Should We Stop Going On Holiday?

Isabelle Rodney

We all love going on holiday. The scorching sun, tanning by the poolside, air-conditioned rooms, all-you-can-eat buffets with endless amounts of food…sounds great right? Well, to some extent. For us: yes it’s great! For the climate and our environment? Not so much.

Although we have been in a pandemic for the past two years due to the outbreak of Covid-19, what we all once loved and are yet to do – hopefully – in the summer of 2022 is to go abroad to different holiday destinations. However, where the problem lies is that many of us do not realise how impactful the tourism sector is to the ongoing climate emergency we are facing.

This is due to the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions. According to SustainableTravel, tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions and within this, there are several sectors that each contribute such as transportation, accommodation, food production and waste.

Only an elite 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation emissions in 2018, with US passengers having the largest carbon footprint among rich countries. Furthermore, if an increasing number of people start affording to travel, then the consequence will be an increase in tourism’s environmental footprint. According to UNWTO/ITF latest research, released in December 2019 at UNFCCC COP25, CO2 emissions from tourism are forecasted to increase by 25% by 2030 from 2016 levels.

despite national and sector-specific pledges to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases, there are no consistent policies for the transport sector


The most obvious modes of transport that generate the most carbon dioxide per passenger mile are planes and cars, followed by ferries, trains and buses. MSLeisure highlights that despite national and sector-specific pledges to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases, there are no consistent policies for the transport sector, which is characterised by continued strong growth. What is happening is that we are choosing to go on holiday to destinations and choosing flights that have stop-offs due to the cheap prices which in-turn results in detrimental effects to the planet.

What can we do: book flights that are non-stop so that it is a direct flight to your chosen destination, avoiding using up more fuel when taking-off and landing. When going to a nearby destination, it would be more cost-effective and environmentally-conscious to use other means of transport such as train, coach or even car-sharing!


Another big contributor is the accommodation and lodgings we reside in. Many resorts and hotels are reliant on heating and air conditioning in order to appeal to their guests so they can have a pleasant experience in their rooms depending on the hot or cold climate. Alongside this, the pools, showers and spas that we love so much are heated by energy intensive systems which, as you can imagine, require a lot of power.

only 21% of hotels currently have on-site renewable energy

The electricity used to power a whole resort is problematic for the environment. While hotels can lessen their footprint by utilising clean energy sources, most still depend on dirty fossil fuels for the majority of their energy. According to the 2018 Green Lodging Trends Report, only 21% of hotels currently have on-site renewable energy. 

What can we do: whilst hotels and resorts will use a great amount of energy and electricity, we can reduce our consumption by turning off the lights and electronics when not in use. Remember: although air-conditioning is great, whilst you’re cooling down, the Earth is heating up!

Food production and waste

Food production is said to be responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Food production and waste are ultimately intertwined and there is an vicious cycle. One of the things I love most when going on holiday is the endless amounts of food that resorts provide and the variety of food there is.

substantial amounts of food from inclusive buffets where we overindulge is wasted

However, what we often fail to recognise is that these things come at a price. The majority of food, around 80%, in Pacific islands hotels and resorts is often imported from overseas, giving it a higher carbon footprint than more locally sourced food. Then what usually follows is that substantial amounts of food from inclusive buffets where we overindulge is wasted, meaning all of the emissions that have been generated prior by production were unnecessary. Not only does this produce carbon emissions but the food waste is not composted but instead is decomposed in a landfill, resulting in the production of methane – which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide!

What can we do: we can support local cuisines and food markets where ingredients will have been sourced from local farmers. Not only will this allow you to explore a variety of dishes, it will also support local economies whilst reducing your carbon footprint at the same time! Moreover, it is important to remember to try and not overindulge on holiday to avoid wastage!

So this does not mean we can no longer go on holiday but instead it is important that we make more sustainable and effective decisions when planning our holidays!

Isabelle Rodney

Photo by Artturi Jalli on Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

This article is part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series. For more articles on the conference check out the link here.

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