Sustainable travel during the pandemic


As lockdown is gradually lifted and we all begin to venture outside of our personal bubble, it can be easy to overlook the environmental impact of our travel. The excitement of using transport and eating out in restaurants and cafes again – many of which are only using disposable plastic plates and cutlery – may cause us to be more thoughtless than we would have been at home. Nevertheless there are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to be kinder to the planet, whilst upholding essential safety precautions. 

  1. Take public transport

It is still important to think about your mode of transport. Taking the train instead of flying or driving now may seem like a more desirable option; although it often takes longer and costs more to travel by train, it is far easier to socially distance and the carbon footprint is lower. For instance, a flight from Paris to Barcelona creates an estimated 238kg of carbon dioxide emissions, whilst the equivalent train journey emits just 11kg per person. If you have to fly, however, there are options to make it better for the environment, for example opting for a non-stop flight. Additionally, websites like sky scanner offer an eco-friendly option which can be selected when you are booking your flight.

Alternatively you can carbon offset, which measures your carbon from one activity, and removes or prevents it from another. Airlines including JetBlue have adopted offset programs to reduce their impact, and there are lots of ways you can do this online. However it is debated whether this is a really an effective strategy, with many environmental activists arguing that offsets are merely performative and do not actually meaningfully reduce our impact on the environment. 

  1. E-tickets

On buses and trains and wherever possible, use e-tickets for transport. They are becoming more and more widespread with public transport firms, and save a great deal on paper and card waste.

  1. Bring reusable face masks and tableware

Face masks have now become an essential in our daily lives. It is cheaper and more sustainable to invest in a washable one that can be worn multiple times, rather than one that has to be thrown away after a single use.

Similarly, bringing reusable Tupperware and cutlery out and and about with you means you can avoid using the disposal option provided by many cafes and restaurants, and cut down on single use plastic.

  1. Pack light

If you are travelling by car, make sure your car isn’t full of stuff before you go somewhere on a long journey and ensure that your tyres are in good condition, so that your car isn’t unnecessarily using excess fuel. 

If you are flying, use a carry on bag or backpack if possible. Not only will this use less fuel, but it will be easier to carry when you reach your destination and it encourages you not to buy unnecessary purchases. 

  1. Buy smart 

On holiday it can be easy to get carried away with shopping. However, be mindful of what you are purchasing and ask yourself: ‘Would I be buying this if I was at home? Is it an impulse buy? Will you use this in the next year?’ Make sure that you aren’t picking something up that is useless tat and will ultimately end up in the bin when you return home. 

  1. Take reusable bottles 

Always have your own water bottle with you, but make sure wherever you are travelling that the tap water is safe. Alternatively you could buy a large bottle of water to keep you going so that ultimately you are using less plastic. 

  1. Consider Staycations 

Many of us forget that the country we live in is a top holiday destination itself, and you don’t need to travel abroad to experience glorious countryside and beaches. From Durham, you can easily do day trips to seaside towns such as Seaham and Whitby, and the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District are also within reach. Many National Trust and English Heritage sites are now allowing entry to visitors who prebook. For those wishing to have a day out whilst testing their eyesight, Barnard Castle is a historic market town that is only a “30 minute” drive away.

Tintern Abbey, Wales (Image author’s own)
  1. Eat Local

If you are going to a new place, try to support the local businesses there and get to know the local community. Eat at local restaurants, shop at local independent shops, and don’t just visit the usual high street chains that you have back at home. Not only is this more sustainable, but it also helps to support small businesses that may have been severely affected by Covid. 

Similarly, eat and food shop at markets. This saves money and is often the best and freshest produce. It is also a great opportunity to learn about the local culture and cuisine. 

Image author’s own
  1. Eco Accommodation 

Another thing to consider is your accommodation. Air BnB is a far more environmentally friendly option than hotels, which typically create a lot of waste. Alternatively you could try and find an eco-friendly hotel which has sustainable policies. For example, there are many eco-lodges in the north of England and Scotland that are built and managed using eco-sensitive practices.

  1. Clean up

Consider picking up plastic that you see lying about and putting it in the bin and take part in a beach clean if you are visiting a beach. If you are going for a walk somewhere, consider taking a rubbish bag with you to pick up any litter you see. 

Image: scribbletaylor via Creative Commons

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