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Sustainable travel: 10 tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint when traveling

White sandy beaches, green forests, snowy mountain landscapes – all these are places where people like to spend their holidays. But at the same time,

especially in these natural landscapes, where many animals live, you should be especially careful so that generations after us can still enjoy them. The awareness for sustainable travel has increased significantly in recent years and more and more people are concerned about their ecological footprint.

This does not mean that we should no longer be allowed to travel and lock ourselves up at home, but rather we should explore the world in a more conscious, environmentally friendly and fairer way. Experiences should not simply be consumed for the sake of it and in such excess, as it unfortunately is often the case today. Instead, travelling and exploring foreign countries and cultures should be something special!

Sustainable travel: Is that even possible?

Can we as travellers do something about the climate crisis? Can our desire to travel be combined with climate protection? The answer is yes and no. But if we are aware of HOW we travel, then we can at least contribute to ensuring that our earth is not completely exploited, but that we use the available resources carefully.

In this article I would like to give you 10 tips for sustainable travel, which can be implemented easily:

Sustainable travel: How does it work?

What can we, as travellers, do concretely against the environmental crisis? How can we continue our passion and still protect the planet? How can we combine sustainability and travel with a good conscience?

1. Rethink & take responsibility

Travel should not be a competition where you measure who travels to more places, faster, further and more luxuriously. Rather, the experience, the moments within us should amaze, fascinate, touch and challenge us out of our comfort zone and change us forever. We must realize that we destroy our beautiful planet with our behaviour. We must rethink and act and not wait for politics to do something. Time is ticking and, as many scientific studies substantiate quantitatively, our future looks bleak (if things continue like this).

Taking responsibility for our actions means that we have to limit ourselves in certain things, such as taking more uncomfortable ways, accepting a longer journey and sometimes even having to renounce completely.

Renunciation is not easy for a society (and especially for the younger generation) to implement. The greatest contribution you can make is to give up flying. This is where most CO2 emissions are emitted. Ask yourself the question whether you might not have time to reach your destination by train, for example. Travelling by train can be incredibly decelerating and is a great experience. At interrail there are incredibly great offers where you can buy a ticket and then travel 5 or 7 days within a month. For example, last autumn I went to Paris, Rome and Frankfurt!

IMG_9133-576x1024 Sustainable travel: 10 tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint when traveling nachhaltig-reisen-2 Sustainable travel: 10 tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint when traveling

2. Offsetting emissions

At the same time, however, many destinations cannot be reached without air travel. So the further the destination, the longer the stay at the destination should be. If a flight cannot be avoided, you can offset the harmful CO2 emissions that you cause by flying via reputable climate protection organisations such as mindfulflights. You can use a climate calculator to calculate your pollution load of the flight and you donate the suggested compensation amount to the respective organisation.

But that doesn’t mean that you should continue flying without a guilty conscience, because the greenhouse gases caused by a flight can’t be avoided by offsetting. The money donated, however, goes to worldwide climate protection projects that work to save greenhouse gases or for reforestation, and ultimately has a positive effect on the overall balance.

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3. Minimalistic and only essentials packing 

Pack the things you really need. Just like the motto “less is more”. Ask yourself if you really need three pairs of shoes or if one pair is enough. A precise outfit/daily planning helps me in each case, so that really only the necessary items get in the suitcase or travel bag. Also, I automatically pack less if I have only booked hand luggage for a flight. This does not only relieve you by carrying less, but also the means of transport. The lighter you pack, the fewer emissions are emitted when you travel by plane, train or bus.

4. Use reusable drinking bottles and cans

A reusable water bottle, for example made of glass or stainless steel, should not be missing from your packing list. I am currently using the great bottle from revie bottle, where you support a sustainable project with every purchase! In countries with drinking water quality you can fill the water directly from the tap and otherwise there are large containers or dispensers to fill up. Meanwhile you can find drinking water stations or wells at many public places like airports, hotels.

The same applies to the Coffee-to-Go. With a reusable cup you not only get a discount at most coffee shops, but you also save a lot of plastic and cardboard waste! And snacks can also be easily carried in a stainless steel or glass box packed in a bag. This way you avoid the unnecessary waste of convenience products from the shelf.

Nachhaltig-reisen Sustainable travel: 10 tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint when traveling

5. Book sustainable accommodation

Book the most sustainable accommodation possible. I prefer owner-managed accommodation or airbnb to large hotel chains. This is more personal and makes your travel experience especially intense. For example, on the Good Travel booking platform there are various sustainable and authentic accommodations in Europe that meet different sustainability criteria. But Booking.com is also registering a growing interest in eco-accommodation (68% of travellers plan to stay in sustainable accommodation).

