10 holiday activities that help the environment


Posted by Ruth on 28th February 2020

Holiday activities to help the environment

With an increased need to protect our planet, eco-tourism has never been more popular – in fact, in 2019, searches for ‘eco travel’ in the UK rose 40% year-on-year.

But having a greener holiday doesn’t mean you need to go and sleep in a yurt, wash in a river and cook over a wood fire – unless you want to! There are many easy things you can do while on holiday to help save the planet, from taking part in beach cleans and conservation events to simply remembering to pack your reusable coffee cup in your luggage. Read through our ideas below and see if any of these suggestions take you fancy.

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Here are our top 10 eco-friendly holiday tips to help you save the environment on holiday.

1. Holiday in the UK

It may sound obvious, but forgoing carbon-producing overseas flights in favour of the good old staycation is an easy way to help the environment on holiday. In fact, one 4-hour flight is equivalent to the amount of carbon emissions your car releases in 10 weeks, and that’s without even factoring in the return trip.

So, staying in the UK and driving – or even better, taking public transport – to your holiday destination is a great way of helping the environment before your holiday has even begun. And with such a wealth of great locations to explore right on our doorstep, why would you even want to go abroad? England has got so much to offer, Lonely Planet voted it the second-best holiday destination in the world – although we know Scotland and Wales have just as much to entice visitors the world over. From mountainous heights to breathtaking beaches, be a tourist in your own country this year and help the environment while you’re at it. For more inspiration, read our blog on the best staycation destinations in the UK. 

2. Take part in a beach clean

If you’re visiting a coastal area on holiday, a beach clean is a great way to help the seaside environment and get involved with the local community too. Whether you take part in a huge organised beach clean through a charity like Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society or a local plastic-free group, or do a little bit to help with an impromptu 2-minute beach clean, it all adds up to keep our coastlines free of plastic.

Not only will you be making the landscape look better, but you will also be helping local marine life and, in turn, ourselves – 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine plants, and one in three fish caught for human consumption now contains plastic. If you need any more motivation to get involved, why not take a look at our blog on the 7 reasons to take part in a beach clean on holiday?

3. Join in with Wildlife Trust events

The Wildlife Trusts – made up of 46 individual charitable trusts across the UK – is a group dedicated to preserving wildlife for future generations and runs many events across the country that you can get involved with on your next UK holiday. And you’ll be in good company – The Prince of Wales is the group’s patron and Sir David Attenborough is one president emeritus.

Wherever you are holidaying in the UK, you can join up with your local Wildlife Trust to help the environment and have some fun at the same time. Take a look at the calendar to find an event near you; it’s easy to get involved no matter what your age or interest. Kids can learn about gardening, conservation and UK nature while adults can learn how to identify birds, take part in art workshops and challenge themselves at fun quiz evenings.

4. Visit RSPB reserves

Another great way of helping nature while on holiday is by visiting one of almost 200 UK nature reserves managed by the RSPB. From the very north of Scotland, down to the South West coast and from the flat marshes of Suffolk up to the heights of the Peaks, there is bound to be an RSPB nature reserve near you.

The RSPB is the largest nature conservation charity in the country and believes in saving nature across the UK – a mission we agree with so much, we have formed a partnership with the charity. And while it’s best-known for its bird conservation, the RSPB also does so much more across the country, including protecting large swathes of natural landscape. By visiting an RSPB reserve, you can support this dedicated conservation work, enjoy one of the best eco-friendly holiday activities around, and find out more about the UK’s unique natural environment – find your nearest reserve here.

5. Remember your reusables

There are so many easy ways to reduce your single-use plastic consumption and help protect the environment, both at home and on holiday, and bringing reusable utensils and cups is one of them. For example, the UK currently sends 2.5 billion paper coffee cups to landfill, and recycles only one in 400. Remember to pack a reusable coffee cup and you’ll be doing your bit to make the planet a little greener.

