Many of us make an effort to be green at home by recycling glass and aluminium packaging, avoiding single use plastics, and saving on electricity and water usage where possible. Unfortunately, travelling with sustainability in mind can be a challenge. There’s no denying that our trips have an impact on the environment, and travelling abroad makes it more difficult to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. In my quest to travel more responsibly, I’ve been working towards reducing my environmental impact and have discovered a few ways to ensure my travel footprint is a light one - here are my suggestions on how to travel more sustainably on the road!
PACK REUSABLE PRODUCTS
A few key items that you’ll find in my luggage are reusable products like a coffee cup, tote bag, drink bottle, and cutlery. These items come in handy for avoiding single use plastics and are generally lightweight and eco-friendly. You can reuse them over and over again without sending any cups, forks, bottles, and plastic bags to landfill.
SWAP PLASTIC FOR BAMBOO
I’ve recently started replacing some plastic toiletry items and beauty products, such as my toothbrush and hairbrush, with a bamboo version made of wood. Bamboo grows quicker than regular wood and biodegrades in only a few months, whereas plastic takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. By swapping these non-recyclable items for ones made of bamboo, we can reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfill or our oceans.
CHOOSE GREEN ACCOMMODATIONS
I always prefer to choose accommodation brands with green initiatives over ones that have no information on sustainability. When picking your next hostel or hotel, be sure to check the company’s official website and search for any pages with this information (it may be in the footer of the home page, or under an ‘about us’ section in the main menu).
I know of a few accommodation brands that are taking sustainability to the next level. St Christopher’s Inns, for example, is launching the Love Your Planet campaign in 2019 to ensure your stay is as eco-friendly as possible. This means that each of the hostels will produce less waste, recycle more items, and be more efficient with energy use. By choosing green hostels, we’re ensuring our stay has a minimal environmental impact.
CHOOSE GREEN TOUR OPERATORS
Whether it’s a day tour from Paris to Versailles or a multi-day coach tour from Berlin to Rome, it’s important that we pick a tour operator that is environmentally responsible. As we did with accommodation, we can check the brand website for information on sustainability before booking anything.
A few examples are companies such as Intrepid Travel who are offering 100% carbon neutral trips, and G Adventures who are have a large range of tours which support sustainable tourism projects in 40+ countries. By choosing a green tour operator, you can travel guilt-free knowing that your funds are promoting positive change in the travel industry.
CARBON OFFSET YOUR FLIGHTS
Flights are an essential part of travelling within Europe, but unfortunately, the aviation industry is actually responsible for 2% of all man-made carbon emissions! Luckily, there are ways that we can lessen the environmental impact of our flights, such as carbon offsetting . The money that you donate essentially neutralises the carbon emissions from your flight, which is done by funding projects that assist with soaking up carbon in the atmosphere, developing cleaner energy, and conserving and protecting forests.
Generally, ground transport has less of an environmental impact than air travel, so if you’re planning a trip around Europe and have a choice between flying and taking a train or bus between destinations, choose the overland option. Trains and buses are often more convenient anyway, as they usually depart and arrive from the city centre and you don’t have arrive 1-2 hours before your departure time like you would at an airport. It’s a win/win!
EAT MORE VEGETARIAN FOOD
Vegetarianism is not a subject that everyone is open to discussing, but it’s important to know that this diet is much friendlier on the environment than a omnivorous one. The animal agriculture industry contributes a huge amount of global greenhouse gas emissions - more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (including air travel!).
Eating more vegetarian meals while you travel and at home is an easy way to make a positive change for the environment. I’ve been vegetarian for over 5 years, and have found that most restaurant menus in Europe will have one or more plant-based food options. Consider ordering vegetarian meals wherever possible - the environment will thank you for it!