Saturday, December 1, 2007

Carbon emissions. World's best responsible & ecotourism holidays

Carbon emissions. World's best responsible & ecotourism holidays

The current media focus on environmental issues, while very welcome and long overdue, has led to a lot of bad press for flying. Some might argue that this is a good thing, but it has left the general public with a somewhat skewed view of the impact of flying and many now feel guilty about taking a holiday that involves a flight.

According to a straw poll, some tourists think that air travel accounts for around 30% of total emissions whereas in fact it accounts for nearer 5% of total emissions and our homes account for the lion's share with 25% of emissions.

While fully acknowledging the impact of flying on global warming, we believe that it should not be the scapegoat for the world's global warming crisis and have therefore decided to investigate ways in which travellers might be able to ‘afford’ their flight with CO2 savings.

Typical household emissions per person per year are calculated to be around 11 tonnes, yet a return flight from London to Barcelona will only emit approximately 0.26 tonnes per person. If travellers want to ‘afford’ a flight in reduced CO2 emissions, they could begin to think about eliminating some of the 11 tonnes of household emissions. We have researched different ways of cutting down carbon emissions and have found a few simple actions that would allow the traveller to ‘afford’ the CO2 emissions of a given flight – and the same amount again.

This is an example of what can be achieved at home; however, travellers can also reduce the carbon emissions of their holidays while they are away. In fact, by selecting a particular type of holiday, the traveller could actually be making a positive impact rather than a 'neutral' one.

We discovered that a holiday to Peru* which includes stove building in the community (improving combustion, reducing smoke, fumes, heat loss and timber consumption) can cover the carbon emissions from the flight with nearly 2 tonnes to spare. About 65% of the cost of this holiday (excluding flights) is spent in the local economy; this reduces reliance on natural resources and provides the local population with a viable alternative to what might be deemed less sustainable activities.

Taking it to another level, this supports the argument that stopping travelling altogether will have a detrimental effect on both local economic development and conservation thereby holding back carbon reduction initiatives in destinations which need local communities to be educated about their environments, and to be able to afford to invest in low carbon technologies.

Justin Francis, Co-founder of, witnessed first-hand the investment in renewable energy sources as a result of tourism: “In Kenya I visited a Maasai village with solar panels which reduced their dependence on wood and helped address severe deforestation in the area. They had been inspired by the technology in a lodge on their land – from which they earn sufficient income to be able to afford the panels.”

UK tourists currently spend around £2bn a year in developing countries, a figure which comes very close to DFID’s development budget. Admittedly, not all of this trickles down to local people, but as responsible tourism increases, a good proportion does.

According to Justin Francis: “Air travel contributes to global warming but if we all stopped booking flying and booking responsible holidays then we will also contribute to global warming as both local economic development and conservation would be negatively impacted.”

If travellers follow the suggested or similar household carbon reduction measures, they will be able to book a responsible holiday safe in the knowledge that they will be emitting less carbon than before, and that they will also be supporting local conservation and development – which in turn can help local communities to reduce their own carbon emissions. Moreover, people returning from this type of holiday are more likely to return home with different values regarding the environment, resource preservation, and economic wealth, which could lead to more sustainable behaviour in their daily life, potentially for the rest of their life.

*Further calculations available from


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