Travel ‘foodprint’ can outstrip impact of flying, report claims

Activist travel firm Responsible Travel is demanding a “radical review” of tourism to cut the carbon impact of holidays.

The call comes as a company-commissioned report reveals how holiday ‘foodprints’ – what travellers eat – can even outstrip the impact of flying.

The pilot study uses raw data to measure the carbon impacts of transport, accommodation energy and food options across a selection of holidays.

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The findings highlight a “pressing need” for the sector to design holidays with reduced emissions across food, accommodation and transport.

They should offer greater plant-based choice, minimise food waste, focus on local, seasonal produce and switch to renewably powered accommodation.

Justin Francis, chief executive of Responsible Travel – which is campaigning to lower the carbon impact of holidays – said: “We know we have to fly less, but that’s not the only significant contributor to the carbon emissions of your holiday.

“Your food is a significant and sometimes the single biggest source of CO2 emissions from your holiday.

“To get to net zero carbon 2050 we’ll need to fly less and change what we eat. This is a small pilot study, but it starts that conversation.”

He added: “The significance of the broader impacts we see here are such that as consumers, we have to change how we approach travel as a whole – and as an industry, we have to help facilitate that.

“We need to see a radical review of tourism in favour of lower-carbon holidays – but there are robust and workable solutions here that can be beneficial to both consumers and companies themselves.

“We’re seeing progress in some quarters but it’s not fast, stringent or transparent enough. Consumers deserve the data they need to make informed choices – these are really complex issues but we need to start discussing, and working towards, an industry-wide carbon-labelling standard.”

Study co-author Professor Stefan Gossling, of Lund University in Sweden, added: “I’m extremely happy that Responsible Travel is taking the lead on climate change and looking into the carbon footprints of their holidays.

“We have learned a lot already – top-notch holiday experiences can be very low carbon. This is an exciting way of moving forward on decarbonisation.”

Responsible Travel has advised customers to ‘fly less and stay longer’ in destinations for more than a decade.

While transport will usually be the most impactful aspect of the holiday, the gap between this and other emissions sources such as food and accommodation, begins to close when a traveller increases their length of stay, according to the company.

The report findings include:

  • Transport will usually be the primary carbon contributor of any holiday. But what people eat – their holiday foodprint- can, in some cases, exceed a trip’s accommodation energy and transport emissions, even the flights.
  • Where more climate-friendly choices are made – holiday emissions can be very close to the global sustainable average per day, and almost half the current average per day per person emissions in the UK.
  • Smaller, more sustainable accommodation surveyed can emit four times less carbon than many four-star hotel chains.


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