August 17, 2011 • Energy Efficiency, Sustainability, Travel & Leisure

Happy “low carbon” summer holidays!

by Sara Hoefkens

About two weeks ago, as I was sipping from a cocktail on a white-pebbled beach in a Greek bay with crystal blue clear water, I started thinking about the enormous amount of energy that is used every year in making people’s summer holidays happen. Holidays account for a surprising amount of the energy we use each year, with flights, driving, hotel stays and added extras like boat trips all contributing to our carbon footprint.

Everybody will admit to be interested in using less energy, but you might think twice when it comes to compromising on your holiday. Despite wanting to be green, it’s tough to sacrifice your time in the sun.

With summer holiday season in Europe in full swing, I thought it to be a good idea to provide all those vacationers – and all those last-minute bookers who have grown tired of the cold and rainy summer that is pestering the majority of Western Europe! – with some good advice for a low-carbon and energy-efficient summer. There are all sorts of ways to lower your energy impact without spoiling your plans, and you might even find some ideas for a really fun, unusual holiday. From little things like choosing an energy-conscious hotel all the way up to opting for an eco-friendly local holiday, here are my suggestions for a low-carbon summer:

First of all, some handy energy management tips at home whilst you flee to warmer climates to get that nice suntan and reload your batteries:

  • Switch off all unnecessary electrical equipment. It may seem obvious, but some people do forget to switch off their electronic equipment at the wall and to turn off their heating and hot water when they go away. Also, unplug your TV, computer and game console at the wall — this also reduces the risk of fire. (Did you know that a PC monitor left on for one night wastes enough energy to laser print 800 copies or to microwave six dinners!?)
  • Turn down your central heating to the lowest reasonable level. Turning down your central heating by 1°C can save 0.5 to 1.0 tonnes of CO2 per year.
  • Don’t leave any small window open for ventilation. A window left open overnight will waste energy equivalent to driving a small car over 35 miles.
  • Recycle your holiday brochures when you’ve finished with them
  • Travel light. Don’t pack the kitchen sink. The more you stuff into your suitcases the more fuel it’ll take to get them to your destination. You’re on holiday, so you don’t need every item in your wardrobe. And instead of bringing back heavy souvenirs, invest some time in taking fabulous photos of your trip instead.

Secondly, some carbon-friendly advice for when you finally set off on your journey:

  • For short journeys of a few hundred kilometres, use rail or coach where possible. For such travel, driving is also reasonable if you are carrying a full passenger load and your car is relatively fuel-efficient.
  • Use public transport to reach the rail station or airport.
  • Fly the friendliest way you can. Takeoff and landing contribute the most to the carbon footprint of a flight, so it’s better to opt for a long break using air travel once a year rather than several short getaways. And if you’re flying long distance, try to minimize the number of stopovers.
  • Pick your hotel with care. You care about energy consumption at home, so why should your home-away-from-home be different? A hotel with air conditioning, floodlit pools and TVs in every room can be a real energy guzzler. Pick one that’s at least trying to reduce its environmental impact. When you consider booking, read about the hotel’s environmental policy.

On an overall positive note, I think it is great to see that the tourism industry is responding to the growing environmental conscience of tourists by stepping up its efforts toward eco-friendlier, more energy-efficient holiday packages.

Large players in this industry (such as international hotel chains, railway companies, airlines and airline service providers) have considerable risk exposure to the price volatility and rapidly changing environmental regulations in international energy markets. Summit’s team of energy management and sustainability experts is perfectly equipped to help mitigate this risk and manage change. By developing and implementing a tailored risk and sustainability strategy, Summit is the energy management partner of the “green holiday makers” of this world.

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