With concerns rising over climate change and the effect our lives are having on the planet, travelling sustainably is now front and centre the most important for travellers. But how can you be environmentally friendly and enjoy far-flung places without leaving behind a devastating carbon footprint?
One exciting but still hugely untapped and problematic trend is for airlines to adopt sustainable aviation fuel. However, travellers will be buoyed by news that a move away from fossil fuel is starting, albeit slowly. In late 2023, the first transatlantic flight was powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 powered by 50 tonnes of alternative fuel from crops and cooking oils landed at New York’s JFK Airport on a one-off demonstration flight aided by government money.
SAF emissions can be 70% lower than conventional jet fuel – meaning that as more carriers take up the alternative fuel option, travellers can fly more knowing that they aren’t adding to the climate’s woes.
American Airlines recently partnered with Graphyte, a carbon removal startup, to purchase 10,000 tons of permanent carbon removal in early 2025. Graphyte’s carbon casting process enables readily available biomass, processing and monitoring to make carbon dioxide removal quantifiable and permanent.
Barclay Rogers, CEO of Graphyte, said: “It demonstrates the growing demand for affordable and scalable high-quality carbon removal credits.” American Airlines is aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, and this is one of the solutions to reduce its carbon footprint.
Aside from the headline makers, some eco-friendly airlines include Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, KLM, Jetblue, and Cathay Pacific.
For the eco-conscious traveller, the thought of fossil fuel-powered cars and taxis should be off their radar. Travellers should consider biking, public transport, or walking to get around their localities. Using trains and car sharing with groups of trusted travellers would help minimize carbon emissions.
Travellers are more informed about their choices than ever before, and that’s why one of the biggest trends for 2024 will be slow travel. There is a whole culture around slow travel, with travellers looking to immerse themselves in localities, cultures, and food. There are numerous options to consider, from volunteering to enjoying immersive culinary tours.
A whole swathe of travellers are making conscious decisions to only travel to and stay in sustainable-friendly destinations. Staying aware about the latest innovations from tourism hubs is an excellent opportunity to go and help minimize world emissions. Places such as Iceland, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Galapagos Islands are recognized for their conservation efforts.
While the journey to, and the enjoyment of, destinations are important for a traveller, many are refocusing their thoughts on where they physically stay. Eco-friendly hotels or accommodations that adopt green initiatives, from energy efficiency to sourcing food locally are all on travellers’ radars.
Turkey is one of the few countries adopting a complete sustainable tourism programme developed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). More than 7,500 hotels have already been certified, having successfully met 14 criteria in the first phase. They are required to complete 28 criteria to reach stage two and 42 criteria for full certification.
The project is a three-year plan to restructure the country’s tourism industry and aims to ensure all hotels obtain a Sustainable Tourism Certificate by 2030.
In a separate move, several hotels in Turkey have received an “orange flag” for the recycling-oriented, environmentally and nature-friendly practices in combating excessive food waste. The orange flag is a comprehensive system that directly contributes to the efforts to prevent food waste and protects food, raises awareness in society, and generates radical solutions to the problem of food waste.
Travellers should also look out for resorts with certifications such as Green Globe and LEED, demonstrating that they have adopted sustainable policies.
Measuring Your Carbon Emissions
Inevitably, savvy travellers are more than tied to their mobiles and associated devices when they go on holiday. This isn’t a bad thing; in this case, they can utilize technology to make sustainable choices.
New apps and tools allow people to measure their carbon footprint and understand how to offset their emissions. Travel apps, such as Packpoint, offer activities and destinations to help people plan responsibly.
The sustainable travel trend is not going away, and 2024 will probably be the year it will have its biggest impact as travellers try to adopt methods and ways to decarbonize their journeys. Going green is now part and parcel of the holiday experience.
Andy Probert is an experienced freelance business travel journalist and PR specialist.