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Sustainable Cornwall: Reduce Your Impact

SAS beach cleaners

So you’ve made the decision to not fly this year and are heading to the coast instead. An easy win in terms of environmental impact. And also an easy decision when there’s SO much to see and do in the amazing county of Cornwall. But with more visitors than ever flocking to the sandy shores of Cornwall, the strain on the county and its rich wildlife and ecosystems is significant. How sustainable Cornwall is and continues to be depends hugely on the choices and actions of its visitors.

Thankfully, there are some amazing projects that have been running for a number of years that promote sustainability in Cornwall. From individuals and communities championing eco-friendly practices to large companies tirelessly campaigning for change, sustainable practices in Cornwall are thriving.

Sustainable Cornwall and plastic-free communities

In 2017, Penzance in Cornwall became the first town in the UK to achieve the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Plastic Free Coastline status. Since then, 12 more Cornish towns have gained this status and 17 more are in the process of achieving it. This is a phenomenal effort by the local communities and proof that change is possible, by both individuals and corporations.

Cornwall is proud to be working hard at conserving, regenerating and repairing its natural environment for future generations to enjoy. But without the support and action of its visitors, the struggle may become insurmountable.

Which is where YOU come in! Even if you only implement one of these simple suggestions on your next trip to Cornwall, you’ll be contributing to a more sustainable Cornwall.

14 ways to reduce your environmental impact on your next trip to Cornwall

Belly boards

01Switch polystyrene bodyboards for wooden ones

Every year, hundreds of polystyrene bodyboards are found discarded and broken on the beaches and coastline of Cornwall. This is an environmental disaster, on so many levels. However, the resurgence of the traditional wooden bellyboard offers an excellent alternative that many argue is way more fun than a cheap polystyrene board.

One surf shop in Cornwall has developed a wider than normal bellyboard that feels more like a regular bodyboard to ride, whilst other shops go as far as offering free rentals of wooden boards.

Additionally, many beaches now have bodyboard recycling bins where you can put broken or unwanted boards instead of leaving them on the beach or condemning them to landfill.

Free bellyboard rental | Buy wooden bodyboards


02Ditch disposable BBQs or opt for an Eco grill

There are lots of pros and cons to disposable BBQs. And when you’re on holiday it’s usually only the pros that spring to mind. Who doesn’t love a spontaneous meat feast on the beach?! However, disposable BBQs are often left strewn on beaches or next to public bins. They are also super wasteful and further promote our single-use culture which we desperately need to move away from. The solution is to either invest in a portable BBQ that will provide years of beach grilling opportunities or order a bamboo BBQ before you go on holiday and leave it in your car, just in case the need for some serious sausage sizzling arises!

Buy sustainable disposable BBQ

Vegan food

03Eat out at vegetarian and vegan restaurants

Speaking of meat feasts, it’s always tempting to over-indulge when on holiday. But with so many amazing plant-based options out there, why not make one of your meals out a memorably meat-free occasion? You never know, it might be one of the best holiday meals you’ll have and it’ll probably save you some cash, too!

Vegan restaurants in Cornwall

Beach clean

04Join a beach clean

Litter picking may not be everyone’s ideal way to spend time on their holiday! However, joining an organised beach clean is not only satisfying, but it’s also a great way to explore areas of the beach you may not usually go to. Plus, you get to meet new people, chat to the locals and get some exercise whilst you’re at it!

Beach clean dates:

2 min beach clean station

05Do your own 2 minute beach clean

If the idea of spending a few hours picking up litter doesn’t quite float your boat, then doing a 2 minute beach clean is the perfect compromise. There are dozens of 2 Minute Beach Clean stations across Cornwall, set up and ready for you to quickly do your bit before cracking on with your well-earned R and R in the Cornish sunshine. The stations offer litter pickers, instructions and bags that anyone can borrow. It’s a small gesture of care for our beaches and marine life, but when multiplied by millions of visitors, the impact could be monumental!

