Sustainability is currently the topic on everyone's lips, and that includes our favourite hobby—travel. But what does the United Kingdom think about sustainable travel, and how can we travel in a more environmentally friendly way without sacrificing fun? We’ve done some research to find out exactly what Brits think about sustainable travel. Look at our findings below!
[Rascasse conducts online market research based on authentic and holistic behavioural data. For this purpose, user preferences for over 250,000 objects worldwide are observed, aggregated, and evaluated. Digital engagement on social media platforms, behaviour on e-commerce sites and activities in search engines serve as a basis. This complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) without including personal data. The definition of the terms analysed, such as “Sustainability,” references the definition on Wikipedia].
Interest in sustainable tourism has almost doubled since the pandemic began. With searches being especially high during winter when most of us are planning our upcoming spring or summer holidays.
For those going on holiday, Brits have flocked to popular destinations in Blighty such as Cornwall and Wales instead of going abroad.
More than half (58%) have taken or are planning a staycation in the United Kingdom.
More than half (55%) have already enjoyed a holiday in the United Kingdom.
One in six (15%) have reconsidered their international holidays because of airport delays and cancellations.
Across all age groups, awareness of sustainable travel is growing. For example, a third of people are opting to use more eco-friendly transport (such as buses and trains) for local and holiday travel. Topics like shared mobility (e-cars, electric bikes, e-scooters etc.) and vegetarianism and veganism are increasingly in the spotlight. Considering hybrid electric vehicles, including cars, are also gaining popularity in the United Kingdom. With accommodation, it seems the trend is moving towards smaller or boutique hotels, B&Bs, solo travel and camping trips. What’s clear is that Brits are making these changes so they can have a more positive impact on climate change.
There are myriad ways people can be more sustainable when they go on their travels. Omio helps travellers make more eco-friendly choices by comparing trains, buses and flights, which allows people to choose a more conscious travel mode when they book.
The data comes from an online survey conducted by YouGov Deutschland GmbH, with 1058 people taking part in the survey between the 15–19 July 2022. Results have been weighted and represent the UK population aged 18 and over.
Does England travel sustainably?
How sustainable do Brits consider themselves?
So, the question is, how sustainable do people from the UK consider themselves? To find out, Omio commissioned a survey with YouGov and asked a representative sample of Brits their thoughts. Here’s what we found.
Most of those surveyed consider themselves to mostly be environmentally conscious.
Almost half of the participants (46%) rate their daily behaviour as mostly sustainable but see the potential to become better.
Gen Z is the most critical with a third of 18–24-year-olds (32%) saying their lifestyle isn't very sustainable. They also said they'd like to act more but find it hard.
What do Brits consider sustainable travel?
Sustainable travel is a broad topic, so what do people think of when asked about it? For many, travelling sustainably means avoiding cruises (22%) and they are on the right track. Powered by heavy fuel oil—the "dirtiest of all fuels"—a week-long cruise produces around 1.9 tonnes of CO2*, which is the same as driving more than 5500 miles by car. In addition, cruise ships consume vast amounts of energy for electricity, catering, entertainment, etc. It's clear that cruises aren’t good for the environment or sustainable travel.
Thirty-four percent consider air travel to not be the most sustainable travel choice, with 12% firmly stating that travellers should stop using air travel completely! You can see why, when a flight from Northern Europe to the Canary Islands causes more emissions than taking trains, buses and cars combined per person per year*. Fortunately, 36% of Brits surveyed know that the most sustainable travel options are train and bus—which we’re thrilled to hear
Just as many are aware that reducing plastic waste while travelling or on holiday can help make their trip more sustainable. We’re all more careless on holiday, especially with treating ourselves to local treats, and that packaging can add up. And yet, reducing our own waste is an easy way to reduce our carbon footprint. For environmentally friendly travel, 24% also consider booking sustainable accommodation. With more options now available, such as apartment sharing and glamping, staying in more sustainable places is becoming easier to organise.
(*Source: German Federal Environment Agency)
Sustainable Travel: What’s the hold-up?
British interest in sustainable travel is undeniably high, but why aren’t more people already doing it? We asked our participants what’s stopping them from making more sustainable travel choices today.
Thirty percent said price plays a big role, with many considering sustainable travel too expensive. Twenty-six percent of Brits say they need more choices for train and bus connections that come at an affordable price, with 23% saying they’re keen to be more sustainable but need more information to make a conscious decision.
More than a third (37%) miss sustainable travel alternatives, such as faster buses and train connections when planning a trip, as well as information on how to book them. But 31% said they’d also like to see information on how they can act more sustainably when they travel—something we’d like to find ways to help with!
Another factor that tops our respondents' reluctance to travel sustainability is time. Nearly a third (24%) feel that train and bus travel times are too long and therefore they don't want to switch from a plane or car to more sustainable alternatives. However, nearly a fifth of respondents said they are prepared to increase their journey time by up to three hours, with 22% of over-55s stating they’re prepared to add “as much [time] as it takes” to travel sustainably.
