of which are victims of our selfish holiday patterns.
So, we should start by looking at the man in the mirror. Many travellers enjoy the comfort of package holidays, which competes with low travel market costs and drives consumerism. However, these all-inclusive holiday resorts negatively impact native people and their local heritage. They deny these communities any income from tourism revenue while also relying on mass infrastructures, mass land plots and incurring a mass use of resources.
Swapping package holidays for agritourism, or even voluntourism, would diversify tourism options and minimise its harmful impacts. Making conscious accommodations choices are well within our reach, such as choosing to stay in an Airbnb. They provide more flexibility for personal travel, are not run by corporations that seek to profit from our valuable holiday time, and support locals. One could still enjoy the exotic destinations in a guilt-free way that generates and promotes sustainability and preservation of these far-fetched locations.
When we go on holiday, our purpose is likely to switch off from everyday life to enjoy a break. This is when we are more willing to use disposable plastics than we would at home out of convenience for a smooth-sailing break. The small decisions to use reusable plastics do not go unnoticed by flora and fauna slowly going extinct because of mankind’s selfish acts. Of course, it is easy for us to feel defeated, and our humble actions inadequate when trying to combat this, but our priority is to stop irreparable damage to our planet. Creating awareness seems like a small step, but it can create a giant leap in progress.
An easy solution would be to choose national staycations over international adventures to reduce our carbon footprint while also discovering our own country’s places of interest. However, the cost of offsetting the carbon footprint of our Europe or cross-continental flights would amount to the cost of a ticket price itself. If governments could consider subsidising this cost to the airline industries themselves, they would be showing more commitment to the climate crisis than they currently are. Indeed, the pandemic has curbed this effect with restrictions on international travel. Still, it is only a matter of time until we resume the same habits before the pandemic.
We see manufacturing companies taking liberties with their green promises. More prominent car companies like Jaguar Land Rover are pledging all-electric by 2025. Still, others are now lacking in ambition with a delayed deadline of 2030. Unless stricter legislation comes in, which I doubt because of more pressing issues such as COVID-19, we cannot expect to see a sizable change in theory or practice.
Like all the social issues and movements being introduced, change will only come to fruition when our generation becomes leaders and CEOs. By that point, it might be too late. Our first instant reaction should be to adopt more public transport and abide by these clichés. Any change we make is good change. However, in the grand scheme of things, it is not as much down to us personally as to governments and even potential stricter laws on pollution per capita. If we all adopted electric cars tomorrow, it would be a step in the right direction, but we need to look more at a collective and cross-industry collaboration.
Rome was not built in a day, and similarly, neither will the world be fixed overnight. But becoming a conscious consumer does not start next year; it starts now.
Image: The Summerhouse in Helston, Cornwall – Gracie Linthwaite