Eco-travel: how to go green

We all like to do our bit for the planet: recycling, taking the bike instead of the car. Eating organic. But does it need to stop when we go on holiday? Aoife Mullen gets to grips with green travel

Walking in the Great Western Greenways
Walking in the Great Western Greenways

For travellers, green is definitely the new black. Just ask the International Ecotourism Society: green, environmentally friendly holidays have been on the rise worldwide since the 1990s.

So what is an eco-holiday?

Clean Break authors Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith sum it up. “Essentially it's about minimising your environmental impact – on your journey and at your destination – by choosing carefully how you travel and the nature of the place you choose to stay at.”

You’ll be glad to know that minimising your environmental impact doesn’t mean minimising your enjoyment. Ask any eco-tourist and they’ll tell you that green travel is great travel.

This is the earthy way to get closer to the landscape and the locals who live in that landscape. It’s a way to explore untouched wildlife areas and indulge in utterly untouched organic produce.

So you’re going green, but where are you going? We have a suggestion. 

From the eco-friendly trails along the lakes of Fermanagh to the rare wildlife roaming freely in Killarney National Park, you’ll soon discover Ireland doesn’t just look green. Ireland is green.

Explore the landscape

Going on a green holiday doesn’t necessarily mean hemp clothes and wheat smoothies. It can be as simple as cutting down your carbon footprint by taking an eco-friendly walking tour.

From the wild west to the Blackstairs Mountains, eco-tours educate walkers about the landscape and how to reduce your impact on the environment. When your environment is the wilderness of Connemara or the Glens of Antrim, you’re bound to take notice.

There are few places in Ireland, or Europe, more organic than the Burren in County Clare. Manager of the visitor centre there, Frances Connole, says “Visitors can take guided tours of sensitive areas of the Burren to minimise the damage and negative impact to the naturalness of the Burren.”

Even in busy cities it’s easy to go green. Join a city walking tour and you're automatically an eco-traveller. The same goes for Belfast City Bike ToursDublin City Bike Tours and cycling in the Phoenix Park. Jason Morrissey of Kilkenny Cycling Tours believes biking is the eco-friendly way of getting to see the hidden gems of a new town.

Eco-friendly activities

But eco-tourism isn’t just about modes of transport. Eco-friendly areas like the Great Western Greenway in the West of Ireland have eco-friendly tourism attractions, such as the Ceide Fields and National Park.

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Swing inland and you’re on the wonderfully named Kingfisher Trail. Straddling the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Letrim, Roscommon, Monaghan and Fermanagh, the route is an organic highway buzzing with Ireland’s wildlife.

The green scene is making a culinary impact, too. Restaurants such as Ely Bar and Brasserie in Dublin source beef from their family farm in the Burren. Read through the menu of The Green Room in Belfast and you'll spot treats like Carlingford crab and Fermanagh Pork Belly.

Sleep and save

To take your eco trip to the next level, how about some green accommodation? Bellinter House in County Meath uses underground heat for its swimming pool, while Delphi Resort in Mayo is the first adventure centre in Ireland to win the ECO-centre award. The hosts at Glenribbeen Lodge in Waterford take a ‘holistic approach’ to accommodation, with solar panels and a windmill used to provide heat and light.

New green travel ideas keep coming. Woofing (working on organic farms for free) doesn’t just help the environment, it also helps the locals. Visitors to Kildare’s Burtown House, for example, help maintain the gardens and farms during the day and in return, you get to stay and eat for free.

We’ve only been able to touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to environmentally responsible travel around the island of Ireland. Green Travel, though, has pulled together formally certified places to eat, sleep and have fun that’ll keep your conscience clean – and green. Enjoy.  

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