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Make 2019 count - Travel

by Gael Pawson 10 Aug 2019 16:30 BST
Dinghies on the beach at Abersoch © Gael Pawson

So one thing us sailors love is to travel - open meetings, regattas, even the club we belong to might not be on our doorstep. How can we continue to enjoy our sport but make our participation more sustainable at the same time?

There is actually plenty you can do to make a significant difference - even if you're not ready to give up the open meeting circuit or regular sailing holiday.

Greener travel tips at a glance:

  1. Opt for fewer, longer trips
  2. Consider the vehicle you drive
  3. Use public transport where possible
  4. Avoid air travel where possible
  5. Lift share
  6. Choose a sailing club as close to you as possible
  7. When travelling try to avoid extra plastic use
  8. Pack as light as possible
  9. Consider carbon-offsetting
  10. Support companies trying to be more environmentally conscious

First off consider cutting the frequency of travel. Many of us are in the habit of short breaks - lots of shorter regattas or open meetings, consider reducing the number of events you go to, but opting for longer duration events instead. Also consider carefully distances, so perhaps go for a few local events and earmark a couple of key events further away, think about how you can reduce your impact while maintaining a fun calendar, even if you cut one long distance event that could cut your impact a lot. Part of the key thing is to change your mindset so you consider the environmental effect of your choices as well as purely financial cost.

Flying

Air travel is one of the worst methods of travel for the environment. Being aware of this and trying to cut the number of flights we take is obviously the biggest difference we can make, but there are other considerations.

Look at alternatives to reduce your short-haul flights -train travel is generally one of the best forms of transport - take into account check-in times etc when considering the extra time a train might take, trains these days generally have wifi and especially if you are travelling outside peak times you can often utilise your travel time very well.

Support greener airlines - all airlines are not equal, some operate in more sustainable ways than others and things are changing all the time. Some airlines are working hard on initiatives such as sustainable fuel options (see https://www.iata.org/whatwedo/environment/Pages/sustainable-alternative-jet-fuels.aspx), while electric powered planes are also on the horizon. Atmosfaire publishes an index of airlines according to their green credentials [PDF].

Fly non-stop if possible - bear in mind that much more fuel is used in takeoff and landing than in actually flying,. A direct flight is much better even if it might cost a little bit more but it also holds less danger of disruption or delay.

Fly economy class - the less space you take up, the more people can fit on the plane and the carbon-cost per person is lower - the same applies to car travel.

Minimise your luggage - if you pack light then you will minimise fuel use whatever your mode of transport.

Consider carbon offsetting - see the section below.

Car travel

One of the most obvious areas here is the vehicle you choose to drive. Make the efficiency and If you are a multi-vehicle family, consider the most efficient way of organising your vehicle choices and try to plan to use them in the best way - eg a small very efficient or electric commuting vehicle, and something for longer distance travel when you have more people in the car and want to tow. Sometimes this will mean investing in a newer vehicle, but other times it might mean a change in vehicle type.

Driving style and speed can make a big difference to your fuel consumption. Simply by limiting your speed to 60mph you can make a significant reduction in your fuel consumption, without really impacting your travel time. If you get into the habit of this in all your driving you are making a step towards adjusting your lifestyle to something more sustainable.

Weigh up your options - can you double stack and share a car, or use a delivery company to get your boat to your destination. Services such as Eco passenger can help you to compare the impact of different methods of travel to inform your decision making.

Before you leave

There are number of things you can take extra care to do before you go away. Turn off and unplug all electronics. Adjust timers for heating and hot water.

Good practices when you are travelling

Whatever your mode of transport, every step of the way you can minimise your carbon footprint. Avoid single use cups and takeaway containers where you can - see our previous article on food and drink.

When you arrive at your destination

Try to use locally owned businesses and favour hotels and B&Bs which engage in sustainable practices. Hotels generally change bedding and towels more frequently - do what you can to reduce this, but here are inevitable extra bits of waste. Just one example s the tendency to serve individual butter portions, which if unused will be binned.

Camping in a tent or van can be a good way to minimise your impact as can staying with friends. Alternatively, book a self-catering house or apartment and share with friends - if you've got extra people staying in your house, generally your environmental costs will be lowered when you consider them per person. Generally as sailors we are pretty good at doing this!

Try to organise accommodation within walking distance of the club you are sailing at, or cycle or car share if you really need to drive.

Your food and drink choices continue to be important.

Carbon off-setting

Some people frown upon carbon-off-setting - that is basically paying to do things that will offset your environmental impact, arguing that it doesn't encourage people to change their behaviour. Yes most of us should travel less and need to change our travel habits. Off-setting doesn't fix the problem, but it does seem better than doing nothing -combined with trying to maximise your public transport use and minimise your car and flight use.

There are a wide variety of carbon-offset companies and options - some airlines allow you to add the cost of offsetting when you book, but in order to ensure your offsetting works in the best way you are probably best doing it independently. While they don't approve of offsetting, Friends of the Earth recommend using only projects that meet the Gold Standard. Gold Standard is a Swiss non profit organisation set up by a group of NGOs including the WWF, projects based in developing countries and combine reducing CO2 with sustainable development. Examples of online retailers which sell offsets from projects which meet the Gold Standard criteria include Myclimate and Atmosfair.

For more information on carbon offsetting, see this short guide and the Guardian's feature on the subject is also worth a read.

Consumer power

As a consumer you do have power so every chance you get to reward a company for good practice, the more you are encouraging the them to act. Of course you do need to be careful of falling for 'green hype'. One example of a travel company that aims to promote greener travel is Responsible Travel their site is worth a visit as it has some useful information on various aspects of more sustainable travel considerations.

Make 2019 count

So there you have it, more ways to Make 2019 Count. Check back on our other ideas; Buy less, buy smarter, Kinder cleaning and Greener, leaner, washbags and keep an eye out for the rest of our features to help you reach the end of 2019 living a more sustainable sailing life.

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