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6. Travel digitally 

In former times a thick book as a travel guide was the companion and reading par excellence. Today you can google everything online and save resources. There are also countless apps and online guides. I think the Lowimpactguide is super great, it is the first sustainable travel guide and contains many great sustainable travel tips away from mass tourism. Also, always remember, instead of printing all tickets and booking confirmations, the digital version on your smartphone is usually sufficient. Only print when specifically requested! In this way you will protect the environment and contribute to the fact that less trees are cut down, but also that ultimately less waste is being produced.

7. Save resources in the accommodation

It is also important to pay attention to a conscious use of resources during the stay. For example, switch off the air conditioning and lights when you are not in the accommodation. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, reduce your time in the shower and don’t have your towels and sheets changed every day, as this not only saves water but also reduces unnecessary use of detergent. If available, you should also avoid the small complementary shampoos & co. This is just unnecessary packaging waste, which you can save by not using them.

8. Vegan or vegetarian diet

A few years ago vegans were totally ridiculed, but slowly many people are becoming more aware that this is the most sustainable way of life. Fortunately, some people are already aware that industrial factory farming is one of the cruelest crimes of mankind, but not everyone seems to realize that the environmental impact of our diet is particularly high.

Depending on the source, up to 51 per cent of global CO2 emissions are attributed to factory farming, which is far more than all the cars, aircraft and ships in the world combined. I am therefore completely convinced that everyone should be aware of the effects of the consumption of animal products. Not only do billions of animals die and suffer as a result, but the environment also suffers enormous damage (and even in terms of health, animal nutrition is a major topic of discussion).

Kurhaus-Cademario-wellness-for-body-mind-and-soul3 Sustainable travel: 10 tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint when travelingvegan cuisine at Kurhaus Cademario

9. Local & plastic free shopping

Buy where the money reaches the people. No matter whether it’s for travel supply or souvenirs. Buy from the local population. This benefits the local people and usually the products are of such high quality that you will enjoy them for a long time to come.

Since plastic bags have become a charge in most shops in Switzerland, consumption has fallen significantly. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case in many other countries. On the contrary, in the USA or in Southeast Asia, you are literally thrown plastic bags at the checkout.

The easiest thing you can do for environmental protection and sustainability when travelling is therefore to always have a cotton bag or small rucksack bag with you.

10. Leave nature as you found it

Nature can only flourish and continue to exist if we respect and preserve it. Be respectful towards nature and leave it as you found it. Do not leave garbage lying around, but dispose of it accordingly. If you see plastic garbage on your hiking trail or on the beach, just take it with you and throw it into the nearest bin. This can even create an imitation effect on other travellers and local people. We all want to be able to enjoy the beautiful environment for a long time to come.

Astoria-Seefeld-Entschleunigung-für-Körper-und-Seele44-1024x767 Sustainable travel: 10 tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint when travelingphoto from local trip in Austria 

Every step counts!

Don’t look away, but reflect your own behaviour. Are you already using a reusable bottle or can? Do you drive public transport instead of a car as often as possible? Or even better, do you mostly use the bike or walk? Do you eat a vegan (or sometimes vegetarian) diet?

The most important thing is that we leave as few traces as possible on this earth – whether in everyday life or when travelling. It doesn’t matter that one person does everything 100% right, it’s much more important that all people in this world do a little bit right.

How do you see that? How do you make your contribution?

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  • Reply
    Maiken Greimel
    Tuesday March 3rd, 2020 at 10:09 PM

    Absolut wunderbar zusammengefasst! 🙂
    Vor allem das ‘minimalistische Packen’ empfinde ich als tollen Tipp, leider scheitere ich daran trotzdem regelmäßig. Ich packe einfach viel zu oft Sachen ein, die ich gar nicht dringend brauche.
    Gerade jetzt bei meiner Interrail Zugtour durch Europa merke ich das mehr als sonst.
    Und seinen Müll immer mitnehmen und ordnungsgemäß entsorgen ist auch ein Muss!

    • Reply
      Wednesday March 4th, 2020 at 08:19 PM

      Danke vielmals für dein Feedback liebe Maiken!
      Das mit dem Packen fällt mir in der Tat auch noch super schwer… wohin geht denn gerade deine Interrail Reise? Suche noch Tipps für Mai. Wollte da auch eine Tour machen 🙂

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