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Sustainability is a hot topic when it comes to travel. While we are becoming more aware than ever of the possible detrimental impact of tourism, we are also reminded that some communities and countries prosper and thrive from visitors and holidaymakers. To find the perfect balance, eco-minded travellers are demanding a more sustainable way to discover the world. One of the most important topics up for debate is how we reach our desired location. It is common knowledge that air travel is carbon-heavy, but what are airlines doing to help tackle this issue? Is there an alternative? Read on to find out more about sustainable travel options.

boat on blue and green water ocean

Train Travel

Commuting via train has been encouraged widely as a way to reduce congestion in cities and lower carbon footprint, but train travel is also a fantastic way to see the world. It offers an entirely different perspective to flying, with the ability to whisk through dramatic landscapes and scenic countryside, stopping off at lesser visited towns and villages. If you are travelling from London, the Eurostar can take you to destinations from Barcelona to Dublin, with ‘train hotels’ providing the luxury and experience of any regular accommodation. Train travel also takes away the stress of check-in queues and waiting times at airports as well as contributing a significantly lower amount of CO2 to the atmosphere.

blue train travelling through green scenery

Air Travel

Of course, it is not possible to reach every destination via train, and for many of us, air travel is still a necessity. While an estimated 2% of global carbon emission comes from aviation, the industry is fast reacting to consumer demand for a cleaner way to fly. It is also worth noting that if used correctly, air travel has the potential to have a much lower impact, given the small number of average litres of fuel used per 100km. If you would like to reduce the impact of your flight, there are simple changes you can make, such as flying economy class or packing a smaller, lighter suitcase.

Ways in which airlines are trying to reduce environmental impact:

Recycling and Waste Reduction – some airlines are pledging to remove the use of single-use plastic and to incorporate re-use and recycle programmes.

Carbon Offsetting – airline companies can purchase offsets helping to reduce the emissions generated by flying. Some airlines now offer customers the option to offset their flight.

Increase Fuel Efficiency – by upgrading old aircraft to more efficient engines, airlines can reduce the amount of fuel used. Advances in technology used by some companies can also help pilots to avoid more adverse weather conditions, which can help to save fuel.

Environmentally-conscious search engine Alternative Airlines can help search for flights among companies who have pledged to improve the environment.


The cruise ship industry has cleaned up its act in recent years, reacting to consumer demand and legislation requirements. However, it is estimated that some cruises are comparable to flying in terms of emissions. With many emerging companies offering an alternative to the classic cruise ship experience, it is possible to see ‘eco cruises’ taking off in the future.

Bus and Coach

Opting to travel to your chosen destination by bus or coach can be a better alternative to short-haul flying with this particular option often comparable to train travel. Furthermore, busses can reduce the number of individual cars on the road, thus helping to reduce congestions in towns and cities. Sleeper buses can be a great way to travel overnight without compromising on time and prove particularly popular for those wishing to see a more substantial part of a country in a small space of time. More modern coaches are designed to be the most fuel-efficient and many companies are now offering a transparent environmental policy which you can check out before you book.

bus travelling trough mountain backdrop

For more on sustainability in the tourism industry, take a further look into our journal with an article about why sustainable travel is important. As an environmentally conscious company, Balance Holidays is passionate about considering all aspects of sustainability in the design of our lifestyle retreats, including yoga retreats in Italy and activity retreats in Switzerland.