Trains vs. Flights: When the train is faster than the plane
The need for sustainable travel options has increased significantly in recent years. However, the prospect of a long journey to reach a destination is still the main reason Brits choose flights over trains. Shockingly, many domestic and international train routes take little longer than flights, especially when you factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, check-in, security checks and other issues that are part and parcel of air travel.
A good example of this is the Eurostar from London to Paris. Taking this train means you can get to the City of Love one and a half hours faster than flying. Without being stuck at an airport, you can admire the impressive landscapes from the train window, plan your Parisian tour, all while saving over 60 kilograms of CO2.
Find many more connections where trains are faster (or just as fast) as flights, on our train page.
Sustainable travel is a broad topic and not just limited to whether you travel by train, bus or plane. Instead, soft tourism (aka sustainable travel) is a concept that encompasses many aspects of travel. In fact, you can make sustainable choices when planning your trip and set the course for a greener, more environmentally friendly travel experience. During your trip and at the destination, there are plenty of opportunities to be mindful and sustainable with nature, culture and the locals. We've put together a few tips to help you stay sustainable on your travels.
For the eco-beginners
We know it’s hard to get started—but it doesn't have to be! With our travel tips for beginners, you can travel fairly and sustainably without having to attend a webinar or read a stack of books.
Retrain your brain Avoiding environmentally damaging cruises is easy for most of us, but it’s harder to avoid air travel. Luckily, Omio is here to help! In one search, you can see the travel time and prices for trains, buses and flights at a glance and can easily compare them. It’s surprising how many trains are much faster than flying and how buses are always cheaper than you think.
Stay close Simple and yet so effective, travelling short distances naturally reduces your carbon footprint. Best of all, you don't have to worry about enduring long distances by train or bus. Europe offers a variety of destinations so you can enjoy somewhere new without travelling too far.
Travel digital The days of lugging around stacks of maps, booking confirmations and paper tickets on paper are over. With the Omio app, you can access your bookings and tickets offline. Manage your accommodation in our partner's Booking.com app. Free navigation apps store your itineraries on your phone too. Going digital means you won’t get bogged down with all that paper, saving loads of trees from getting the chop.
Say no to plastic During a holiday, a person normally increases their waste consumption, but this is avoidable. For example, try to eat at restaurants instead of getting take-aways. Take a refillable water bottle so you can avoid buying disposable plastic water and pack a soap bar to avoid using the miniature toiletries. Yes, it's really that simple. Not bad, huh?
Keep the car parked When you get to your destination, use public transport or explore by bike. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but it's cheaper too. Also, you'll get to know your destination better and the locals—who might even give you some insider tips.
Break the chain Sometimes, we easily fall into old patterns and use familiar fast food, coffee or hotel chains while on holiday. But we travel to discover new things, so, it's better to book a small, family-run hotel, taste regional dishes in authentic eateries and rely on local products.
Leave no trace If you are out in nature, remember to take a rubbish bag with you. There aren't always (and sometimes not at all) rubbish bins and that lead to littering. Smokers should also bring a pocket ashtray to protect the local animals and vegetation from harmful cigarette butts.
Sea shells stay on the seashore Many countries do not allow people to take shells, corals, stones and sand from its beaches and if you do, it can lead to five-figure fines—eek! These small treasures should remain where they’re found. Although it’s nice to take home a small memento, it can have huge effects on the local ecosystem—especially as it's so widespread.
Don’t be an animal Even today, selfies with endangered animals are way too popular. No matter if it's a tiger, monkey or dolphin—animal shows are not fair to the animals who are forced to take part. To stick to the ethos of green travel, we suggest avoiding these types of activities.
Keep the home fires burning? Before you set off on your holiday, make sure everything is in order at home. Have you turned off all your power sources such as lights, heating and fridge? If your house is empty, turn off your Wi-Fi while you're away—it’s better for the environment and your electricity bills!
For the eco-pros
Do you already take eco-friendly behaviour as standard? With these tips, you can travel even more sustainably.
Go bespoke Of course, it's tempting to book a fully planned all-inclusive holiday. But when you put together your own trip, you can choose sustainable options. It also allows you to support small authentic local eateries, stores and businesses. With travel platforms like Omio, custom booking is a breeze!
Hop on Hop off If you've ever explored a region or country by train or bus, you’ll know that it takes longer, but you get to experience and discover more at the same time. Long journeys are a bit like hop-on hop-off tours for seasoned travellers. So, instead of planning many small tours, just do one with different stops along the way.
Pack like a pro Only take what you really need—because more weight causes higher emissions! Let's be honest, who hasn’t gone on holiday and only used half the things they’d packed? Exactly. Once you've spent four weeks on holiday with only hand luggage, the light packing craze will quickly grip you.
