What even is Sustainable Travel? (thoughts of a guilty traveller…)

Sustainable travel is not quite as straightforward of a phrase as I originally thought. When I started my blog in April 2017, the initial plan was so talk about natural living as this where my journey into a healthy life began. I’ve always been passionate about the environment and as these things are so linked it made sense to bring in posts about sustainable living too.

However, I’ve also always been super passionate about travelling (got the travel gene from my parents) and when myself and my partner Francis started on our digital nomad journey last year it naturally evolved into more of a travel blog. So the phrase ‘sustainable travel’ became used a lot more. But what does it actually mean?

I’m not so naive to know that travel in itself (particularly air travel) is quite the opposite of sustainability and will always increase a person’s carbon footprint quite dramatically. But to me there is more to this than just greenhouse gas and the atmosphere. For me, sustainable travel also includes efforts to reduce the amount of waste I create on a trip (plastic waste in particular), eating vegan food and local food where I can, making conscious decisions on where I spend my money i.e local restaurants instead of international chains and involving myself in more ethical/sustainable activities instead of big tourist attractions.

My main issue is this; if there is a flight leaving London Luton to Kerry (for example) every day at the same time, irrelevant if I’m on it or not that flight will still take off. I actually feel like driving a petrol or diesel car may be more damaging due to the environment in the long term as people just get used to the convenience of it, less people want to get public transport. If you drive from A to B, all of that fuel you’re using is down to you alone. If you cut out that trip, the carbon footprint for that trip will be reduced to 0. If you decide not to get on a flight, the carbon footprint will still be there, even if it’s someone else’s or an empty seat.

As much as I love getting cheap flights I think this is the main issue with air travel and the environment. If flights were a little more expensive, people may travel less but travel better, more consciously. A lot of people (my parents included) will buy a flight at such a cheap price. If they aren’t able to go or if they want to change their dates it would cost them a lot more money and take so much more effort to change them with the airline. So they just forget about them and book new flights, which potentially means that they are doubling their carbon footprint. If the cost of changing flights was cheaper than buying new flights this wouldn’t happen as much.

View from plane over New Zealand’s Southern Alps

I used this website to calculate my carbon footprint in 2018 and still plan to donate money to sustainability programs to offset my footprint (when I’m not so skint). It’s definitely not an excuse to just keep recklessly travelling and obviously doesn’t counteract the amount of fumes I put into the atmosphere in the first place but if more people did this each time they fly I think it would make a huge difference.

I feel a need to justify my actions to the world and my audience probably from fear of being inauthentic. But then my blog never was to show people how perfect my life is, it was always to show a journey and I love that it changes and evolves with me. The aim is not to reach the finish line but rather to enjoy the journey, try not to be so serious and stressed about life and to become a better version of myself.

So I will never be able to give up travelling. But I will be trying to make more conscious travel decisions like getting trains and buses wherever possible and only taking trips that we really want to do instead of getting reeled in with cheap flight promotions…

I’d love to know how you feel about this topic, comment below or come find me on Instagram. Thanks for reading!

Peace x

2 thoughts on “What even is Sustainable Travel? (thoughts of a guilty traveller…)

Add yours

  1. Hi Jess,

    Been following you and Francis on various social media platforms for a while now, living vicariously through my computer screen. While I do not consider myself an environmentalist, I admire your ambitions in the part that you take to try and make your interactions with the world around you better. Though as an industry insider (I work for Boeing) I believe that without innovation, travel in anyway shape or form will ever be sustainable. Travel is a trillion dollar industry, and tourism grows at annual rate of about 4%, as more and more reach the level of income where they are able to travel. There are about 24,000 aircraft currently in service worldwide and by 2040 you’re looking at almost 64,000. As I’m writing this we are delivering a brand new 787-9 to Gulf Air worth a couple hundred million dollars. As environmental welfare and sustainability have become more important to people over the last decade (and especially so in the last couple of years), travel companies around the world are trying to cash in on people’s willingness to spend lots of money in the name of environmental protection. Much of it is greenwashing or insincere and over-hyped attempts to be green.

    Anyways, sorry for the negativity. Keep up the good work and look forward to seeing more of your content

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really interesting thanks for all the info. You’re right though I think a lot of it is greenwashing. What do you think the answer is?


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