Many of us are making a conscious effort to act more sustainably in our day-to-day lives, and this extends to taking eco-friendly holidays! Tourism thrives off the natural wonders of our world and the incredible people and diverse cultures that shape it. However, as great as travel is for the economy, it does have an environmental impact, with global tourism making up 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. So what can we do to help mitigate this impact - and how can we embrace sustainable tourism? We’ve taken the guesswork out of eco-travel, with a few helpful suggestions on how to enjoy vacations in a more environmentally-friendly way.
Home swapping is rooted in the sustainability mindset. Instead of creating new resorts and hotels, our members share what they already own with one another, whilst celebrating local customs and traditions. Just as importantly, they put their money into the local economy of the residents that live in these incredible travel destinations. So whether you’re planning a weekend away, or looking for a faraway escape, there’s lots of things you can do to act more sustainably when travelling.
What is sustainable tourism?
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable travel as, “development [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future… and management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support system.”
In other words, sustainable tourism can be achieved by:
- Protecting natural environments, wildlife and natural resources when developing and managing tourism activities.
- Providing authentic tourist experiences that celebrate and conserve heritage and culture.
- Creating socio-economic benefits for communities through employment and income-earning opportunities.
And our fantastic Love Home Swap community are perfectly placed to play their part in embracing eco-friendly travel!
Ways to travel more sustainably
Choose a nation that values sustainability
Pick your holiday destination wisely people! According to the Environmental Performance Index, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, The United Kingdom and France are the top 5 most sustainable nations in the world. Japan ranks first in Asia, while The Seychelles are top of the list in Africa. And happily, we’ve got lots of home swap options in the majority of those countries (and we’re growing rapidly worldwide, so keep your peepers peeped for new homes popping up all the time!)
How to travel sustainability:
Getting to your holiday destination is a key factor in the environmental impact of your trip. The aviation industry produces around 2% of the world’s human-induced CO2 emissions. Of this number, 80% of these trips are long-distance with no other transport alternative. In cases where a flight is necessary, flying economy is not only easier on your wallet, but also a more eco-friendly way to fly.
Opt out of flights
If you’re part of that remaining 20% travelling a shorter distance, do consider other modes of transport such as trains, ferries and buses to reach your destination.
Use public transport
Once you arrive at your destination, try to ditch your car and make the most of the public transport services to explore the area. Not much local transport? Why not cycle or take a long walk to your destination? You never know what you’ll discover on the way - and many of our members are keen to share their bicycles!
Travel less, for longer
Lessen your environmental impact by choosing to travel less frequently each year. By opting for one long-haul flight a year instead of multiple, you’ll lower your carbon footprint and also give yourself more time to explore your chosen destination. Home swapping means that slower travel is more affordable for many, as you’re not paying an expensive nightly fee.
For a truly eco-friendly holiday, instead of staying in large, out-of-town resorts, opt to stay local! Not only will you save a fortune on taxi fares each night, you’ll also have more time to explore your immediate neighbourhood and immerse yourself in the local hotspots. Don’t forget to ask your home swap host for their top tips on the hidden gems that you might otherwise overlook.
Avoid all-inclusive resorts
Often with all-inclusive holidays, you’re not only paying for your accommodation, you’ll also have your food and activities included as well. Although it can be convenient to have everything in one place, it also means that all your hard-earned cash is going into one company’s pocket instead of being shared out more evenly across local businesses. And it breaks our heart to not share the love with the local economy! If you’re after convenience, why not stay in a hotel, rental (or better still a home swap!), that includes breakfast as part of the deal, and then explore local restaurants in the evenings and when you’re out during the day?
Avoid large hotels
The main environmental impact of hotels and larger resorts is the energy they consume, as they often change and wash towels and bed linen daily – which has a huge impact on energy and water usage. So consider requesting to keep your towels and bedsheets instead of changing them daily. Alternatively, home swaps are a great way to save on energy as it’s just like being at home (and would you really wash and change your sheets every single day?!)
Embrace the outdoors and camp
If you enjoy being immersed in nature and wildlife, camping is a great option for sustainable travel. By bringing your own resources and being fairly self-reliant, it’s a nice way to not over-consume the planet’s resources. Just be careful when choosing where to pitch your tent – pitch in a safe place that’s legal and won’t harm the local wildlife, and be sure to leave no trace of your stay. The Woodland Trust has a great guide to safely and sustainably camping. Believe it or not, Love Home Swap has a range of camping options that are available to swap! Our personal favourite is this yurt in Yorkshire, go check it out!
Choose a home swap over a rental
We can’t discuss sustainable travel accommodation without mentioning home swapping. Home swapping, also known as ‘home exchanging’ or ‘home swopping’, is where you trade homes with someone else, often in a different country. Not only is it a great way to travel and experience a new place, it also has considerable environmental benefits. By home swapping, you’re making the most of something that would normally sit empty and dormant whilst homeowners travel. It’s also not pushing locals out of certain neighborhoods as there’s no monetary value exchanged, and it encourages tourists to spend money and time in less touristy spots to help boost local economies.
Activities and tours
Ask the locals
If you’re home swapping, why not ask your host what local activities they recommend? Not only will you be getting insider knowledge from a local (crucially avoiding any tourist traps or overrated sites!) you’ll pump money into local businesses. Plus, is there anything more satisfying than finding a hidden gem that’s not in the travel guides?!
