2nd August 2023 – How to have a green holiday

School’s out, and it’s holiday time! Even though we live in an amazing place, we all like a change from the norm and to spend time with loved ones. However holidays can be a big carbon drain and over-tourism can also cause problems, as many of our coastal villages can confirm.

So how do we go green on holiday? 

Firstly, stop flying. Flying has a big carbon cost; even a flight to Italy will contribute more CO2 to the atmosphere than a resident of Somali uses in a year. Flying to America will expend three times as much again. Committing to no flying will make a big difference to your carbon footprint. 

This year we have seen the undeniable effects of climate heating, with forest fires and unbearably hot temperatures. A few weeks ago the ground temperature in Madrid hit 60C (I refused to believe this until my son showed me a satellite image). Holidays taken for the sun become less appealing when the reality is being trapped in an air-conditioned room, unable to go outside because of intense heat and forest fires. By flying we continue to contribute to global heating; it is important to acknowledge this.

There are many beautiful places in the UK, most of which I have never been to (mainly because we love holidaying in Cornwall so much). Why not look at where you can reach by train rather than plane? This year we are taking our family holiday in Sheffield, which may not be a traditional holiday destination, but it is well positioned for the attractions of the Peak District. Hiring bikes, staying on a canal boat, doing a long distance walk, buying a rail pass; there are many options for explorer holidays on our doorstep. And if you like all-inclusive, then why not go retro and enjoy a holiday-park experience like our grandparents did in the 50s. They can be really good fun. If you feel you may be stuck once arriving at a destination by train, then there is usually the option of renting a car from most mainline stations.

If you wish to go further afield, then an inter-rail pass can offer freedom, and can save the hassle of working out how to buy tickets in each individual country. The Man in Seat 61 – www.seat61.com – is our go-to website for information. If you prefer to have all your tickets and accommodation sorted in advance, then some travel agents, such as Rail Bookers – www.railbookers.co.uk – specialise in all inclusive packages. It will work out more expensive than doing it independently, but we have found in the past they are able to source tickets on trains that otherwise appear to be sold out; useful when travelling at peak periods. 

Another easy way to have a foreign holiday without flying is to catch a ferry from Penzance to the Scilly Isles (wonderful, but plan well in advance), or go from Plymouth to Roscoff or Santander, both lovely places with rail and bus links to other destinations. 

Choosing the right accommodation is also key to a green holiday. I completely get why self-catering cottages have become so popular; hotels are often too expensive, especially when you have a family, and even B&Bs now charge hotel prices. However, as we in Cornwall know first-hand, often these cottages have priced local people out of their communities and led to a loss of housing for those who need it. For a self-catering holiday camping is usually the lowest impact option, followed by purpose built lodges, hostels, barn conversions and caravans. 

Being in the tourism industry ourselves (our business is Railholiday; we restore railway carriages for holiday accommodation) we know of many quirky, eco-friendly places to stay; try Quirky Accommodation – www.quirky.com for inspiration. The best will fill quickly, so look now for next summer.  

Because we were determined to follow our ethics when booking our holiday I have to admit we struggled at first to find somewhere affordable in Sheffield. We need three bedrooms, which becomes painfully expensive in B&Bs. We didn’t want to camp, as we wanted to be able to travel light, and have a city base. In the end we hit the jackpot in finding student accommodation. It was a win-win moment; our rooms are used by students in term time, and rented for holidays in the summer. For a website specialising in empty student accommodation, try University Rooms – www.university rooms.com.

When holidaying in the UK assume you will get wet. Invest in a decent raincoat (you can usually pick up something good from a charity shop) and enjoy whatever the elements bring. Outdoor swimming is great fun when the rain is pounding down. Learn some card games, buy a jigsaw, make the weather part of the adventure. Don’t forget to pack some suncream though, just in case. And whatever you do, I hope you have a great time. 

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