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Choose your transportation wisely: CO2 emissions while travelling

Whether heading for a long weekend in the Tuscan hills or a ski retreat in the French Alps, the shadow of climate change prompts us to consider the environmental impact of our global adventures.

One critical aspect of this ecological puzzle is the role played by the tourism industry in fueling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In this journey, we'll unravel the complexities of the relationship between CO2 emissions and climate change and consider what can be done to reduce our carbon footprint while still savouring our vacations.

Tourism's Impact on CO2 Emissions

Recent findings from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reveal that tourism contributes approximately 5% of all energy-related CO2 emissions, with transportation being one of the primary culprits [1].

However, while significantly contributing to the global carbon footprint, the tourism industry also contributes to growing local economies. For example, according to the International Monetary Fund, this contradiction is notable in destinations like the Caribbean.

In this tropical paradise, tourism constitutes 90% of GDP and 80% of energy-related CO2 emissions [2]

As our wanderlust fuels the need for more travel, the toll of transportation, accommodations, and associated activities becomes increasingly apparent on our planet. But there are many things we can be do to decrease our carbon footprint while still enjoying a well-deserved holiday.

Transportation is not all the same

When planning your next trip, it is important consider the transport methods you will take. Are you reaching your destination by plane or enjoying a cruise to a tropical island? And what will happen while on-site? Are you renting a car, cycling or taking public transport? Not all these ways to travel are the same, not only in terms of comfort but also when considering their impact on the environment.

On average, planes and cars generate the most CO2 per passenger mile, with tour buses, ferries, and trains coming well behind [3]. For example, a one-way flight from London to New York would take an acre of forest a year to absorb the same amount of CO2 emissions.

Fortunately, there are many things that you can do. First, you can find the most sustainable transport, when possible. We’re not talking about avoiding cars and planes altogether, but maybe looking for different ways to reach your final destination or finding ways to choose more eco-friendly flights. 

Sustainable flying involves several tricks to minimise environmental impact, whether on short or long-haul flights. Firstly, consider opting for non-stop flights whenever possible, as takeoffs and landings contribute significantly to emissions. Packing light saves money on baggage fees and reduces the aircraft's fuel consumption. When booking, choose airlines with newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft, and consider carbon offsetting options to compensate for your flight's emissions.

Tackling the issue: a call to action

Reducing CO2 emissions in travel involves efforts from travellers, travel providers, and governments. Essential steps include using renewable energy, being more energy-efficient, and rethinking our consumption and travelling habits. It's crucial to know that cutting carbon emissions goes beyond just this industry.

Governments play a significant role by introducing legislation and initiatives that encourage cleaner alternatives across different sectors. At the same time, individuals can support eco-friendly travel projects that help reduce emissions when exploring new places.

One example? A number of European cities have made public transport free to encourage citizens and tourists to avoid using cars, rental services, and taxis. In the Alps region, for instance, many villages and cities participated in a project to reduce polluting transportation, and encouraged the use of more sustainable methods of transport, thanks to a network of electric vehicles and bikes[4].

In Luxembourg, all public transport (buses, trains, and trams) became free to use in 2020, making it the first city in the world to adopt this approach [5].

Our Tip: Always favour public transport when possible to reduce emissions. Also, it can be a good way to save money for other fun activities!

Packing light is another way to cut CO2 emissions while travelling and thus reduce our impact on climate change. The heavier your luggage, the more fuel it takes to transport it by plane, bus, car, or train. Remove unnecessary items and put your toiletries into small, reusable containers.

Our tip: Bring clothing we can wear multiple times that is easy to wash while on the go and rent everything else on-site.

Technology and innovation also stand as powerful allies in the fight against climate change within the tourism industry. Advances in eco-friendly transportation, such as electric vehicles and sustainable aviation fuels, play a pivotal role in reducing the carbon footprint of travel.

Of course, there are some destinations we cannot reach by train or with more eco-friendly transportation. In these cases, we can still do much to adopt a sustainable travel approach. For example, we could consider applying to a CO2 compensation plan - that’s why we are collaborating with CHOOOSE, to offset CO2 emissions from flights and accommodations by donating a small amount to climate-protecting initiatives. These projects enable people to take action and compensate for emissions supporting sustainable projects worldwide.

Our tip: It’s easy to calculate our emissions to offset our travel CO2 footprint before or after your holiday.

At lastminute.com, we recognise the urgent need to address CO2 emissions globally, building an action plan to reduce our emissions and setting a clear and measurable target to monitor our progress towards a more sustainable coexistence with our planet.

As travellers, we play a pivotal role in shaping a sustainable future: we advocate for conscientious travel practices and champion policies that steer the tourism sector toward a greener path.

CHOOOSE is a platform that helps us better understand the impact of our daily actions and take action to offset the emissions made by our travels worldwide. Thanks to this collaboration, lastminute.com are ready to drive a movement among travellers, helping us all become more conscious of our carbon footprint.

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