Under the radar The best and most sustainable trips—and the ones you'll remember—are the ones that take you off the beaten path. This not only minimises the risk of falling into classic tourist traps, but it’ll also support locals who rarely benefit from tourism.
Travel plastic-free Few people travel completely plastic-free, but there are more sustainable alternatives. For example, take your own travel cutlery or always carry a tote bag with you. You can also go greener with your gear, by buying your holiday clothes made from recycled materials or slow fashion websites. For hygiene, get hold of reusable cotton pads and Q-Tips.
Wear (eco) sunscreen Conventional sunscreen contains substances that are harmful to the environment, affecting reefs and the DNA of ocean animals. So, especially at the beach, go for a combo of eco-friendly sunscreen and protective clothing to protect these precious species.
Keep the AC off Not for the faint-hearted, but if you can handle it, we recommend not using air conditioning as much as possible, even in warm destinations. Of course, in places that are 40°, this can quickly become uncomfortable, so make sure you wear breathable clothes, drink plenty of water and stay away from the sun. It’s not as refreshing as AC, but it saves energy and is better for the planet!
Don’t be rubbish Many holiday destinations have to deal with the rubbish tourists leave behind. Whether on the beach or in the woods, try to pick up at least three pieces of rubbish (even if it isn't yours) and make it a regular habit. If you have time, join an organised clean up. Not only do they make you feel good, but you get to meet the locals, too.
Clean living Currently, it's difficult to find truly sustainable accommodation. Luckily, more platforms are introducing labels that identify environmentally conscious places to stay. Groups on social media can also help you find more sustainable accommodation options, such as house swaps.
Support the people Sustainable travel also means supporting the people at the destination, especially if it's a poorer destination. Always tip, choose local travel guides, and find out which organisations are involved in social support projects.
The most sustainable cities in England
Bustling cities, stunning beaches or a perfectly preserved national park: English holiday destinations are more varied than you might think. But how sustainable are England’s metropolises? Omio has analysed England’s major cities to find out. Our ranking takes into consideration which cities offer the cleanest air, the best vegetarian and vegan options, as well as more eco-friendly transport options.
To create the ranking, we analysed the top 30 urban areas in England with over 200,000 inhabitants (ranked by ONS population data). For the traffic category, the prices of an adult’s single ticket on local public transport were analysed (source: various local and regional bus operators) as well as the number of charging stations for electric cars (source: Zap-Map) and the number of carsharing vehicles within five miles of centre (source: CoMoUK) per 10,000 inhabitants. The number of cycle routes is based on data from Bikemap and the data for air quality comes from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory. Happy Cow provided data on the restaurants that offer vegan or vegetarian options. The deadline for all variables to be analysed was 12th of July 2022.
So which city came up top? Drum roll, please! England’s most sustainable city is Brighton! Sometimes known as ‘London by the sea’, Brighton scores the highest for vegetarian and vegan eats and is amongst the top places for electric car chargers, car sharing, affordable public transport and low pollution levels.
Following Brighton is the northern city of Newcastle, ranking within the top five cities for low pollution levels and the number of bike routes.
Milton Keynes and Hull make it affordable for people to get around by public transport, with both offering a single bus ticket for £1 compared to £2.40 in Nottingham, Wolverhampton and Walsall.
London, Nottingham and Coventry ranked top for the best set-up for electric cars, with the most charging points across the cities. After London, Bristol has the highest number of cycle routes within five miles of the city centre.
For air pollution, Coventry, Plymouth and Bolton came out as the cleanest, while Liverpool pipped London to the post as the most air-polluted city.
For those looking for planet-conscious eats, Brighton and Newcastle top the charts with the largest number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, but Wigan, Bradford and Rotherham are lacklustre for plant-based eaters.
Green travel means using sustainable means of transport, and the most sustainable options are long-distance buses and trains. Discover three different, environmentally conscious ways to go on holiday that are easy on your wallet and comfort.
Sustainable travel by train
Exploring Europe by train is not only more sustainable but also easier than you might think. On some routes, catching the train is faster than flying (if you take airport waiting times into account). If you book in advance, you can also get real bargains with the bonus of free luggage, Wi-Fi and stunning views coming at no extra cost. Discover the best train journeys with Omio on our train connections page.
Long-distance buses are the most environmentally friendly means of transport and are shaking off their student image. Nowadays, you can travel in comfort with extra place, personal power sockets and even entertainment systems. And the prices? Fantastically affordable! Thanks to well-developed travel networks, you can reach small towns just as easily as bigger cities in the UK and across Europe. Find the travel inspiration on our bus page.
Night trains are a good sustainable choice if you're travelling long distances. For example, hop on a train in Berlin in the evening, get some shuteye and wake up in Stockholm the next morning—ready to tackle the day. By taking a night train, you're not only being environmentally conscious, but you’ll also save money on hotels. You can find all the information and useful tips on travelling by night train here.