2 Minute Beach Clean stations

Beach toy recycling

06Reuse and recycle beach toys

Days at the beach aren’t complete without some serious sandcastle building. And of course, plastic buckets and spades are a must to get the best results. Instead of buying brand new ones, why not seek out a toy sharing station? You can help yourself to buckets and spades – saving money for ice creams! – and then put them back at the end of your stay for others to use. Alternatively, if your kids no longer use what you already own then beach toy recycling boxes are the perfect way to dispose of them.

Beach toy recycling

Buckets and spades

07Buy second hand

Another excellent way to reduce your environmental impact whilst also saving money, is to buy wetsuits, windbreaks, parasols, bodyboard, beach towels and buckets and spades at seaside charity shops. There’s almost always a good supply of items that have sometimes only been used once or twice. It really is a no-brainer, especially when the proceeds go to such good causes.

Cornish Hospice shops

atlantic coaster box

08Take the bus, train or cycle

Driving during peak summer in Cornwall can be testing for even the most patient of car-users. An excellent way to ease the congestion, pollution levels and your own stress levels is to seek an alternative to driving. There are some excellent bus services that provide access to out of the way areas and make one-way hiking routes feasible. Plus, there is even a selection of beaches that are well serviced by train.

Alternatively, hop on some bikes and explore the quiet backroads of Cornwall that link up quaint villages, coves and beauty spots, minus the traffic (but plus a few hills!).

Public transport planner | Cycle route finder

Cornish soaps

09Buy locally made gifts

Cornwall is full of crafters and artisans creating and selling gorgeous items, often with a big focus on sustainability. So, instead of buying cheap, bulk-made gifts, consider seeking out markets and independent shops to buy something much more meaningful for all involved. Yes, you may need to spend a bit more, but that sort of consumerism is what keeps Cornwall functioning as a tourist destination year after year.

Cornish artisan markets

Bread stall

10Buy local food

Buying locally doesn’t just apply to gifts. If you’re self-catering then consider taking a trip to the local farmers’ market, butcher, fishmonger or greengrocer to stock up on fresh, locally sourced produce. Not only will you be supporting the hard-working locals, but you’re also guaranteed to eat more healthy and delicious food.

Cornish food festivals and farmers’ markets

Camping equipment

11Hire camping gear instead of buying it

Unless you’re investing in camping gear that you will use more than once a year for the rest of your life, you might be better off renting it. This doesn’t just apply to high value items like tents. There are companies that rent out everything from air mattresses to camping stoves, and everything in between. Some will deliver to your house before you head off camping in Cornwall whilst others will set everything up (tent and all) ready for your arrival at the campsite.

Renting camping gear is an especially good option if you are new to camping and don’t want to invest before you know whether you’re likely to do it again. Plus, you get to try out a load of gear to see what suits your wants and needs!

Gear rental options:

reusable cups

12Carry a keep cup and refillable bottle

One of the easiest investments you can make for the planet and your pocket is to buy yourself a reusable drinks bottle and take it with you wherever you go. Most cafes willingly refill empty water bottles these days which will keep you rehydrated and full of energy for more playing at the beach!

Another easy win, especially If you like to have a takeaway coffee on the go all day, is to pop a keep cup in your bag. Simply ask the barista to make your coffee in your own cup when you order.

Coffee cup made from cups!

Beer and pizza

13Sample the local ale!

If you enjoy sipping on a beer or two when kicking back in your deckchair watching the sunset, then why not choose a local ale? You’re not only supporting local industry and getting to sample new brews, but you’ll also be significantly reducing the carbon footprint of your drink when compared with drinking imported ales. For the full experience, there are lots of tap rooms in Cornwall where you can enjoy beers straight from source. Some even offer refillable growlers to take away (and refill the night after!). Who knew that drinking beer could be a positive thing for the environment!

Black Flag Brewery, Perranporth

Cornish canvas bag

14Carry a reusable bag with you

And finally, stick with your usual daily habit of always going to the shops armed with a reusable bag or two. Just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you need to start using plastic bags again. If you just leave one if your car or handbag then it’ll be ready and waiting for you to fill right up with local goodies whenever you need it.

Organic cotton bag

About the author


Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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