Slow travel is becoming increasingly popular as people look to lower their footprint on our planet. Also known as sustainable travel or low-impact travel, slow travel is about travelling better, slower and more passionately (1). Slow travel is to adopt a mindset which focuses on the connection and leaves the plane on the ground.
It's estimated that aviation accounts for about 4% of human-induced global warming (2).
Carbon footprints are the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by the things we do, with wealth and lifestyle factors playing a big part. In the Isle of Man, the average emissions per person are around 7 tonnes. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tonnes by 2050. One way we can reduce our carbon footprints is to reduce the number of flights we take.
There are lots of pros to slow travel too, including supporting the local economy and keeping costs down. Pacing yourself or walking, wheeling or using public transport networks to explore all the special nooks and secret corners of a city or country is a great way to meet new people and take in the real culture of a place (3) .
Whether you are trying to cut your carbon footprint, or simply fed up with the stress of flying, queuing and crowded cities, here are some conscious considerations to take on board when booking your next break.
Low carbon travel options:
The journey to sustainability begins with the way we get from point A to point B. Where possible opt for modes of transportation that have a lower environmental impact. Planes are the highest impact choice. Trains, buses, and electric vehicles are sustainable alternatives. Embrace the scenic route, and you'll not only reduce your carbon footprint but also gain a deeper appreciation for the journey itself. As the BBC’s Race the World puts it ‘By flying over, are we forgetting how to travel through?’
Train booking websites such as Trainline, calculate the emissions and tell you how much less emissions travelling by train is to car per journey i.e. Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Limestreet by train is 67% less CO2 than by car.
Rail offers travellers a greener alternative to flying or driving, creating 86% less CO2 emissions than air travel and 70% less CO2 emissions compared with car travel, per passenger. - Trainline
Travelling by ferry:
In the Isle of Man, aviation contributed on average 66kg of CO2 per person each year pre-covid. Catching the ferry as a foot passenger is only 5kg per person so we can do our bit to reduce our footprint by thinking through our travel choices.
The Steam Packet’s new flagship ferry, Manxman, has been designed with minimising its environmental footprint in mind. As a diesel electric hybrid, it is always running the generators at their most efficient level. With significant emission savings, excess electricity generated saved into battery storage to be used later, its engines can also run on greener fuels making adaptive for the future (4) .
Where you stay plays a crucial role in sustainable travel. Look for accommodation that has implemented environmentally friendly practices, such as energy-efficient lighting, water conservation measures, and waste reduction initiatives. Hotel booking websites such as Booking.com offer a sustainability certification or look for those with Green Tourism Awards. A badge is displayed on the hotel page, with a rating system that shows the level of sustainability, ranging from some impactful changes to strong commitment. An April 2022 Booking.com survey reported that 81 per cent of respondents indicated sustainable travel is important to them and 50 per cent said climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices (5).
Support places less travelled:
Some places around the world are suffering from over tourism and some of those are now restricting access due to the impact of climate change, the environment, as well as the quality of life of their living populations. In some cases, these destinations are squeezing out the communities and culture which give them their unique sense of place! (6)
Barcelona, Hong Kong, Reykjavik to name a few but most notably, Venice in Italy (who saw 74 million tourists in 2022) is feeling the effects of over-tourism. The city and its coastal area are notoriously vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Flooding is not atypical in Venice, as they have been dealing with floods for hundreds of years, however in August 2023, floods are coming much earlier than they usually would, leaving tourists left to wander around famous landmarks such as Saint Mark’s Square with water halfway up to their knees (7).
Travelling outside overcrowded tourist hotspots have a number of benefits, not only finding serenity and spontaneity, but you’ll really take in a local culture, your spends stretching much further, and importantly supporting local food producers, restaurants and family-run B&B’s.
Learn more about sustainable travel here.