The aviation industry is often labelled a major environmental threat to our planet, and I understand why. Flying is thought to be the third biggest contributor to an individual’s carbon footprint. Airline passenger numbers are also expected to double to 8.2 million within the next 17 years, a figure that many individuals find concerning given the current climate crisis.
The industry recognises this, and there are initiatives (such as carbon offsetting) to mitigate the situation. However, if we are to move towards a completely environmentally sustainable travel industry, there are other factors to consider.
At a recent panel session on creating a sustainable travel industry, organised by media intelligence company Roxhill, the panellists discussed the environmental impact of all parts of the travel experience. Food, in particular, can pose a big CSR challenge to travel businesses such as hotels. A number of different schemes were mentioned to address this challenge, such as monitoring how much food is sent back to the kitchen and then adapting the menu where necessary to minimise food waste. One hotel noticed a decorative cherry tomato on an omelette dish was consistently being left uneaten, and consequently removed it from the plates. It goes without saying hotels should also, where possible, purchase local and seasonal produce, thus reducing food air mileage while supporting local communities. Perhaps a change in attitude is needed in travellers who go abroad expecting to eat the same food they’re used to at home, rather than embracing local culture and cuisine.
It’s evident we need to be looking at the entire process of travelling, from the journey, to the hotel, to leisure activities, and everything in between – and find innovative ways to reduce our environmental impact and carbon footprints wherever possible.