Beach holidays: 15 ways to make them eco-friendly

eco-friendly beach holidays

It is officially summer in the Northern hemisphere and, many travellers will pack their bags to go to the beach this summer.

Whether you opt for a beach staycation or travel to a coastal region further from your home, even on vacation, take your eco-friendly habits with you.

Coastlines and oceans around the world are fragile, and that’s true wherever you travel in the world, so before leaving, here are simple tips on the actions you can adopt  for your eco-friendly beach holidays.

1. Limit your carbon footprint

In addition to choosing an eco-friendly holiday accommodation, choose one that is close to the beaches, to go there on foot or by bike.

If you are further away, use public transport or shuttles that many seaside towns set up during the summer season.

The advantage: in addition to limiting your carbon footprint to get to the beach, you’ll have more time to spend on the sand.

2.   Prefer carbon-neutral watersports

limiting your carbon footprint at the beach

Beach holidays are a great time to relax, have fun, and also practice different sports than usual.

If you decide to practice a water activity, opt for eco-friendly water sports. Paddle, surf, kite surf, or simply snorkle.

Why ? In addition to the noise pollution and carbon footprint that motorized activities generate, they also disturb marine wildlife.

3. Choose a blue beach

There are more than 4600 beaches, towns and marinas with the Blue Flag label in the world.

An environmental label created in Europe in the 1980s certifying cities and marinas committed to sustainable tourism.

Choosing a beach with the Blue Flag label is also a guarantee of swimming in clean water.

Indeed, among its many criteria, the label analyses the quality of bathing water in certified towns up to 5 times a year.

There are blue flag beaches 46 countries around the world ! Choice is yours.

4. Be zero waste at the beach

zero waste tips for the beach

To avoid bringing garbage at the beach, adopt the same zero waste reflexes as you would in town.

  • Avoid plastic bottles and take your reusables with you, there are now many models available, which will keep your favourite drinks cool all day long.
  • Avoid individually wrapped products and take the children’s treats in airtight containers
  • Choose heavy material bags, and bring no lightweight plastic which are likely to fly away in the wild.

5. Choose reef safe sunscreen

reef safe sunscreen

Protecting yourself from the sun at the beach is essential.

But some of the ingredients in chemical based sunscreen have disastrous effects on the ocean and corals.

Several ingredients are pointed out, but Oxybenzone is the main one. So much, that some destinations, like Hawaii, have decided to ban them from their beaches.

The right thing to do: adopt a sunscreen based on mineral filters, without nanoparticles. Many brands now offer effective and reef-safe alternatives.

To go further on the subject, we invite you to (re)discover our article on the effects of sunscreens on the oceans.

6. Why you shouldn’t collect sand or shells

do not collect sand or shells

Shells, pebbles, and sand form the ecosystem of our coastlines.

Sea leashes (e.g : algae, driftwood, cuttlefish bones) play a role and often serve as a food reservoir for birds.

Taking shellfish, bringing back sand, or pebbles, is harmful and weakens this ecosystem.

In addition, some countries have very strict regulations and you risk heavy fines if you are caught with sand souvenirs in your luggage.

7. Respect biodiversity

beach biodiversity

Remember to have an ethical attitude towards wildlife whether on earth or in the sea, even the tiniest ones.

Do not lift rocks, so as not to disturb the species that have settled there. Do not pick up live animals like starfish or crabs just for the fun.

If you dive don’t touch the corals, stay away from the large mammals you encounter and don’t feed the fish.

If you are going to a destination, where you have the privilege of witnessing a sea turtle outbreak, keep your distance and simply enjoy the show.

If you fish or fish on foot, find out about protected species, limit yourself to authorized species and respect regulated sizes. And fish only what you need for your own consumption.

8. Stay on the tracks

protect dunes

If you visit a popular beach, you will probably see specific access, like boardwalks or stairs designed to get there.

If you are more interested in secret beaches or quiet coves, this may not be the case.

Whatever happens, take the marked paths to the beach and don’t give in to the temptation to go through the dunes to get to the sea faster.

The dunes are home to a fragile ecosystem. Birds often choose them as nesting areas. Also the rare plants that grow there and may seem harmless, are often protected species and play an essential role against dune erosion.

