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16 Feb 2022

Seven sustainability rules that could affect your next holiday

From mini toiletry bans to carrier bag fines, how tourism is getting an eco-friendly shake-up

Many of us have vowed to holiday more sustainably now travel is back on the agenda. So what if simply choosing the right destination could make a difference?

The Balearic Islands recently announced a new u20ac55 million (almost £46 million) initiative to boost eco-friendly tourism.

The new rules could lead to changes for those visiting the Islands, from what to expect in your bathroom to the food you'll find on your dinner plate.

But the Balearics isn't the only destination to up its eco credentials. And with tourism responsible for roughly 11% of the world's emissions, the pressure is on for other countries to follow suit.

Here we reveal the seven planet-friendly measures you're most likely to encounter on your next holiday.

1. Bans on mini toiletries

The days of cramming tiny shampoo bottles into your suitcase after a stay are numbered. Hotels in the Balearics have been told to ditch these single-use plastics in favour of larger dispensers as part of the new measures.

Many international hotel chains including Marriott and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) have already shunned travel-size toiletries. What's more, New York is set to make them illegal from 2024.

A staggering 200 million miniatures are dumped from UK hotels into landfill each year, according to charitable initiative cleanconscience.org.uk.

So while we all love a hotel freebie, this is undeniably a positive move for the planet.

2. Locally-sourced food

Locally-sourced food will become a priority in the Balearics, meaning you are less likely to find your favourite imports.

On the other hand you can immerse yourself in the flavours of the region and enjoy the freshest, tastiest ingredients.

A bottle of imported lager has around triple the carbon footprint of a locally-brewed draught ale, according to environmental professor Mike Berners-Lee.

Seafood will also become traceable under the new law (so that its origin and the way it was caught can be verified) and the sale of endangered species will be banned.

The Pacific Island of Palau has already done similar in a bid to become carbon neutral, despite its remote location. The move is boosting the local economy by creating more opportunities for homegrown producers.

3. Plastic-free paradise

Miniature toiletries aren't the only items off limits: in March last year, the Balearics outlawed the sale of single-use items such as plastic cutlery, coffee capsules, cotton buds and disposable razors.

According to a report by the United Nations, 127 countries have introduced (or are in the process of introducing) similar bans.

Kenya's law on plastic bags, introduced in 2017, is one of the strictest. Anyone who is found selling, manufacturing, or carrying the bags could face fines of up to $38,000 (£28,000) or up to four years in prison.

4. Screened sun cream

An estimated 14,000 tonnes of sun cream is washed into our oceans each year, destroying coral reefs.

Palau and Hawaii have already banned the sale of lotions that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate - two chemicals that can disrupt coral's growth cycles and lead to bleaching.

It's likely more destinations will introduce similar bans, but in the meantime we can all play our part. Boots Soltan and Garnier sunscreens both steer clear of these ingredients.

If you're swimming near coral, look for mineral-based (rather than chemical-based) sunscreens.

Also check that any zinc-based sun cream you buy is non-nano as products labelled as 'reef safe' are not regulated in the way you might expect. There is no agreed-upon definition, meaning there is no guarantee they won't damage underwater ecosystems.

See which chemical-free sun cream made the grade as a Which? Best Buy.

5. Car-free zones

Road transport is one of the biggest sources of pollution around the globe, leading some forward-thinking destinations to take action.

Several small islands in Croatia are completely car-free, including the Brijuni Islands just off Istria.

Similarly, Switzerland has made some of its towns and villages pedestrian only. After Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics, it banned half the city's cars from roads each day to aid its recovery. The Chinese capital reported a 9% decrease in CO2 emissions as a result.

This means better air quality, as well as less congestion and noise pollution for residents and tourists alike.

6. Sustainable tourism tax

Another measure already in place in the Balearics is a Sustainable Tourism Tax - a small Euro fee added to your room rate when you visit.

The cost, which peaks at u20ac4 (£3.35) per night, varies depending on the time of year and the class of hotel booked.

The money is then ploughed into environmental conservation to offset the impact of mass tourism during the summer.

Bali has a similar tax, while Bhutan - lauded as one of the greenest countries in the world - has a daily visitor tariff of $250 (£184) per person per day during high season. The fee - which includes a guide, accommodation, transport, entry costs and meals - helps fund local infrastructure, healthcare and education.

7. Natural energy sources

As well as fitting water-saving devices, the Balearics has also pledged to optimise electricity usage and convert to 100% renewables by 2050.

And it's not alone: the Maldives is planning to harness solar and wave power to limit its reliance on fossil fuels and combat rising sea levels.

Expect to see more hotels like Six Senses Fiji popping up. The five-star resort runs on 100% solar power and captures rainwater to make its own filtered drinking water - eliminating the need for plastic drinking bottles.

While the luxury resort isn't cheap, these sustainable measures could actually see rates fall in the long run.

See our five tips to reduce the environmental impact of your holiday.