With 13 million Brits staying close for their holiday, Sarah Rodrigues looks at how to make your staycation planet-friendly
The lead-up to summer has hardly been the most conducive to travel, so it’s small wonder that staycations are 2020’s holiday of choice. Even before coronavirus scuppered – well, most things, really – climate change consciousness was already driving a trend towards holidaying at home; now, uncertainty around flights, safety and quarantines means that more people than ever are making the most of what their own shores have to offer.
The positives hardly need to be explained: fewer people + fewer flights = fewer CO2 emissions – but even a staycation has the potential to leave a significant footprint. Research from UK car servicing company Kwik Fit, for example, indicates that 13 million British motorists will holiday by car this summer, clocking up around 10.6 million miles.
Of course, rail travel would be the greener option, but given the circumstances, it’s entirely understandable that many people are going to feel safer in the ‘bubble’ of their own vehicle. Even so, there are tweaks that can be made at every stage of the staycation process to mitigate the effects; many of them require a little bit of forethought, but compared to arriving at an airport three hours before a flight, tipping your toiletries into a clear plastic bag and remembering your passport … trust me, these are a cinch.
If you have booked a self-catering stay, try to time your arrival day to coincide with a local farmer’s market, rather than stocking up at a chain supermarket. Not only will you be supporting local growers and makers, but you’ll also be eating fresh, seasonal produce and reducing your use of packaging.
Service stations are a fact of road trip life – even electric cars need to be charged somewhere! What isn’t a given, however, are the snacks and bottles that invariably end up being purchased when you duck inside to use the bathroom. Take your own reusable bottles and a car picnic (i.e. a bag of sandwiches and snacks) instead – this is also a good way of using up food from home before you set off.
Consider staying at a YHA – many of these are beautiful old converted buildings, such as farmhouses and schools, in wild yet accessible areas. You don’t need to sleep in a dorm if you don’t fancy it either – single and family rooms are very affordable, while the communal areas are perfect for making friends. Better yet, your booking supports the YHA, enabling young people to access travel and adventure in meaningful ways.
Heading for the coast? Getting to grips with surfing can be a big ask, but don’t be seduced by the lure of the cheap polystyrene bodyboard: they break easily and are ruinous to marine life and coastlines. Either invest in a sturdier one that you intend to keep and use, or try bellyboarding.
Consider the kind of products you take with you as well. For example, sun screen should be reef-safe, cruelty-free and preferably organic.
Try to avoid going ‘holiday shopping’ or buying a whole new holiday wardrobe. Even if everything you buy is made from organic bamboo, it loses its eco-value if it’s an unnecessary purchase. As long as it’s still in good wearing / working order, the most eco-friendly item tends to be the one you already own.
Who can resist the appeal of a holiday read? Even so, filling your Amazon basket with the latest fiction means packaging and delivery, so head to your local charity store or independent bookshop for your literary fix instead.
Even if you’re staying at an action-packed resort, make the effort to get out and explore your locale – preferably on foot or bicycle. Immersing yourself in your surroundings is not only good for your mental health, but it has far reaching eco-benefits too. As American writer, farmer and environmental activist Wendell Berry puts it: ‘We know enough of our own history by now to be aware that people exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love…[and] we love what we particularly know.’
In other words, the time we spend appreciating our local landscapes is more likely to make us mindful of our actions and how they impact on it.
Whether you’re self-catering or doing all-inclusive, it can be tempting to have all meals on site – but eating out even a handful of times will help to spread the love and boost the local economy – especially in a year like this one, when many small businesses and restaurant owners will have suffered.
Don’t assume that a green stay means you have to compromise on comforts – goodness knows we could all use a little luxury this year! With this in mind, energy comparison site saveonenergy compiled a list of UK retreats that combine decadence with sustainability and, for all the ‘grammers, a chunky number of hashtags. From Oxfordshire’s Soho Farmhouse to the New Forest’s Limewood Hotel, you can have a well-deserved break, clock up the ‘likes’ and do your bit for the environment.
So where are you heading this year? Let us know on social!