9. Save water

water resources at the beach

Many beaches provide showers for holidaymakers to rinse off after swimming.

Be smart and avoid showering after each swim to preserve water.

Also avoid using chemical soaps and shampoos, beach showers grey waters are generally not filtered and as a result go directly into the ocean.

Keep the soap and shampoo for later, where you have a proper waster water filtering system.

10. Leave Nothing Behind

beach clean up

Each year 8 million tonnes of plastic are found in the oceans. The equivalent of a garbage truck unloaded into the ocean every minute.

Take action and do your part.

Start by leaving nothing behind you. Not even the kids toys, who can easily be hidden by their tremendous sand castle

If you are a smoker, remember that a single cigarette butt pollutes up to 500 litres of water and takes years to degrade. Always take a pocket ashtray with you and while you are at it check out of respect for your towel neighbours that you are not on a non-smoking beach

Some beaches labelled blue flag, practice selective sorting, do your part. And if you don’t see any bins on the horizon, take everything with you to recycle once you’re home.

If the beach you are going to is dotted with plastic, take two minutes to do a little cleaning or join a beach clean-up organized by an association in the town you’re visiting.

11. On the sea, protect what’s underwater

Leaving the beach for the sea, for a day or more ?

Before you set sail to discover more or less distant lands, take your green habits on board.

Green boating starts well before you leave the port by equipping your boat to avoid wastewater discharges, sorting your waste on board, or favouring marina facilities to limit the use of resources.

Once at sea, at the risk of repeating some of the advice already mentioned above, make sure that no plastic or cigarette butts go overboard, fish responsibly, keep a fair distance from marine animals and avoid sailing in protected areas.

Finally, when the cove of your dreams is in sight, it is essential to think about the underwater flora.

To protect the seagrass beds that play a crucial role in our marine ecosystems, here are some simple tips:

  • Be particularly careful when approaching shallow waters with a motor
  • Make good use of fixed mooring buoys if they are available
  • Only anchor in sandy areas.

12. Don’t stack for the gram

Cairns, the gaelic word for a pile of stone, are becoming a problem.

What once was a tradition or a religious practice, or a way for hikers to know they were on the right track, is now a form of art invading national parks and beaches of the world.

Coastal cities around the world, from France to Scotland or the United States and New Zealand are alerting travelers about the impacts of practicing stone stacking.

Pebbles are home to a wide biodiversity on many beaches and moving them for the beauty of your photo feed, will disturb it.

Taking away stones and piling them up might make you feel more relaxed, but the consequences can be dramatic for birds, some of which, specifically nest in pebbles. Stone Stacking also has direct consequences on beach erosion and some specific plants, sea cabbage, grow on pebbles and are very useful to the ecosystem, but will take years to grow back if they are moved.

13. Keep your food in your hands

We’ve all witnessed sea gulls appetite, and maybe felt like giving them a taste of our breadcrumbs but protecting biodiversity also means, not feeding birds.

Firstly because it is disturbing for them, and can be harmful for their digestive systems, but essentially because they will loose the habit of chasing for their food.

Birds fed by humans, will constantly come back in search of food, and increase bird waste on the beach. Which can be distruptive for the ecosystem’s balance and cause environmental damage to the beach.

14. Eat local

local and seasonal fish

If you are a seafood lover, remember that the seasons are also valid for fish.

Make sure the fish you eat are from  sustainable fisheries: focus on trap, net or line fishing.

Even better, organize a fishing trip with a local fisher in the marina and bring your lunch home.

15. Think before you buy

Feel like shopping a local souvenir to bring back home ?

Of course, as in any other shop in the world, make sure what you buy is locally produced and sourced to truly benefit the local economy.

Watch out for souvenirs made from endangered or protected species, including animal hides and body parts, tortoise-shell, ivory, or coral. It’s illegal.

What’s your ultimate tip to be eco-friendly at the beach? Come share it in the comments.

Holiable is an eco-friendly travel planner helping you find sustainable hotels, green restaurants and ethical tourism activities around the world. Holiable was developed to share experiences, advice and reviews on sustainable travel, making it easier to prepare your next eco-friendly holiday.
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