April 21, 2021
If you love to travel and care about the planet, our responsible travel checklist can help you lower the impact you make when you set out to explore the world.
As a travel company, we believe we have a responsibility to care for the planet and its people. We’re also aware that flying is a carbon-intensive industry and that tourism poorly done can have negative consequences. These are things we’re trying incredibly hard to address, and we’re making significant progress. But on top of the big-ticket items, there are lots of small things we can all do to make a difference and to ensure that we tread lightly on our travels.
First and foremost, responsible travel is a mindset. Begin by understanding that travel is intrinsically good. It broadens your horizons, gives you a better view of the world and a greater understanding of its different cultures. Travel and tourism are essential for the economies of the places we visit. They connect the world, enable business, generate jobs and redistribute wealth. They can also help protect wild places such as game parks and coral reefs that would otherwise be exploited and depleted.
So, we shouldn’t stop travelling, but we do need to appreciate all its consequences. That means we should all do a bit more to reduce our impact; on the planet, on the people who live in the places we visit, their culture and their environment. It’s also about giving them a reason to protect it themselves. It’s about protecting the world for future generations and encouraging others to do the same.
Do your research. Spend your money with operators that work with local communities, employ local staff, pay decent wages, dispose of their waste correctly and are sensitive to local cultural heritage. We work with our hoteliers and tourism partners to improve against all areas of our Responsible Supplier Policy. Pick an airline with a modern fleet of twin-engine jets. One that cares. One that has a robust sustainability programme and has cut its emissions by 20% in the last ten years. An airline like Virgin Atlantic!
Watch your weight. packing lighter for your trip will, in turn, save on fuel use and resultant carbon emissions. If all our passengers reduced the weight of their bag by 1kg, we could save around 4,000 tonnes of CO2 each year – that’s equivalent to the annual emissions of around 1,500 average cars.
Trains, planes and automobiles. Think about travel options to and from the airport. Most airports are well connected to public transport links.
Bring your own. fill up your reusable water bottle at the airport to save plastic waste, and have it refilled onboard.
Offset your flight. You can visit virginatlantic.com/changeisintheair/offset to use our carbon calculator. You’ll be able to offset the whole of your flight or simply make a contribution. Funds raised through offsetting help support projects around the world to reduce carbon.
Reduce your use. Only open items you really need. Anything which remains sealed, such as blankets and amenity kits, will be reused. Other items are refurbished or recycled by our partner MNH Sustainable Cabin Services.
Reuse your glass. In our onboard announcement, you’ll hear us asking you to consider keeping your plastic glass refilled during the flight rather than asking for a new one each time. This will reduce plastic wastage – each glass not used saves 5g of plastic.
Help us out. Recycling onboard is tricky, and we have stringent rules over what we can and cannot do. Keep your waste separate (for example, don’t stuff your drinks can with other rubbish). This will increase the likelihood that we can recycle things.
Go veggie. Reducing your meat consumption is one of the easiest ways to reduce your own carbon footprint – try one of our tasty vegetarian options onboard. And through our Thoughtful Food programme, we’re working with our caterers to meet challenging sustainability criteria, such as sourcing fairly traded products, promoting higher animal welfare standards, and sourcing sustainably certified fish, seafood, soy and palm oil.
Reduce plastic waste. Always carry that water bottle that you bought with you. Plus, take along some reusable cutlery to use at street food stores instead of plastic. Carrying a reusable shopping bag is also a good idea.
Live like a local. Eat, drink and shop locally. Use local forms of public transport too. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint, help support the local economy and learn so much more about the country you’re visiting.
Spend your money at locally-owned shops and restaurants rather than multinational chains. Buy souvenirs direct from local craftspeople. Use local guides for excursions. The idea here is to make sure the money you spend benefits the local community.
Go explore. Grab a map and walk or cycle instead of taking a taxi. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover!
Be aware of animal exploitation. Travel can be a great way to develop your love of nature and see animals you might not see at home. Be mindful that what might look good at first sight might not be in the animals’ best interest. Research is your best tool to make sure the animals are not being exploited for tourists. Avoid anything that involves feeding or touching wild animals. And definitely don’t eat endangered species or buy illegal-trade animal souvenirs, such as items made from elephant ivory or coral.
Leave only footprints. If you see a piece of litter, pick it up. Take shopping bags with you. If you’re self-catering or planning on making packed lunches, think about taking your own containers too. Take things a step further and join a beach clean; you’ll meet some like-minded people and hang out on a beach for a couple of hours.
Conserve water. The average hotel guest uses more than 200 litres of water every day. Conserve water where you can.
Respect regional cultures and religions, adhere to local dress codes and always ask before taking someone’s photograph.
Be aware of history. Most of the world was at one time or another affected by colonisation. Understand how the past has shaped the places you’re visiting and accept that your knowledge is incomplete. That will make travel more rewarding for you and for the people that host you.
If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying the beach and swimming at one of our gorgeous Caribbean destinations, please take a few minutes to read our blog about responsible swimming. It’s full of great tips and advice about how you can minimise your impact on these fragile ecosystems (without taking away any of the fun).
Being a responsible traveller doesn’t stop when you get on the plane to come home. Be a responsible travel evangelist. Talk about it. Inspire others. Leave good reviews for the responsibly run shops and restaurants you’ve found on your trip. And then plan your next trip to be even more awesome and responsible than the last one.
As an airline we’re acutely aware of the climate crisis and the need for all sectors to act, especially those that are carbon intensive like ours. We’ve been working for more than a decade to reduce our environmental impact. Visit our website to learn more: www.virginatlantic.com/changeisintheair/climateaction