How to have a greener family holiday

Summer is fast approaching, even if the weather doesn’t agree. If you’re wondering how to have a greener family holiday beyond simply ‘no flying’ then have a read of these tips. Happy summer!

5 minutes to read

by Katie Skelton / June 17, 2022

Reef-friendly sunscreen

According to research, around 6000 tonnes of sunscreen washes through the U.S reef areas every year. Some of the most common ingredients in sunscreen are not only harmful to the reef and aquatic life but are actively destroying them. These chemicals can induce coral bleaching, decrease fish fertility, impair algae growth, and can even harm dolphins. Once the coral is bleached, they’re far more at risk of infection and usually die out.

While awareness of this is on the rise, it means that many mainstream brands are advertising their sunscreen as ‘reef friendly’ because it’s free of the two main chemicals that have been singled out as bad: oxybenzone and octinoxate. Hawaii has even banned sunscreen from containing those two chemicals. But, there are still other chemicals that are harmful to reefs that mainstream brands are using instead. Something to watch for!

Save The Reef recommends using a sunscreen that uses physical UV blockers such as zinc and titanium oxide, rather than chemical ones. They also say to use sunscreen that has larger particles, which means avoiding aerosols or sprays that contain ‘nano’ particles. Find a full list of the ingredients to watch out for here.

Unfortunately, research is still being conducted on exactly what constitutes ‘reef-friendly’ so it’s important to look out for certain ingredients rather than a blanket reef-friendly label or statement.

Suggested brands

  • Tropic sunscreen is Protect Land + Sea* certified, meaning it’s one of the most reef-safe sunscreens out there.
  • Green People’s sunscreen does contain nanoparticles, but they’ve explained their reasoning on their website.
  • Badger Balm uses zinc oxide as a physical UV blocker and is made up of 98% organic ingredients.
  • Jason Natural Sun Care is the most affordable option we’ve come across (at the time of writing), while still being the most reef-friendly and natural as possible. It’s even biodegradable!


*Products labelled with the “Protect Land + Sea” Certification Seal mean that the product has been laboratory‐tested using analytical‐forensic techniques to verify that the product is free of the chemicals that are on the HEL LIST.

Alternatives to flying for a greener family holiday

Flying is sometimes the easiest and cheapest option to get away for the holidays – which is unfortunate for those of us who care about our environmental footprint but don’t want to spend hundreds getting the train instead.

The Eurostar is an option that’s quicker than a long slog of connecting trains and ferries, and you can easily go to Paris and take a direct train to the south if you’re searching for sunnier climates.

Also, Interrail is most famous for being used by gap year students, off to travel independently on a budget for the first time. But this is not the case – Interrail is for people of all ages and rail travel across Europe can be really good fun with children.

We’d also recommend the website Rome2Rio, which will give you multiple options to get to your destination – including buses, trains, flying, bus, ferry and a combination of them all. Save yourself the manual effort of finding a fly-free option for your next family holiday and use Rome2Rio instead!

Don’t feel you have to buy new holiday outfits

The pressure many of us feel to be seen in a new holiday outfit each year is not so good for the environment. But a holiday is a time for a treat, we know this! Instead of heading to fast fashion stores and finding the cheapest deal, check out online stores like Thrift+ which sell a huge range of well-known high street brands and designer-label goods, all pre-loved. Charity shops have never let us down, either. 

If you have a special event like a family party or wedding to attend when you’re away, consider looking into renting an outfit. Just search for “summer party/wedding outfits to rent” followed by your country, and a whole host of options should appear.

This way, you get to have that new outfit feeling, but without the impact on the environment.

Eat locally

Not only is this a great way to teach children about different cultures and cuisines, but it also benefits the planet. Transporting food from one side of the world to another has a huge carbon footprint, and is something we cannot avoid doing when living in countries with harsher winters unsuitable for growing crops.

But, if your family holiday is somewhere a little warmer than the depths of the UK, make the most of the fresh, locally-grown fruit and veg. Or head out to a food market and sample a traditional local dish or restaurant. Supporting the local economy is better for the planet and for the country you’re visiting. More money from tourism equals more money to invest in sustainability.

Switch up your flip flops

As the weather gets warmer many of us turn to a trusty pair of flip flops to see us through the summer. And unless we pay a hefty price point for a pair, we’d be lucky if they lasted two years. But mainstream flip flops are unfortunately made of plastic-based foam, adding to the plastic crisis.

Brands such as Waves Flip Flops use natural rubber instead of plastic for their shoes, which breaks down naturally and is much less harmful than plastic flip flops. Apparently, they’re also much comfier than plastic ones.

Travel with a sustainable travel company

From hotel search engines that only have sustainable listings, to tour companies that focus on slow travel, there’s a sustainable trip for any taste. All tourism has an impact on the planet, even if you choose not to fly to your destination. The waste the hotels produce, the energy they use, and how much the tour company utilises local businesses all affect the environmental footprint of tourism.

If the thought of trying to assess whether a travel company is aligned with your sustainable values gives you a headache, then check out our recent blog which has a big list of sustainable travel companies, hotels, and tour operators. You can be certain that the brands listed are all genuinely passionate about caring for the environment, and there are so many sustainable family holiday options to choose from that you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Take a sustainable summer dare with Ailuna

Download the Ailuna app just in time for the summer holidays and take your first dare today. Challenge yourself, your friends, and your family to make small changes to your daily lives – including when you’re on holiday.

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