Sustainable travel: how do you do that? And perhaps even more important: is it really possible? Long distance travel is becoming increasingly popular and more Europeans choose to spend their holiday in a far-away country. At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness that travelling does not come without consequences. Air travel leads to high CO2 emissions and tourism has a big impact on local culture and nature. Fortunately, you can minimise your ecological footprint in a number of ways. In this article, we explain how and give you some tips on how to travel as sustainably as possible.
What is sustainable travel?
You could say that there is no such thing as sustainable tourism or sustainable travel. You will always leave a footprint at your destination: from the journey itself, from your waste or from your (unconscious) effect on the local culture. For us, sustainable travel means making conscious choices, to be mindful of nature, to take the environment into account as much as possible, and to ensure that you have the least possible impact on the local population. You can call it sustainable travel, responsible travel, conscious travel or travel with a minimal footprint.
Sustainable transport to your destination
Stay closer to home for a sustainable holiday
A sustainable trip starts with your destination. Your destination will, for the most part, determine your mode of transport. If you choose to go to another continent, you are most likely dependent on aviation. A holiday in Europe, however, offers a more sustainable perspective. Europe is so diverse, it has plenty of different options. From the high mountains in Italy to the clear blue beaches in Greece, there's no need to leave Europe to enjoy a spectacular landscape!
Green travel by train or bus
Have you decided to stay closer to home? Choose a sustainable method of transport. Did you know that you can save up to 90 percent of your CO2 emissions if you travel by train? Bus travel is also becoming increasingly popular, which emits up to half the amount of CO2 compared to aviation. If you travel by train or stay in your home country, you can indeed travel sustainably.
Make conscious choices when you book a flight
Naturally, travelling by train or bus becomes harder when your destination is a bit farther away from home. Nowadays, it’s easy to just hop on the plane. Flying is fast, cheap and relatively safe - and it is one of the most popular modes of transport. But to compare: a return flight from Amsterdam to Valencia is equivalent in terms of CO2 emissions to 670 laundry washes and 230 showers of 10 minutes. That is quite a lot.
Do you still want to follow your dreams and go to the other side of the world? Or is it simply not possible to travel by land? Even if you choose to fly, you can still make conscious travel choices. Here are some tips to make your flight a little greener.
Book a flight without a transfer
Sometimes you can save money by booking a flight with a transfer. With a transfer, however, you often take a detour and travel longer distances, which results in higher CO2 emissions. So make an effort to book a flight with as few transfers as possible. Also, choose the nearest airport for efficient air travel.
Fly economy class
Flying business class means more luxury and space - and the more space you take up as a passenger, the more CO2 emissions you'll have to pay in proportion. Try to let go of the luxury and fly economy class.
Choose a 'sustainable' airline
The type of aircraft, the engines, the number of seats and the cargo capacity all count in determining the efficiency and durability of a flight. You can use the Atmosfair Airline Index to calculate how sustainable an airline is. It shows that the Spanish airline Air Europa and the Dutch KLM score relatively well on sustainability and efficiency of flights. Consider sustainable airlines when booking a flight.
Book with FlyGRN and offset your flight’s CO2-emissions
It does make a difference how you book a flight. Considering the huge number of flight booking sites, it’s easy to use a flight comparison site. FlyGRN is the only comparison website that invests in CO2 compensation projects when you book your flight. And for every €100 spent on a package holiday, FlyGRN plants one tree in India.
Flight booked? Go for Carbon Offsetting
Have you booked a flight yet? Compensate for your flight’s CO2 emissions, using FlyGRN. For every ton of CO2, FlyGRN invests in the construction of solar panels in India to replace fossil energy.
Sustainable travel at your destination
Make sure you stay for a long time
Using the previous tips, you can definitely make more conscious decisions when you travel. Once you arrive at your destination, there are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of your stay. For example, think about the impact you have on local nature and culture. Tourism often has far-reaching consequences. More waste ends up in these areas and tourists (unconsciously) use up scarce resources such as fuel, food and water.
Tourism is, on the other hand, an important source of income and can also have a positive impact on the local economy. By making conscious choices abroad, you make sure that your stay is as positive as possible. Here is how you can do that.
Sleep in eco-friendly hotels and choose sustainable accommodation
One of the ways to minimise your impact is by staying in eco-friendly hostels. There are many hostels and hotels that reuse products and raw materials. They generate their own green energy, grow their own fruit and vegetables, and compost food waste. Some hotels invest more in their local community than others. They train local staff for free, provide them with English lessons, etc.
Reduce your use of plastic
Plastic is a serious threat to nature: it isn’t biodegradable and it’s virtually impossible to process. Use as little plastic as possible when travelling. Bring your own shopping bag, get a reusable water bottle and say no to single-use plastics, such as straws.
Be mindful of the environment
Do you like hiking? Take the official hiking paths, so you don't destroy nature. Or are you more of an ocean enthusiast? Make sure you don’t touch any coral when you are snorkelling and use suncream without oxybenzone; this is a harmful substance that kills coral. With these small steps, you protect nature and make your trip a lot more sustainable.
Respect the local population
Finally, it’s important to respect the local population and their traditions. You are a guest in their country and sometimes this means that you need to change your habits. Wear proper clothing in religious areas. Support the population by shopping at the local market. And eat at local restaurants. This way, your visit becomes a lot more enjoyable, both for yourself and for the local people.
Conclusion: is sustainable travel possible?
Although sustainable travel may seem like a contradictio in terminis, you can still make conscious choices. This starts with the destination: the closer to home, the less impact your journey will have on nature. If you need to fly, choose a sustainable airline, offset your CO2 emissions, and fly economy class. Make conscious choices at your destination. Stay in eco-friendly hotels, try to reduce your waste, and respect the local nature and culture. Take your responsibility. We can all contribute to a better world!
What is your vision on sustainable travel?
How do you travel as sustainably as possible? Do you take the train or bus? Do you hitchhike? Or do you have other sustainable travel tips? Let us know in the comments or visit us on Instagram.
Original article in Dutch by Kirsten Sistermans - translated by Jessica Scheper