This philosophy extends to single-use cutlery too – in fact, half of all plastic is used just once before being thrown away. And we certainly don’t need to explain the benefits of bringing your own shopping bag with you! So, whether you’re heading out for a picnic on a secluded beach, heading to the supermarket, or grabbing a coffee in one of the UK’s vibrant cities, bringing along reusable cutlery, plates, coffee cups and shopping bags really helps reduce the amount of single-use plastic sent to landfill or dumped in the sea – make sure you add them to your suitcase before you leave home for an instantly greener holiday.

6. Eat local produce

One of the best ways of reducing your carbon footprint and helping the environment is by cutting down on food miles – i.e. the distance your food has travelled to get to your plate. This means shopping more locally and eating more seasonal produce, which can be easily done both at home and on holiday.

To make it even easier, the UK is packed with some incredible food markets selling the freshest local produce straight from the farm to your table. Visiting a local food market on holiday is one of the best – and tastiest – eco-friendly tourism activities. It gives you the opportunity to try something new to eat, talk directly to the food producers and benefit your health and nutrition too – and that’s without mentioning the positive effect on the planet. Whether you’re looking for fresh fruit and vegetables, fish straight from the sea or something a little more indulgent, visit our blog to find our guide to the UK’s best food markets.

7. Check the local recycling rules

We all know that recycling your waste rather than sending it straight to landfill is a great way to help the environment – as a country, we currently recycle around 44% of our waste, amounting to 12 million tonnes! This is a great green habit that doesn’t have to stop at home, but it might need a little more thought when you’re on holiday.

Many of our UK holiday cottages have recycling facilities, just like you would at home, so it’s business as usual when it comes to disposing of your waste. However, each local authority may differ slightly on what it does and doesn’t accept in the recycling bin, and it’s good to know which day it’s collected on too. Lots of property owners provide a handy guide in each cottage, but if you’re unsure, you can check the local council’s website or find out more about local recycling on Recycle Now’s website.

8. Rent, don’t buy, beach equipment

A traditional day out on the beach is one of the best holiday activities for all ages – you can swim in the sea, build sandcastles and soak up the rays on a deckchair. And there are plenty of local shops where you can pick up beach equipment pretty cheaply, making a trip to the seaside even easier.

However, much of the equipment you take to the beach is made of plastic and can cause a problem if it makes its way into landfill or the sea. One big culprit is bodyboards, which are inexpensive to buy new but are made out of polystyrene which can break apart into microplastics if dumped in the sea. In 2017, around 14,000 bodyboards were left on South West beaches alone. Many of our holiday cottages will make beach equipment available for guests to use, so you can enjoy a chilled-out day at the coast without creating unnecessary plastic waste. If not, there are many hire centres around popular UK beaches where you can rent beach equipment like bodyboards, windbreaks, and bucket and spades for a day out at the seaside that protects the environment too. Or, why not ask around before you leave to see if you can borrow some?

9. Leave the car at home

We’ve already said that swapping flights abroad for a UK staycation is a brilliant way of helping the environment on holiday. But you could make your transport even greener by swapping the car for public transport or pedal power! In 2017, greenhouse gas emissions from road transport made up a fifth of the UK’s total emissions according to the ONS, so even taking one car-free day on holiday will go a long way to helping the planet.

Many of our holiday cottages in towns and cities are easy to get to by public transport, but we appreciate the more rural locations may be a little trickier. So why not ditch the car for the day instead, and explore your holiday destination on two feet or two wheels? Our guide to the UK’s top cycle routes for all abilities might give you some inspiration, or you can visit the websites of Sustrans and the National Trust for more ideas.

10. Stay in an eco-friendly cottage

We’ve already given you some great activities that can help the environment when you’re on holiday, but what about the holiday itself? Staying in one of our eco-friendly cottages is a great way to reduce the impact your getaway has on the planet, without comprising on style or comfort.

Many of the holiday cottages in our eco-friendly collection have a long list of green credentials such as getting their energy from renewable sources, having charging points for electric cars and even offering schemes like tree planting to offset the emissions of your holiday. Take a look at our top eco-friendly cottages or browse the whole collection below.

If you’re looking for more ways you can lower the carbon footprint of your holiday, read our blog on how to have an eco-friendly holiday or learn more about sustainable holiday swaps

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.