How to have an ethical summer

From breaking the flight habit to choosing environmentally-friendly sunscreen - read our top tips for how to have an ethical summer.

Break the flight habit. Taking just one long-haul flight is as bad for the climate as a whole year’s worth of driving. If you holiday closer to home, it’s easy to switch to train travel instead. Sites such as the man in seat 61 or Loco2 let you plan and book journeys by train with stunning scenery and no lengthy airport check in.

Travel less often and for longer. Love minibreaks? Make them local and save longer trips for bigger breaks. Combining rail with cycling or other public transport, rather than hire car, will reduce the carbon footprint. Ecopassenger lets you easily compare the environmental impact of any journey

Make the journey part of your holiday. For the more adventurous, cycling, sailing, walking or riding holidays here in the UK offer new ways to explore. Hiking and wild camping can be a way to get off grid and reconnect with nature, and Cycling UK has a helpful route planner for cycle touring.

Have a ‘staycation’. From boutique hotels to glamping pods, it’s easier than ever to holiday here. And with coronavirus still present, a staycation might well be the only option. Explore local beauty spots, order your dream reading list, pour yourself a cold drink and sit back to relax and enjoy the summer. Try swapping tips of favourite walks or swims with a friend in a different area – nothing beats a personal recommendation.

Ignore the seasonal shopping frenzy. Focus on building a capsule wardrobe of summer clothes that fit well, are comfortable and will last year on year. Footwear, sunglasses and hats are often throwaway items binned before you leave your holiday destination, so buy less and better.

Pack less. Heavy luggage adds to the carbon footprint, as more fuel is needed to transport things we pack but usually don’t wear. Cotton hammam towels are great for travelling – light, easy to hand wash and dry, and useful for everything from a beach mat to sunshade.

Choose biodegradable toiletries rather than harsh shampoos and detergents. Protect the delicate ecology of places you visit – with greater numbers of tourists, more ends up in the watercourses. Take plastic-free sanitary protection – the women’s environmental network lists eco friendly brands.

Ban wet wipes and single use bottles. Muslin squares are a great reusable alternative to wet wipes, and BPA-free refillable travel size bottles are a waste free alternative to disposable ‘mini’ size packs.

Look for ‘Reef Safe’ or ‘Ocean Friendly’ sunscreens. Free from oxybenzone and nano-particles, they won’t damage aquatic wildlife either here or further afield. Ethical Consumer has a list of sunscreen best buys, and you can use less product by covering up more or staying in the shade.

Ditch plastic. Simple things like taking a refillable water bottle, penknife, metal sandwich tin with lid (you can use as a mini plate) and ‘spork’ cut down hugely on waste as you travel.

Rediscover the art of picnic. ‘Make and take’ so that you avoid throwaway single use plastics. If you are cooking outdoors, avoid disposable barbecues and try FSC-certified charcoal that is not chemically treated on a folding or bucket BBQ you can take home after.

Invest in holiday toys and games. Discarded inflatables and broken plastic spades seem to be everywhere. Although more expensive to buy initially, sustainably-made outdoor play kits won’t just end up in the beach bin after a day and will become family favourites.


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  1. Don’t forget you may very well be able to get much of what you ‘need’ or want for your holiday in your local charity shop. Many have holiday-type clothes, toys, books, toiletries in small bottles, beach mats etc etc and you’ll save a fortune as well as doing good.

    1. Hi Denby, a really great point – thanks for adding your suggestion to the list, if anyone has more ideas please do share!

    1. Hi Annie, unfortunately Riverford aren’t able to transport and deliver frozen icecream, Some great suggestions though and its definitely inspired me to try making my own at home – seasonal fruit granitas are dairy free and can be made in a home freezer, you just need a shallow pan and a fork so I will give it a try!


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