Camping aside, vacationing used to be viewed as eco hooliganism by the green movement. But as the standards of eco tourism grow and our own sustainable infrastructure stagnates, it will soon be easier to be green abroad than at home. A holiday could be a chance to claw back credit from Mother Earth. To paraphrase the International Union for Conservation of Nature, eco tourism promotes conservation, has a low visitor impact and benefits people in the host country.
Parts of the travel industry are improving. If the eco-friendly extent of a resort is just a “save water by not washing your towel” notice, you can do better. Bookdifferent.com gives you the carbon footprint for a night’s stay. Also look out for an EarthCheck rating (formerly known as the Green Globe) which measures a hotel’s greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and eco-system conservation.
TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders programme (based on standards developed by the US Green Building Council’s Leed Certification Program and the UN Environment Programme) is useful, too. Although there are some impressive eco-focused luxury resorts, such as the Brando and Banyan Tree, this programme also covers budget accommodation.
Flying around the globe does result in a massive carbon footprint, and all flights result in carbon emissions, though not all flights are equally bad. I’ve written before how carbon offsetting should sometimes be given a chance. Not many of us can spend time weighing up the emissions burden of a journey with transfers versus a direct flight or are able to factor in the impact of more efficient aircraft. So sunhats off to Glooby, a holiday search engine that offers you a greener flight alongside the best price and journey.
The big picture: beach gleaners
When photographer Mark King began documenting UK beach cleans for his enviro-surf magazine The Point, he was cheered by the dedication and enthusiasm of “gleaners”, who spend their days off and weekends picking up fragments of plastic rubbish. But this is just scratching the surface. “These are the people who attend organised beach cleans that I’ve photographed,” he says, “but there are also surfers, locals and visitors who collect rubbish each time they visit, but don’t tell anybody or tweet or Facebook their efforts.”
Well dressed: Eileen Fisher undyed cashmere collection
I’m often asked if cashmere can ever be cheap. The answer is no. Sorry. It’s a luxury fibre because it’s made of the downy coat under the neck and belly “guard hair” of goats traditionally herded in Outer Mongolia. That is never going to be straightforward. Increase a herd to unsustainable levels and you begin to sacrifice the ecology of an area. So only buy from a trustworthy brand that has sustainability at its core. Eileen Fisher fits the bill. The brand is up front about its sourcing – this undyed cashmere does come from outer Mongolia – and has goals that include a commitment to human rights, forest conservation and a reduction in carbon emissions, water use and fabric waste. Eileen Fisher uses recycled fibres, chlorine-free wool, organic cotton, sheer hemp and bluesign-certified silk in its unfussy and confident collections.
Email Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @lucysiegle