Christmas – done. New Year – done. New Year fitness plan – erm, not done.
Dark January evenings are a prime time to start dreaming of where you and your mates might head this summer.
Party hubs like Malaga and Ibiza are still a big draw for group holidays, with Eastern European countries like Romania and Lithuania gaining popularity too.
But with the climate increasingly on everyone’s minds, can you still book a cheap getaway and help the planet?
Plan to avoid planes
“A lot of people think going green means things will be expensive but it actually means being more efficient so you end up wasting less.”
That’s according to Claire O’Neill, the chair of the green working group for The Association For Electronic Music (AFEM), which aims to protect the environment where music events are happening.
And whether it’s a night in a bar, a week of club-crawls on the strip or a full-blown festival, our favourite getaways often involve music.
Claire says the key to a guilt-free trip away is “forward planning” and advises anyone who has already sorted their summer plans to get ahead of the pack.
And if you’re worried about the impact flying might have on the environment, Claire says using Europe’s “great train network” could be a fun way of making your trip more eco-friendly.
“You can extend what you were planning to experience along the way,” she says. “Some brave people even do long-distance cycling to get where they need to be as well.”
What if flying is the only way?
Despite dedicating the last 15 years of her life to sustainability and environmental causes, Claire is “still a strong believer” that people should make the most of being able to travel and knows that flights aren’t always avoidable.
“We are going to unavoidably create emissions at some point,” says Claire.
“The cost of trains can be so much higher than flying… not many people can afford to pay five times the price for their transport.”
If air travel is the easiest and cheapest way to get to where you’re going – then there is the option of offsetting your flight.
A few airlines – such as RyanAir, Lufthansa and American Airlines – offer the option for passengers to pay a bit extra to help compensate for the carbon emissions produced by their flight.
The money is then invested in environmental projects – like planting trees or installing solar panels – which reduce carbon dioxide in the air.
Where’s that food from?
We’ve all been told about the damage plastic can do to the planet.
Let’s be honest – we know we’re not going to be able to rid the world of plastic while we’re on holiday but there are things you can do to have a bit more of a positive impact on your travels.
Claire suggests taking reusable cutlery and packaging with you and looking into where the food you’re eating is coming from.
“If you’re getting teas, coffees or eating chocolate then you want to look for fair trade or direct trade logos.
“That helps make sure there aren’t human rights abuses in the supply chain.
“If you can’t see those logos you can always ask questions.”
Where are you staying?
Even taking some time to research accommodation (if you’re not in a package deal) can change the impact your holiday has on the environment.
“There are various certifications that hotels can have to keep an eye out for, such as green key and greener tourism,” says Claire.
“But if you’re in a group, then it would be better to find some kind of a home to hire, before looking at individual hotel rooms.
“That often saves energy because they’re not needing to change all the bed sheets and towels and there isn’t the need to heat a huge building like a hotel.”
She also suggests that you can ask where you’re staying to tell you what they do to to help the environment.
“The more people that ask, the more they realise it’s important for their business and the more that they will make the changes more quickly,” she explains.
Use your voice
Another way of having a positive impact on the planet while you’re on holiday is by using social media to get in touch with places you’re staying.
“Everybody should feel empowered to make a change and have their voice heard.
“If there’s 100,000 people all having the same feeling about something – like not wanting single use plastics to be used at the event or place they go – if they all think ‘I’m not going to make any difference, then that’s 100,000 messages that don’t reach the right people and nothing will change.”
Where’s that cup going?
And then there are places that offer a fun break for party-goers in eco-friendly surroundings.
“The first thing to think about is what you can do near home,” says Claire.
“You don’t necessarily need to go long distances and, additionally, masses of people going to the same place every year is probably not so helpful for the local environment.”
She reckons cities like Amsterdam – which have taken steps to be more environmentally friendly – could be a good option.
“They have a lot of support from their government to try to create circular economy.
“That’s where businesses think about all the materials that are used to make sure there’s a life for them afterwards.
“For instance, it could be taking a cup and then making sure that it becomes a cup again, rather than sending them to incinerators or landfill afterwards.”
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