Monday, 12 July 2010

We’re all going on an ethical holiday!

Well actually I’m not. Going on any holiday that is – ethical or otherwise. But as the office becomes a revolving door of pre-holiday excitement and post holiday tans and treats, it got me thinking ‘can you do an ethical holiday?’

We all know what the problems of holidays are: pollution from transport, damage to local eco-systems, over development of areas, exploitation of work forces, exploitation of the local population. Not to mention drunk tourists, loud tourists, littering tourists, disrespect for local cultures and laws. The list is endless and I could go on and on. A really cool charity, called Tourism Concern, gives a detailed breakdown of the problems that tourism can cause.

However, holidays are one of the best things in life. And I know that no matter how ethically I try to live, I could never give them up. Really, what is the point in having a job, if not to pay for holidays?!

That said, there must be things we can do to make holidays more ethical. Tourism Concern helpfully lists some key things to do when looking to ‘avoid guilt trips’ (ha ha – see what they did there)

Now, I am sure I could research and find loads of examples of what companies are doing to try and make holidays better for the environment and the local population. I would probably find lots of examples of really good initiatives. I would probably also find lots of examples of companies merely ticking a box and only caring about looking good.

But as an individual what can you do? Last year I booked a holiday through a company called Responsible Travel. They have thousands of holidays on their website, all around the world, from self catering cottages in Scotland to scuba diving group holidays in Australia. They have loads of choice – in fact they are almost like an ethical version of Expedia (although you have to book your own transport)

So my friend Anne and I booked a holiday to France. We wanted a few days to do some cycling, relax, enjoy some nice weather and generally be a bit lazy (note the cycling was anything but lazy. We have both since realised, it is important to research an area before assuming you will be able to cycle round it. Anywhere that is compared to the Lake District is probably going to be a little hilly for people that haven’t cycled since high school)

We booked to stay in this lovely cottage in the Limousin region of France (even after being there, I still have no idea where it is) We ate home grown vegetable, we shopped in small local shops, we drank in small local tabac’s, we recycled and composted till our hearts content. We even got the train home!

However like a lot of things with ethical living, the ethical side of it was not the only consideration. In fact if I am honest, as it was before this challenge began, it wasn’t really a consideration at all. What we wanted was something fun, relaxing and on a cheap budget. Anne had used Responsible Travel before, so we thought why not give them a look. However having used them once, I am total convert.

What I really like about them is that you are able to look for the holiday you want, in the budget you want and then they find all these ethical options for you. So many things with ethical living start the other way round – ‘this is ethical because of x, y and z so you should buy it’. When surely if you are to break a consumer market, there needs to be a bit more ‘this does what you want/need and by the way it also is really ethical because of x, y and z?’ Any thoughts on this would be great appreciated – please comment:

1 comment:

  1. Kath - Interesting stuff, are there any websites to measure your air miles? Don't forget English veg can create as much pollution/use as much energy as imports freighted in - word from the top! x