Buy goods from local traders
If you’re really passionate about eco travel, then your shopping habits should reflect that too. If you’re buying a souvenir for yourself and loved-ones, then considering opting for something made locally by a craftsman or artist. Ditch the tat (that’s likely been made in a factory overseas) and buy gifts designed to stand the test of time that won’t end up in a charity shop. If you want to take it a step further, be sure to buy something that relates to the local environment, either in theme or in the resources used.
Only buy what you need
Often it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of market stalls and cheap vendors. So try to browse stores and stalls, and if you’re still thinking about that gorgeous little garment or souvenir hours later, then go back to purchase it.
Buy food and groceries from local markets
Make the most of local produce and markets used by local residents. Before you travel, do a spot of research on the local markets that are near your accommodation to find the best local produce to prepare at home, or just to grab a coffee and sweet treat on a day out!
Opt for street vendors and local food outlets over large chains
Sometimes it can be tempting to go for what is familiar when it comes to food, so why not push yourself out of your comfort zone and try some local delicacies from a street food vendor? This is a great way to test local cuisine in an affordable way and get recommendations from those directly making the food. Just remember to be wary of anywhere that looks unsanitary! If you’re looking for something simple like your morning coffee or you’re hunting out a nice lunch spot, then visit sharing economy apps like Eatwith to find local cafes and restaurants.
Ready to really embrace the eco holiday vibe? Then pack less. The less you carry, the lower your carbon emission. We’ve all been there where we end up packing ten t-shirts, three coats and 20 pairs of pants for a week-long trip. So to get your head into the sustainable tourism mindset, try laying out your clothes before you pack them to create outfits – and in the process, you’ll avoid packing unnecessary items! If you’re staying in a home swap, one of the key benefits is having a washing machine as part of your accommodation. So if you need to wash a few items during your trip you have the option without the need to pack for every occasion. Here’s a guide on how to pack light as a family.
Speak to your host to see what you can borrow
It’s not only clothes that we tend to overpack. Activities and equipment can be bulky and heavy, leading to unnecessary weight when travelling. And sometimes when the travel buzz kicks in, we impulse-buy items to bring with us on our trip. Before packing your bag or hitting the shops, speak to your host (or accommodation provider) to find out what comes with the space. Often home swaps will have games, toys, cribs, car seats, and even bikes, surfboards, canoes and skis!
Pack eco-friendly essentials
There are some easy swaps you can make to make your trip more eco-friendly. Packing a reusable water bottle, reusable utensils and a tupperwear box will help make day trips better for the environment. (Remember, your host may have many of these things in their home, so be sure to double-check to save packing space!). Need a little more inspiration? Then take a look at this great eco travel packing checklist.
Have we given you the sustainable tourism bug? Excellent news! Then make sure you read our top tips on how to travel more eco-consciously.
Our top picks of eco-friendly home swaps
Eco home with a coastal view in Marion, South Australia
Surrounded by a canopy of trees, you’re fortunate enough to be spot many native Australian birds and even koalas nearby. The beach is just 10 minutes away, but if you’re after a night of relaxing at home, you can open the French doors out onto the balcony to take in the sea breeze and stunning coastal views. The home comes fitted with solar panels, rainwater tanks (which support the wildfire rescue rehabilitation) and is in a peaceful, secluded plot hidden down a 100m driveaway. In terms of activities, there’s no shortage, from kayaking to paddleboarding, and with cycle trails abound and national parks on your doorstep, there’s a host of activities to keep even the biggest thrill-seeker entertained.
Eco home in Suffolk, UK
Built under the watchful eye of Channel 4’s Grand Designs team in 2010, this eco home is situated in the lovely village of Melton in Suffolk. With an open plan living area, fully equipped kitchen and large glass patio doors, sunlight streams through this airy home. If you fancy a really eco-friendly break, then dump the car and stroll along the River Deben, which is only a five-minute walk away. A little further down the road is the heart of Woodbridge, a charming Suffolk town with a small marina and quayside which is full of independent shops, pubs and restaurants.
Eco retreat in the Panama mountains
Looking to combine your love of sustainable travel with a tropical experience? Then look no further than this stunning eco retreat in Panama. Boasting four bedrooms, each with its own private terrace, this airy home swap is set in 17 acres of land. With several kilometres of walking trails throughout their forest (which the owners are naturally regenerating,) mango and citrus trees across the land, a small pool and two rivers to explore, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to leave. If you’re looking for more adventurous hiking opportunities, then you’re on the road to the Omar Torrijos National Park, which is a cloud forest that is famous for multiple exotics species of bird, plus pumas and jaguars! It’s best to hire a local guide if you’re planning on hiking here – but the rewards will be well worth the effort.
Eco-friendly family home in Gloucestershire
Based just outside of Cheltenham, this house is set down a private drive and sleeps up to seven people – making it ideal for large families or groups of holidaymakers. Just a couple of minutes away are The Cotswolds where you can explore a number of quintessential English market towns and villages, or embrace the clean living with an outdoor swim at the local C-Side Spa at Cowley Manor. Fully embrace the home swap experience in this exquisite home away from home.
Eco house in private woodland in Norfolk, UK
This award-winning eco home is located in a private woodland area in the Norfolk village of Drayton. Home swappers have private access into the woods in which you can immerse yourself in nature. Enjoy all the mod cons you could possibly need on your holiday – safe in the knowledge that the heat recovery ventilation system makes this an incredibly environmentally-friendly home! With a lovely large garden and BBQ area, the owners have created a fire pit with tree stump stools, so turn off the TV and the lights and enjoy evenings toasting marshmallows by the camp fire. And if you need a little exercise, then head to the Norfolk Broads for a breath of fresh air.