Low carbon travel is part of the larger sustainable tourism movement that is working to preserve the integrity of tourist destinations around the world. Carbon emissions are the leading human cause of climate change and as more people continue to travel abroad, emissions continue to increase.

A low carbon holiday is one that minimizes emissions while still providing a worthwhile escape. Travel by air has become the leading carbon emitter in the world. Airfare is more affordable than ever, and people are flying more often and over shorter distances. The carbon dioxide released by jets high in the atmosphere has a more dramatic effect on climate change than ground-level emissions.

There are several ways to reduce or neutralize the carbon level of your own travels. Numerous non-profit organizations will help you calculate the carbon footprint of your flight, or what portion of the total emissions can be attributed to you alone. This will give you an idea of the impact of your holiday. Statistics show that one transatlantic round-trip flight has a carbon effect equal to an average household’s gas and electricity usage over six months.

Here are a few tips to minimize the carbon footprint of your next journey:

  • Fly less. This is the single-most effective avenue to a low-carbon holiday. Use trains to cover long distances when this is an option as they have a much lower carbon impact than jets.
  • Consider taking a trip closer to home or break your travel up into short excursions that can be enjoyed often.
  • When you decide to fly, determine the carbon emissions of your flight with an online calculator (like the one at: www.climatecare.org) and then arrange to offset the emissions. Funds generated from carbon offsets go to projects like tree planting, climate change research and other green projects.
  • While on tour, avoid high-emission forms of transportation like taxis and rental cars. When covering long distances around town, take the bus or metro. When possible, walk or hire a bicycle.
  • Take part in activities that have a low carbon impact. Kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing are great ways to enjoy your stay without emitting carbon dioxide.
  • When visiting an island, take the ferry when available. Ferry travel fairs much better than air travel when it comes to carbon emissions.
  • Look for hotels and other companies that are striving to reduce their own carbon footprint through alternative sources of power, low-energy lighting and reusable products.

If you’re interested in learning more, the following websites have a great deal of information about low carbon travel:

  • www.greenskies.com is committed to reducing airlines’ emissions 
www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable/about_geotourism.html is a campaigner for low carbon travel
  • www.sustainableaviation.co.uk is an informational site about airplane emissions
  • www.carbonfootprint.com can calculate your carbon footprint and present you with options for decreasing its impact