As the summer holidays approach, many of us will be traveling for our well-earned vacation. But how do we get there in a sustainable way? Here are some rules of thumb I’ve learned over years of studying sustainable transportation:
1) Staycation! There’s true joy in taking time to enjoy your home or nearby community as a tourist. Usually, the closer to home you vacation, the lower your environmental impact. Want a change of scenery? House swap with a friend, see if you can rent a nearby cottage, cycle through local towns, or check if there are off-season local hotel discounts.
*Business bonus: This applies to business too, invest in online meetings where possible
2) Long sunny days. If you go far for holidays, try to take longer vacations less frequently. Might as well stay a while instead of flying / driving somewhere far for a few days, several times a year, especially if your work situation allows!
*Business bonus: If you need to travel for business, consider grouping a personal vacation in there as well if possible. Might as well take advantage of the travel time and carbon emissions and enjoy the local scene work-free for a while!
3) Choose trains when possible. Trains are often a more ecofriendly and pleasant way to travel. If you keep an eye for discounts they can be cheaper too. While they can take longer, it’s a gorgeous way to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, are less hassle than flights, and people on trains are usually super nice for some reason.
Plus, you’re supporting North America’s train infrastructure, which could use more investment from consumers and government to increase service areas and travel speeds. If you don’t have time to take trains both ways, consider taking the train in one direction at least if the route makes sense.
*Bonus: In Canada, many longer distance trains in the summer have musicians who play different types of music during the journey.
4) Next is the bus. Not as luxurious as a train, but often cheaper. It can be a nice alternative to driving because you can relax and read while someone does the work. Canada’s Park Bus is popping up so people can take the bus camping instead of driving.
5) Driving. If driving, it’s much better to drive in a car with lots of people in it to make it worth the carbon emissions. In fact, depending on a myriad of scenarios, sometimes it’s even better to take the plane than drive a long distance in a car alone. Make sure to tune up your vehicle such as inflating the tires, etc. so that it’s running smoothly and burning fuel efficiently as possible.
6) Air travel. Planes are some of the biggest polluters on the planet when it comes to travel. While they are getting more efficient, overall it’s environmentally better to avoid them when you can. If you need to take planes, direct flights are better than a bunch of connecting flights and newer planes tend to be more efficient. Finally, consider buying carbon offsets from a third party verified provider for air travel.
*Business Bonus: Consider a corporate travel policy that favours more sustainable transportation (trains, etc.) and purchases high quality offsets for unavoidable long distance travel.
What are some of your tips and ideas for improving the sustainability of your holiday travel?
– Victoria Alleyne