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Research Environmental Impacts of Your Holiday

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Travel Agent Operator Hotel Airline

When it comes to researching the environmental impact of your holiday the best place to start is probably at the very beginning – at the door of your travel agent. With eco-awareness so much a part of the modern tourist industry, there is a very good chance that the friendly face who booked your break for you will also be a mine of information about its green-credentials. These days, just about everyone involved in the travel business have produced their own environmental policy. Get your hands on these – from the likes of your Tour Company, airline and hotel – and you should not have too much difficulty in getting some of the answers to a number of the important questions which will allow you to begin to build a picture of your holiday’s impact.

Building the Picture

Each of the firms involved will be responsible for different potential aspects of the holiday’s overall green footprint, so you are unlikely to get all of the answers from one document – unless your tour operator is very eco-friendly and has done it all for you. Assuming they have not, then the things to look out for are the arrangements for waste, recycling, water and wastewater, evidence of support for local recycling or conservation schemes and any attempts they may make to minimise their own environmental effects. These kinds of issues can have a significant influence on environmental impact – for better or worse. It is also worth finding out what their purchasing policy is – buying local produce is not only socially more acceptable, but it also cuts down on the “food miles” and the fuel required to transport it.

One area which you should be able to research very effectively is the carbon cost of your holiday. As the focus of so much of the whole eco-travel debate, there are many resources available to help you work out your carbon emissions and calculated the offset necessary to return your net carbon balance to zero. If you opt to use a carbon offsetting scheme, they will almost certainly do the maths for you, but if not, there is no shortage of online carbon calculators, such as the one on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website. Calculating the carbon footprint of your holiday could not be much easier.

Look Around You

Some aspects of the environmental effect may not be so easy to address – at least not from home. If you take the idea of environmental impact in its widest sense, then it is not simply the particular tonnage of CO2 emitted from your plane and the like that matters. Part of your impact also lies in the over-arching effect of tourism itself, since you are, in however small a way, supporting the industry. Take a look around where you are staying and see how the tourist influence has altered the local environment. Is there litter on the shore or pollution in the sea? Has habitat been lost, perhaps to build swathes of new hotels or restaurants? Are the waterways clear – or filthy with waste? When the sun goes down, is there light and noise pollution to contend with? Is the airport being expanded to bring in more and more tourists to the place?

Ultimately it may be impossible to try to factor all of these considerations into your assessment of your holiday’s environmental impact in a meaningful way, but the fact remains that each one of us bears some responsibility for part of it – it is the consequence of tourism. That does not mean that we should stop travelling altogether, but it does make it clear that the whole issue of environmental impact is a complex one and by its very nature, it is sometimes difficult to be sure exactly where to draw the lines. In the end, all you can do is your best and having even the slightest understanding of how your holiday activities affect the global eco-system has to be a positive and beneficial step and a great starting point to begin reducing their environmental impact.

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