Sustainable travel is on the rise. From improving knowledge and cultural wealth to helping conservation of wildlife, the positive impact that travel also has on the world is not disputed.
So fewer trips and longer vacations.
It is a concept that may not be appreciated by a people of travelers, but it is a notion that we should all regain possession of. Of course, it's also a question of budget, who can afford the longer holidays? However, we can optimize our departures, perhaps avoiding to make so many and bringing them together in one or more trips that allow us time to better discover the chosen destination. For example, this time I stayed 3 weeks in Málaga instead of traveling 10 days at the beginning of the summer and 10 days at the end.
All this I tell you because one of the main problems in terms of "sustainable travel" is limiting harmful emissions due, in the first place, to air flights, which are responsible for 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, cars, but also trains and more. Fewer trips and returns mean fewer emissions and less pollution, if we avoid taking many flights in a year, we greatly reduce the negative impact of our travels to the planet. And if we move in place with greener means, the contribution is even better.
It has been affirmed and proven that after the Covid-19 pandemic, travel this summer was certainly more ecological: both in terms of means of transport and in terms of accommodation, so much so that 2020 is called "the year of the tourist train". Self-catering accommodation and holiday homes surrounded by nature have grown. Interest in glamping has also grown, from tree houses to Berber tents or yurts surrounded by nature.
The travel industry is one of the most important sectors in the world as it provides nearly 350 million jobs around the world. However, the travel industry also has unintended consequences. For once, visitors are putting the cities they visit to the test.
Nevertheless, if you're looking for sustainable ways to travel alone, here are some tips on how to offset your environmental impact.
Choose the right Location
Did you know that European countries such as France, Switzerland and Denmark occupy the first places as the most sustainable nations in the world? Furthermore, despite the peak of tourism, Albania and Croatia have risen in the ranking of sustainable travel, thanks to the protection of wild areas, supported by the Global Environment Facility and by the United Nations Development Program. But if you think you know Europe well, then the time has come to explore the African continent.
Namibia became the first African nation to include environmental protection in its constitution. In addition, with the assistance of the World Wildlife Fund, local communities have the power to conserve, manage and benefit from wildlife on their lands.
Sustainable travel is defined by the idea of choosing a country that respects the environment, and as Jim Sano, WWF vice president, says
“The most magnificent and pristine places on Earth that WWF is working to protect are also premier tourist destinations. Travelers to these locations receive great joy from their experience and are looking for a way to give back.”
Book sustainable accommodation
Your choice of accommodation has a great impact on the local ecosystem. Therefore, when booking your sustainable travel vacation, consider where you are staying. Instead of selecting the hotel or camping simply based on the swimming pool, beach and restaurants, you should also focus on certain important details, such as:
construction in green building
autonomous energy production for the structure
separate collection and disposal of waste
reuse of water
limitation of the use of plastic
use of food at km 0
use eco-sustainable cosmetics and body care products
presence of sustainability certification
possible sustainable certification, such as Biosphere, GreenKey, Green Globe,..
The main attentions that travelers expect from accommodation facilities are:
free cancellation and flexible bookings
hand sanitizing gels available in common areas
disinfectant soaps available in the bathrooms
outdoor breakfast areas
breakfast room with spaced tables
receive information on the cleaning and sanitation of the facility
access to the swimming pool or spa at specific times
There are a large number of hotels, and I would dare to say "fortunately!", both in Europe and in the rest of the world. With a minimal environmental impact, a zero plastic policy, using renewable materials such as glass, straws and recycled composites or with a use of renewable energy from solar panels,…
Sustainable transportation is the key
Global air quality has been listed by the 2020 environmental performance index as one of the most serious public health hazards. For this reason alone, it is essential to reconsider how the sustainable travel destination is reached.
Sometimes the means that takes us further is also the most polluting. And the plane is the black jersey in terms of CO2 emissions per single passenger, but the car is not a joke either. Luckily, you can offset your carbon footprint by selecting an environmentally eco friendly airline. Start your sustainable travel journey by selecting airlines that use biofuels for sustainable aviation - KLM is an example.
Even better, one of the most sustainable travel alternatives to flying is traveling by train. According to the International Transport Forum, traveling by train generates up to 10 times less carbon emissions than flying.
Eurostar is the best example of a zero-emission high-speed train. It is three times more energy efficient than regional trains and fifty times more efficient than a flight. Trains are what I use every time I have to go to work in London, Brussels or Barcelona -when I’m home in Paris-.
PS: Take the interrails into consideration, which are cool! I did one in 2010 with 5 friends and it was an amazing 35-day experience around Europe.
Reduce energy and water consumption
Long, hot showers are a great way to wash and relax after long travel days. However, the unimaginable amount of water and energy used by travelers has an impact on the local population in so many negative ways. In that case, if you want to relax, it is preferable you choose a bath. For two. ;)
In addition, the founder of the Bee + Hive sustainable travel association, Bruno Correa, believes that knowledgeable tourists should demand more of their hotels when it comes to water and waste. How can we disagree?
Reduce plastic waste
Here are some disturbing facts related to plastic: according to a study published by Science Advances, only 9% of plastic is recycled. Worse still, nearly 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced in the past six decades. If these trends continue, that figure will rise to 12 billion by 2050. Therefore, when packing for your sustainable journey, you should always consider recyclable food packaging options. In addition, some packaging companies do much more than recyclable containers, but actively provide solutions to climate change through food.
Also, how many bottles of water or drinks do we buy on the go? We can try to limit the use of plastic bottles while traveling in favor of a reusable bottle. By purchasing a larger bottle and sharing it, you already go from four bottles to one. How much more beautiful and efficient are glass bottles, for example? Less plastic can also be used for food containers in favor of biodegradable or reusable trays.
Traveling in a sustainable way also means giving up certain things and behaviors, but always aiming for the best. What would you be willing to sacrifice to travel in a more ethical way?