Sustainable travel: How does it work?

Dear Diary,

the more we travel, the more I am concerned about the impact that travel has on the environment. Sustainable behavior in general is becoming increasingly important. Because the effects of our consumerist lifestyles are becoming ever clearer. We should actually change our behavior fundamentally so that there is an improvement in sight. But at the same time, we don't want to restrict ourselves. Including myself. I want to see the world and travel, even though I know it can have a negative impact on the environment: More and more cultural sites are at risk of being destroyed by overtourism and our carbon footprint after a trip also leaves a lot to be desired.

So what can we do to at least counteract it?

Sustainable behavior starts at home!

I already try to adopt sustainable behavior at home and not just when I travel. I first started eating less meat and now I don't actually eat any meat at all. I have only resorted to game meat a few times as an exception. This not only contributes to a better CO2 footprint, but also to my health. Because my body certainly doesn't thank me for eating meat that is pumped full of antibiotics and additives. Ask yourself how certain meat can be so cheap? Surely not because it's particularly good.

I'm also paying more and more attention to leaving the car at home. I've been commuting to university and work by bus and train for years anyway. I now also cycle more distances in my free time, even though I live in mountainous Wuppertal. I now only go into town on foot, which also saves me the annoying search for a parking space.

It can often be small things that have a positive impact. For example, we can save electricity by taking shorter and slightly colder showers. In addition, many people are not aware that charging cables also draw electricity if they are still plugged into the socket after charging. If each individual pays attention to little things like this, it can lead to a certain amount of progress.

However, it's no good if we behave sustainably at home and let our hair down on vacation instead. We must therefore also behave consciously when traveling. Even the smallest changes that we sometimes barely notice can help...

The difficult choice of the right means of transport

You will certainly be aware that airplanes and cruise ships are considered to be the ultimate polluters. I would completely do without cruises anyway. But I am also rethinking air travel more and more often. The fact that flying is becoming cheaper and cheaper naturally makes it tempting to get on a plane. But especially on short journeys, the plane is not always the best choice of transportation. After all, with check-in, boarding and landing, the time saved by flying is minimal. However, the journey is more stressful. If you take the ICE instead, you can travel through to your destination without disruption and use the time productively. I also find traveling by train the most relaxing!

If you do want to travel a longer distance, consider making a road trip out of it instead of flying. With the right car, driving is also more CO2-efficient than flying. You will also see much more of the world on a road trip. You can stop here and there and discover new things.

If you can't think of an alternative to flying, then simply take a sustainable approach to flying. Instead of flying to Portugal several times to discover Lisbon first, then Porto the second time and then the Algarve, you can combine everything. Book a flight to Portugal and then travel from A to B to C by bus, train or car. This way you can discover everything in one go instead of flying there several times.

To soothe your guilty conscience from flying, you can also offset your carbon footprint by planting trees. If you don't have the space to do this, there are plenty of organizations such as atmosfair that will offset your carbon footprint for you in return for a small donation.

Anticyclical travel

Travel anti-cyclically! This is because many travel hotspots are increasingly burdened by overtourism. As a result, both cultural sites and natural wonders are gradually being destroyed. Machu Picchu is the best example of this. The Inca site is overrun by tourists every year, meaning that it has suffered major deterioration within a very short space of time. As a result, the government has already had to consider measures to tame the masses of tourists. Venice is also facing similar problems, so there is now an “entrance fee” for the city. Especially in the summer months, Venice is overrun with tourists. So if you want to discover Venice, you might want to look for dates outside the main tourist season. This will take the pressure off the region. It also helps local tourism businesses to make ends meet. And it also has advantages for you. We were in Venice in December. As there were fewer tourists in the city, it was much more relaxed for us to discover everything. Anti-cyclical travel therefore not only helps the added value of the region, but also has advantages for you!

Furthermore, it's not always just the crowded places that are beautiful. There is also plenty to discover away from the tourist hotspots. So how about a trip off the beaten track? Discover the outskirts of Milan, for example, instead of squeezing through the crowds of tourists in the city! Or how about a trip to Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital? Some people have never heard of the city, but it is said to be beautiful. You're guaranteed to encounter fewer tourists than in Madrid, Rome or Prague.

Sustainable living during your vacation

Your choice of accommodation can also have a sustainable impact. There are more and more sustainable hotels and accommodations, such as the Bio-Hotels and Arthur Hotels chains. Once there, you won't notice any difference to a conventional hotel (in some cases, the food is even better, for example) and yet you are doing something for the environment. With a little research, you can find good accommodation that also has a positive impact on your carbon footprint. By the way, speaking of research: If you do research, please use Ecosia! Because trees are planted for the searches you make there!

By the way, you might come across some great travel ideas! For example, I found out about Zero Island during my research. A Swedish island that has managed to become climate-neutral within a year. I also found out that the AccorHotels hotel group finances regional projects to plant trees, for example. This also gives something back to the respective region, which contributes to sustainable travel. I wasn't aware of that. And because the hotel group is represented internationally, you can actually find a sustainable place to stay anywhere.

Support the Locals!

If your budget doesn't stretch to a sustainable hotel or you simply can't find a sustainable alternative, then I would recommend booking accommodation directly with the locals. That way, your money stays in the region! In general, it's better to leave your money in local restaurants, stores and weekly markets rather than at the well-known chains. That way, you are supporting those who really need the money and who make up the culture of your destination. This strengthens the local area in the long term. And let's be honest: eating Köttbular in a traditional Swedish restaurant is probably better than tucking into a hamburger at McDonalds. And strolling through a local market is somehow part of the vacation feeling. Isn't it?

Living plastic-free is inn!

(Not only) When you're out and about, you should make sure you live plastic-free. Because plastic is increasingly polluting our planet. Be it through vacationers who leave their plastic waste behind in nature or through incorrect disposal. Therefore, always pack reusable items. You can recycle them, which reduces the amount of waste you produce. And you (hopefully) won't leave your reusable items lying around in nature. This will keep your vacation region cleaner overall. And if you want to do even more, you can also support organizations that fight plastic waste. For example, I ordered a phone cover from Oceanmata. For every product I buy, 1 kg of ocean plastic is collected in Bali.

We are also increasingly trying to reduce plastic at home. Among other things, we use products from everdrop to save plastic in the household. We no longer pack fruit in (plastic) bags at the supermarket. And we are increasingly buying products that are not wrapped in plastic.

Use your mind, what else do you have it for?

Otherwise, just use your common sense! You are in Asia and want to see elephants? I think you will be aware that there are some organizations that treat the animals less well. That's why you shouldn't support them. Instead, you should do your research and only go to places where the animals are treated well. Always try to find the fine line between tourism and the environment.

Sustainable travel ultimately means conscious travel. So pay attention to your environment and rethink your behavior!

xx Chiara