Embracing Slow Travel: reducing our carbon footprint one journey at a time

19th March 2024 16:54

By Gill Redfern, Research Director 

Like many, I try to do my bit when it comes to reducing my household’s carbon footprint; as a household we recycle what we can, try to buy local and in season where possible, we are eating less meat/more plant based foods these days, we take steps to minimise our food waste, we try to avoid using single use plastics and thrift our children’s clothes when they grow out of them. However, when it comes to a family summer holiday, I have to confess my default is to start by looking at flight options to warmer climes.

However, following analysis of social media posts, online forums and news’ comments (using the Brandwatch [1] consumer intelligence platform) I was intrigued to learn that a trend known as ‘slow travel’ was occupying more than a quarter of UK online social chatter concerned with ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint, higher than any other initiatives mentioned.

Chart, UK online social chatter, ways to reduce carbon footprint

And once I started delving further into influencer posts and reading mainstream media articles on slow travel, it became clear that there has been a notable shift in the way many individuals are approaching travel in the 2020s! As the global consciousness around climate change continues to grow, people are increasingly looking for ways to explore the world while minimising their carbon footprint. This has given rise to the emerging trend of ‘slow travel’, where individuals opt for more immersive experiences over the traditional ‘cram it all in’ type holidays and crucially adopt more sustainable transportation methods rather than carbon hungry air travel.

Indeed, central to the slow travel movement is a heightened awareness of one's carbon footprint. With the proliferation of tools and personalised assessments, individuals now have the resources to measure their carbon emissions and make informed decisions to reduce them. And those favouring slow travel actively choose slower methods of travel, such as land and sea routes, which not only reduce carbon emissions but also often offer a more immersive travel experience. In addition to the method of transportation, slow travel means opting for eco-friendly lodging, supporting local communities and taking care of the local environment by doing ones best to not disrupt or harm societal ecosystems.

Specialist travel organisations have caught on to this consumer driven trend too, organisations such as Pura Aventura, a B Corp, is one of the first UK operators to label carbon emissions for every trip and has even created a series of no-fly holidays to Spain. Responsible Travel is creating more rail itineraries and removing trips that include flights of less than one hour. Discover the World has launched 13 flight and car free trips to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the Alps, and even the Arctic [2].
Slow travel represents a shift towards more a mindful and sustainable exploration of the world. By opting for lower carbon transportation methods, making more sustainable accommodation choices, and supporting local communities in the places visited, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and arguably enjoy far more enriching travel experiences.

As we all try to find ways to prioritise sustainability in our lives, slow travel offers a compelling vision for a more harmonious relationship between humans and the planet. So on that note, I am off to check out the ferry options from the UK to mainland Europe this summer…


You can read more about our sustainability research here. If your organisation is looking for insight to support your sustainability strategy, please get in touch. Gill Redfern, Research Director, gredfern@djsresearch.com




[1] https://www.brandwatch.com/

[2] Conde Naste Traveler: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/slow-travel-trend


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