“What is green travel?” muses Juliet Kinsman, journalist and author of the new The Green Edit: Travel guide (£9,99, Ebury Press). “For sure, there are a lot of myths surrounding what this actually means, but being green has never been so gratifying. In many ways, ‘green travel’ is about experiencing the world in a more enriching and authentic way.”
Ideal for those who care about the planet, yet remain in love with discovering the world, Juliet’s new book, The Green Edit: Travel, covers all aspects of how we can explore in a more responsible way, and breaks down exactly what ‘sustainable travel’ means.
Here, for Forbes, Juliet talks about the inspiration behind the title.
What prompted you to write a guide on eco-friendly travel?
I’ve been a journalist for around 25 years and I have spent of lot of this time writing about luxury travel. However, I always had a nagging guilt about flying around the globe, staying in world-class hotels and calling this ‘work’. So, I vowed to start this decade thinking of it as the ‘Restoring Twenties’ – a time when everyone finally joins in the conversation about sustainability.
I had already launched Bouteco.co – a platform to help hotel lovers find the best eco-conscious, design-led hotels – and, as a result of creating this, I’ve also been working with hoteliers to improve their sustainability and social responsibility, so it was familiar territory.
In short, I believe the more we talk about sustainability, the more we can all benefit. The issue is that people are often confused as to what this exactly means.
This is where The Green Edit: Travel comes in. I wanted to demystify a lot of the concepts around sustainability. The truth is, most people want to have a positive impact on the world, not a negative one. So the book explains how to balance our individual desires – of travelling somewhere luxurious, for instance, – with explaining how we can do that in a better way.
It’s true that the issues around sustainability are often nuanced and complicated, but I wanted to simplify these. Take flying, for example. It’s about understanding the choices you have. No one is saying not to fly at all. After all, getting on a plane is necessary for the tourism industry to survive. In countries like Africa, conservation would be badly hit if tourists stopped visiting and that would also be devastating for the planet. But it’s good to know that there some airlines are greener than others. SAS and Finnair, for example, have got good track records and have sustainability built into their ethos. Did you know that the newer the plane, the ‘cleaner’ it will be? It sounds obvious, but who actually looks into this when booking?
It’s also worth knowing that taking off and landing have the worst impact on the environment, so why not consider taking the train for shorter distances? And try and take a direct flight for long-haul destinations, to avoid multiple landings and take-offs. It’s starting the dialogue about how we can incorporate simple changes when we are thinking about travel.
As a travel journalist, have you always been environmentally aware?
My Mum grew up in Holland and I’ve always been bought up to understand that waste is not good. I was also close to my grandparents, who had lived through the war and had experienced rationing, so things like recycling and using every scrap of food was second nature to them. It is a way of living that was passed on to me.
As a travel journalist, I’ve been fortunate to have had access to some of the best hotels and experiences you can find, but I began to question these. I started to feel like we should redefine what ‘luxury’ means, and see things through a different, more eco, ‘lens’.
As I say in the book, ‘Green’ doesn’t mean going full-on ‘hippy’, it means having a better understanding of supply chains, making considered choices and being switched-on about the world around you. It means understanding the consequences of even the smallest decisions as consumers. In my mind, it means being a half-decent person!
How great is the challenge facing us, when it comes to being able to travel in a conscious way?
As I mentioned, it’s about making informed choices. Do some research. The smallest changes – if we all did them – can have a big impact. Look at the use of plastic bags for instance. At one time, we all used them. Now, it is frowned upon.
Yes, in some ways, travel is a luxury, but it is also essential to support millions of people around the world. So do it wisely. Look at the business where you will be spending your money and delve a little into their policies around the environment and local communities. Spend as much of your money with those businesses entrenched in these communities.
What is the key message you’d like readers to take away with them after reading the book?
I want them to feel empowered and sure of their decisions. The book is purposely easy to read and I have set about demystifying concepts, like ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘zero waste’. I want the book to be a prompt so people go on to ask: what do I care about? What are my values? Where can I go to make a difference?
I also wanted to inspire people to still seek out amazing holidays, but ones which can help the world to heal. It’s about stepping out of our bubbles. We are going to travel again, and when we do, this book will tell you how to do it with a conscience.
If there’s three things we can all do to improve positive change when travelling – what would they be?
1. Ask: ‘Who am I giving my money to on this holiday?’ ‘Are they a good company?’ ‘Are they engaged with social economic sustainability?’
2. Look at your itinerary, and support as many local businesses as you can along the way – tour guides, local cafés, taxi drivers, and so on.
3. Question your mode of travel and how you are getting there. Ask: ‘What is the carbon footprint of my journey?’
Tell us about Bouteco…
I was working as editor-in-chief of the travel brand Mr & Mrs Smith. Its speciality was to uncover stylish hotels around the world. A few of these began to stand out. Yes, they were design-led, but, as part of their offering, they were also considering the environment and cultural preservation.
Bouteco was set up to signpost travellers to these special hotels. They are basically the places that I love, which happen to also help you to be a responsible traveller. Bouteco is a ‘go-to’ when it comes to finding the best high-quality, green hotels. It also highlights those positive-impact travel agents who are trustworthy when it comes to helping you plan and book holidays which are a force for good.
Where is next on your travel wish-list?
I’m doing a driving tour around Portugal next month. The trip will be my ‘sweet spot’ – lots of fabulous-looking places which are sensitive to the environment and their social impact.
I am also dreaming of getting to Sacred Valley in Peru and staying at the Explora Valle Sagrado.
What are your thoughts on the travel trends ahead, in a post-Covid world? Will we be travelling differently?
Trends are what we want them to be! But, saying that, I do think we will inevitably travel less, but in a more meaningful way. I also think that the value of true travel experts will return. People will remember those companies who helped reorganise their cancelled trips due to Covid, who were on hand to advise and reassure and worked hard during a time of crisis.
Bouteco highlights companies, such as the Conscious Travel Foundation – a member-community for sustainability-minded agents, with fees going towards grass-roots projects. They know their stuff and care about where they send their customers.
Do you think the travel industry is truly becoming more eco-friendly?
Without a doubt it is getting better. There is still a lot of ‘greenwashing’ and signposting – with some companies putting in more effort around using slogans and clever language to sound good, rather than the actual initiatives that will make a change. But, overall, I think the industry is waking up to the facts. I feel very positive about it. In the long term, mass tourism may suffer. We will end up travelling less but in a better, more rewarding way, with nature and wellness as a focus.
Where’s your ultimate ‘green’ place to stay and why?
I recently visited Fforest in west Wales and it truly nails it. It ticked so many boxes – I didn’t have to fly there, but, still, it offered me a change of scene and true respite from the world – which is why I travel. You sleep in a dome overlooking farmland, and so you are immediately reconnected with nature and immersed in the great outdoors. It is very restorative. It is also stylish in a low-key way. What’s not to love?