5 tips for travelling more sustainable
We cannot deny, unfortunately, our wanderlust is doing quite some harm to the climate… But totally quit traveling? That’s not a real option as well. So, in that case, we want to set off in a sustainable way. How does that work? We’ll explain it here and give you some tips on how you can travel more aware and sustainable!
What is sustainable for traveling?
Possibly the first thing you walk into, because what is sustainable traveling? What do you need to change? Multiple experts like tourism expert Wolfgang Günther and head of science, policy, and research at Friends of the Earth Mike Childs say that there is no clear definition. Günther gives the example of taking the train instead of the airplane for the impact on the environment because it quickly saves 200kg CO2. On the other side, there is social sustainability, says Childs. That’s more about where you spend your money; at local shops or at big chains? But most of the time you don’t know how the locals make their products or where they get their materials. It is hard to judge how sustainable they are working. The best outcome would be if it would be both good for the environment as for the locals, but that turned out harder than hoped. An example: the most sustainable option for food is vegetarian or vegan, but that is hard to find in local restaurants. Of course, it is not that big chains are bad all the time, when they have a good sustainability policy there is nothing against it. But when having a look at large fashion chains, we are soon talking about fast fashion. That is not sustainable anyhow. From a sustainable point of view, you could better avoid these chains. That’s already different for restaurants. Sustainable traveling is not only choosing an alternative for the airplane and saving CO2 emissions, but mostly the things you do on your destination. Think about your residence, how you move in the city, what you eat and where you shop.
To help you make more sustainable choices, we have some tips for you to make it a bit easier!
Calculate your CO2 emissions
There are plenty of CO2 calculators you can find to calculate your emissions. Weirdly the outcome differs quite a lot per calculator. At Greentripper the emissions for a one-way flight from New York JFK Airport to San Francisco SFO Airport be 523kg, while GreenTickets calculates 610kg CO2 emissions. Another calculator is Green seat, whose outcome is ‘only’ 390kg. This gives quite a big difference, how is that possible? According to Jeppe Blijker, co-founder of GreenTickets, there is just no good way yet to calculate CO2 emissions in the right way. Each calculator would use other data, for example, the type of aircraft and its loading. This makes a difference in emissions as well. But, the most important reason, is that there is no right way (yet) to calculate the CO2 emissions.
Where do you stay?
Where are you staying if you want to choose a sustainable way? Do you choose a hotel, Airbnb or B&B?
Let’s start with the first one, the hotel. In the basics, there is nothing wrong with choosing a hotel, but the moment you choose for a large chain as the Hilton, you are doing nothing for the locals. The other side is that these chains most of the time have more budget to be more sustainable. This is something you must consider; do you choose for social or ecological sustainability? A relatively new hotel chain, Qbic, is fully committed to sustainability and is a great choice if you want to residence sustainable, but the price tag is up to it. On average you pay 100 euros a night for this environmentally aware option.
Airbnb is a great concept. You sleep at locals and they earn the money directly. A good example of social sustainability. But, unfortunately, Airbnb is no longer used in this way all the time. More and more homes are being bought and rented out as Airbnb full time. The result is that the local population is driven out of the city and there is less choice in homes for them. In that case, Airbnb is a horrible choice. Next to this, ecological sustainability is never guaranteed at Airbnb, since all locations are owned by individuals.
A bed & breakfast might be the most socially sustainable option. You sleep at people’s homes, so the money stays within the local population and nothing is lost at the big bosses. The downside is that B&B’s are mostly not very ecological and most of the time are located outside the city centers.
So, it remains a consideration whether you want to go for social sustainability or ecological sustainability. It is almost impossible to have both. For ecological sustainability, it is best to go to a larger hotel chain, simply because they have more resources to be more sustainable. If you choose for social sustainability, then you should focus more on local initiatives.
Transport within the city
Obviously, the most sustainable mode of transport is walking. But, in a large city, walking is not always an option. Do you stay within one neighborhood to discover that, walking only makes it better? You’ll see more of the surroundings and might walk into new hidden spots.
Larger (capital)cities like Madrid, London or Paris have an enormous metro network. For these cities, it often applies that you can explore the whole city by the metro very easily. Because these metros often drive on electricity, this is a reasonable green choice. Especially when you use the metro for long distances and walk the short ones!
Busses are a more complicated story. Of course, it is more fun to drive through the city by bus compared to the metro. You directly see something of the environment but is not always as green. Many cities introduced green or hybrid busses in the last few years, but this does not apply to all bus lines.
Another option is cycling. Many cities have multiple renting points where you can take a bike and leave it at another point in the city. Next to this, there are some hotels that even offer bike rental. Don’t forget to take into consideration the city where you would like to cycle, not all places are as safe. In Europe, there are quite some options. Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Valencia are perfect cycling cities!
A city trip to have a weekend full of shopping is getting more normal. Large shopping streets full of big chains like H&M, Zara, Bershka or New Look you see everywhere nowadays. But these chains are working with fast fashion for large parts. The opposite of sustainability. Okay, for example, H&M is using sustainable cotton in some items, but that does not make the production sustainable. What is a better choice?
Vintage is hot! In many trendy cities, you find plenty of vintage shops. Cities like Berlin, Paris or London are filled with them. By buying second-hand clothing items are getting a longer life and it is not fast fashion anymore, because it gets a second life.
Next to this, independent and sustainable brands are a good option and flea markets are always a good spot to find some hidden treasures. Buying clothes at the market is more adding value to social sustainability compared to when you buy it at large chains. The downside is that you don’t know how the clothing is produced.
Sustainable eating is in different aspects. It’s therefore not always feasible to tick all of them. For example, it is better to eat no or as little meat as possible. The meat industry is extremely polluting. In addition, local seasonal fruit and vegetables are a better choice and from a social point of view, it is better to eat at an independent restaurant than at a large chain. A lot to think about and consider. It is not easy.
Luckily there are some handy tools to make this easier. TripAdvisor implemented filters which makes it easier to see what your options are. You can filter on ‘local kitchen’, ‘suitable for vegetarians’ or ‘suitable for vegans’. An even more easy tool is the app HappyCow.
This app helps you search for vegan, vegetarian or normal restaurants with vegetarian or vegan options. Based on your location, you can see what’s in the area and the reviews from predecessors help you make a tasty choice.
If you need something to eat quickly and aren’t there many green options in the area? Then choose a chain where they are concerned with sustainability. And your cup of coffee rather takes this with a different type of milk than cow milk. According to The Guardian, oat milk has the least impact on the environment.
Why choose to eat no meat? Of course, this is a personal choice, and enjoy your meal if you like that. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), you can travel 32km by a light car with the same fuel that is needed to make one hamburger. Producing one-pound meat is costing 10 times as much water as producing one-pound of wheat. And one pigsty is producing as much raw garbage as a city with 12.000 inhabitants. So, from a sustainable point of view, think twice when eating meat.
Do you have the ultimate tip to travel more sustainable and aware? These are obviously just a few tips you can take in mind to make that trip a bit more sustainable. Some things are a bit harder, or more expensive, than others. Think about your intentions and how far you would like to go. For many things, there is a more sustainable way, but this does not mean you are not allowed to shop at big chains or enjoy your burger. These are just some tips to make your travels greener! Do you have more tips to travel more sustainable?
Let us know!