I think we all know that travelling is one of life's greatest pleasures. What else can allow us to explore new places, meet new people, create unforgettable memories, learn about different cultures, and set our senses and sights ablaze? That’s the fantastic thing about travelling - there’s just so many ways you can travel too. You can be a backpacker - hopping through hostels around South East Asia, or you can go on road trips or Vesa rides, or you can take long-haul train journeys. But whether it’s a city escapade, a countryside escape or a beach holiday - as we all know, travelling can also have a significant impact on the environment. From the carbon emissions of transportation to the waste generated by tourism, it's important to consider the environmental impact of our travels. After all, we want to keep cherishing these destinations for generations to come.
…So what if we told you that it's possible to have fun and do good at the same time? Travelling sustainably is all about making small changes to your routine that can have a big impact on the environment. With one little pivot in the way you choose your destinations or how you experience the journey, travelling sustainably doesn’t mean big sacrifices rather, taking action from a different perspective. We’ve rounded up some recommendations and tricks on how to make your travels more sustainable, so you can explore the world guilt-free and have the time of your life. From choosing the right mode of transportation to staying in eco-friendly accommodations, we'll show you how to reduce your environmental impact and support the local communities of where you’re exploring! So whether you're planning your next big adventure or just a quick weekend getaway, learn how to travel sustainably and have fun at the same time!
1. Fly Responsibly
Whether it be budget airline carriers zipping across Europe or Asia, ever wondered how to make up for all that flying you may be jetsetting on? Offsetting your carbon emissions is the way to do it! By investing in renewable energy or carbon reduction projects, you can balance out the carbon footprint of your flight. One way to offset your carbon emissions is to purchase carbon offset credits from companies that specialize in carbon offsetting.
These credits represent a reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions and you can feel good knowing that your money is going towards a good cause. Also, many airlines now offer carbon offset programs from British Airways to budget carrier Jetstar), allowing you to offset the carbon emissions from your flight by investing in renewable energy or carbon reduction projects.
2. Stay in Eco-Friendly Accommodations
There are plenty of hotels, guesthouses, and vacation rentals that are committed to being environmentally friendly. Look out for places that use renewable energy, recycle, and have a low-waste policy. Not only will you be reducing your impact on the environment, but you'll also be supporting local businesses. One such eco-friendly accommodation is Slow Cabins. Beautifully designed for an off-grid, cosy stay, Slow Cabins plant a tree for every new booking, striving for a net green added value with more guests, meaning more nature. They work with location partners in investing in local nature conservation as well as landscape enrichment. Already by doing a simple weekend getaway with Slow Cabins, you are actively participating in their nature conservation too.
Now adding to the magic of how eco-friendly Slow Cabins is, upon checking in, you are given a fully charged battery that was charged by solar panels. With this, you also get a water reservoir filled with filtered rainwater. Slow Cabins ethos for their guests is that by staying with them, you can live completely self-sufficiently with ‘zero impact’ for several days (even during the winter months). Now that’s what we call truly unplugging and going green!
3. Consume Responsibly (thrifting, second-hand and flea market alternatives)
Wherever you go, try to reduce your environmental impact by practising sustainable habits such as recycling and conserving energy. Pack a reusable water bottle and a set of utensils and look for local markets and street vendors to buy your food. Or if you’re shopping - it’s always more fun thrifting and going to flea markets to find your next outfit!
You can check out Europe’s biggest flea market at Amsterdam’s IJ Hallen for any pre-loved goods ranging from books, unique antiques and vintage clothing or any local flea markets and second-hand shop. Going thrifting will not only give your wardrobe a curated touch of something that can’t be seen in any current stores but also really make sure that the item can be cherished for another life cycle, rather than ending up in a landfill. Reduce your environmental footprint and reduce waste!
4. Choosing Your Ride Wisely
Whether you're taking a classic road trip, a train ride, or a bus journey, make sure to pick a mode of transportation that's efficient and low-emission. Electric or hybrid cars, trains and buses are great options. Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you'll also get to enjoy a smoother and quieter ride. Another option that is a bit unique and quirky is travelling by Vespa!
If you’re exploring a particular region in Europe, say Tuscany or Provence, then going by Vespa like on a trip with TravelBase, is a better alternative to manoeuvring the windy countryside roads - without the guzzling fuel level of a regular car. With fewer emissions and a lower carbon footprint, Vespas also encourages you to travel more mindfully: going at a leisurely pace of travel compared to a faster car allows you to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of your destination. With this mode of travelling on a Vespa, it also takes up less space on the road, which can help to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in urban areas.
In some major cities like Antwerp, bike-sharing options are available. In the Netherlands, bike highways are major infrastructures linking small towns and cities together on their own separate paths for bicycles - so you can even make a biking holiday out of it.
5. Embark on a Sustainable Tour
Consider supporting sustainable tourism projects. This is a great way to learn about the culture and customs of the places you visit and minimize your impact on local communities and the environment. Sustainable tours are also often organized by local tour operators who are committed to sustainable practices - such as exploring Florence by an electric golf cart (that includes an audio guide!).
Sustainable tours can also focus on activities that promote conservation, such as wildlife safaris, birdwatching, and hiking in protected areas. They also often include opportunities to visit and learn about local communities and their cultures, such as traditional villages, markets, and craft centres. One fine activity that lives up to being a sustainable tour is something as simple as taking a scenic snowshoe tour from Tromso in Norway. It’s a way to explore the Nordic landscape without doing any environmental harm to the unspoilt island of Kvaløya island.
6. Travel off-peak season
Tired of the crowds and long lines at popular tourist spots? Why not be a trailblazer and travel off-peak season? It’s a way to beat the crowds and be a trendsetter while doing it! Not only will you have the place to yourself, but you'll also be helping to preserve the natural beauty of the destination. Traveling off-peak season means fewer flights and less crowded trains and buses, which means a lower carbon footprint. Plus, you'll have more options to explore eco-friendly modes of transportation, like biking or walking. For example, one of my favourite times of the year to explore the eternal city of Rome, is actually not in the summer. That’s when the city is too clogged up with crowds (Trevi Fountain in July? More like a mosh pit). But rather, Rome in December and January - amongst when the locals can truly enjoy their own city, is when it makes it so effortless and enjoyable to visit Rome.
Off-peak season is the perfect time to show some love to local businesses that may be struggling. By spreading out tourism throughout the year, you'll be helping to keep the local economy going strong - not just when local businesses are doing well during the peak season. It’s a win for travellers too, as off-peak season also usually mean better deals on transportation and accommodation. And that goes for other great deal on flights, vacation rentals, and activities - leaving more money in your pocket for other adventures.
7. Choose the right Wildlife tour operator
When it comes to wildlife encounters, not all tour operators are created equal. Do your research and pick the ones that prioritize the welfare of the animals and the environment. Stay away from activities that involve contact with wild animals, like riding elephants or swimming with dolphins.
A general rule of thumb is to observe wildlife from a distance: Keep your distance from wild animals and do not interfere with their natural behavior. Respect the animals' space, and avoid disturbing them or their habitats. For example, this activity for a guided whale and dolphin tour in Tenerife doesn’t chase after the animals, rather you engage with marine life by sailing out to a watch spot, where they decide how close they want to come to the boat. Another great activity and example is seeing polar bears in Finland's artic forest. Set in Ranua Wildlife Park, animal welfare here is a top priority where you'll learn how conservation here protect the endangered species in Rovaniemi, Finland on top of meeting over 50 different species of animals.