Much like last year, this summer is set to look a little different to usual with many people taking holidays closer to home. But travelling to nearby destinations can still come with a considerable environmental footprint.
By taking small steps to make our holidays more climate-friendly, we can help tourism become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. “The biggest long-term challenge – and opportunity – for the tourism industry is sustainability and the need to take climate action,” says Cinzia De Marzo, Climate Pact Ambassador and sustainable tourism expert. “Tourism makes a significant contribution to carbon emissions, and our industry also stands to be adversely affected by climate change. It is therefore vital that we ensure tourism also plays a role in contributing to a solution.”
Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips for a sustainable summer escape:
1) Travel by train and make the journey part of your adventure
Did you know that transport is the main source of air pollution in cities and is responsible for almost a quarter of Europe’s total emissions?
When it comes to green travel, using Europe’s trains is one of the most climate-friendly ways to get around. Statistics show that road transport emits over 70% of total transport emissions and aviation around 13%. In comparison, rail transport emits just 0.4%. And, since rail travel is largely electrified, it is responsible for significantly lower emissions per person, per kilometre than both air and road transport. Travelling by train also helps to reduce air pollution and avoid traffic jams, supporting its reputation as a climate-friendly transport option.
What’s more, Europe’s railways often offer unique views of breath-taking scenery – from routes that wind through Alpine valleys to coastal lines with unparalleled views of the sea. So, if you’re travelling over the summer, consider the journey as part of the adventure and hop on the train, especially as 2021 is the European Year of Rail.
2) From campsites to luxury hotels – go for eco-friendly accommodation
Hotels and holiday accommodation account for 2% of global emissions. This figure will need to be cut significantly if we are to limit global warming and meet our climate targets. So, where we choose to stay the night has a big impact on the world around us.
Different types of accommodation have vastly different approaches to sustainability, so have a look at the eco-credentials of hotels or campsites before you book. You could also check whether they have been awarded an EU eco-label as a guarantee of their commitment to sustainability.
When choosing accommodation, ask yourself, does it use energy-efficient lighting and electrical appliances? Is it powered by solar panels or other forms of renewables? Does it avoid single-use packaging and disposable cutlery in its kitchen or restaurant? Does it recommend nearby bike hire? Does it provide breakfast that makes the most of local produce? These are just some of the ways your hosts can show they’re committed to preserving our planet for future generations.
3) Taking a city break? Explore one of Europe’s Green Capitals
While it may still be a while before we’re able to travel long distance, a weekend break to a nearby town or city is still on the cards. What’s more, you could even experience a green city first-hand by visiting a European Green Capital.
Launched in 2010, the European Green Capital Award has been given to 12 beautiful cities across Europe in recognition of their sustainability efforts. Chosen for their good air quality, reduced pollution, natural environments in urban settings or excellent cycle networks, they are also cultural treasure troves and home to excellent local cuisines. From Lisbon to Lahti to Ljubljana, there’s somewhere for everyone’s tastes.
4) Pack green
From plastic bags and containers to bottles of shampoo, it’s very easy to pack items that aren’t climate-friendly when going on holiday – but that can easily be resolved with a little planning.
Why not pack a reusable water bottle so you can avoid buying single-use bottles? This may seem like a small action, but nearly 40% of the plastic produced in the EU is for packaging, and almost 25% of the plastic produced for all purposes ends up in landfill. You can also take your own reusable straws for drinks and cutlery for picnics, and buy eco-friendly toiletries like natural shampoo bars.
You could even go one step further and buy items like linen shirts made from bamboo or swimwear that contains recycled plastic – a good way to use and reuse existing materials.
5) Think green first during your stay
You’ve arrived and at last it’s time to relax. Why not keep things green by exploring your surroundings on foot or by bike? According to Cinzia De Marzo, being smart about your choice of transport is a key way to make your holiday climate-friendly. “It is crucial to reduce transport’s impact by encouraging visitors to use local or ‘soft’ mobility options to get around the destination,” she says. “For example, bikes, car sharing, trains, or public transport services such as trams, buses and the metro.”
While you’re out and about, be a sustainable holiday maker – stay on marked paths to protect local wildlife and biodiversity, avoid using excess water, particularly in areas that can be affected by drought such as arid regions in Southern Spain, and don’t forget you clear up any rubbish you’ve made at the end of a day on the beach or up in the mountains.
You could also eat at local restaurants that use ingredients that have been grown sustainably in the area. This can be a great way to sample authentic dishes from the region, while supporting local green businesses.
Ultimately, sustainable tourism is not just about doing our bit for the planet, it can also offer us huge benefits and opportunities in return. According to Cinzia De Marzo, ecotourist destinations can offer a “unique experience to tourists looking for a better place to visit or a better place to live, combining quality of life with safety, entertainment, cultural insights, relaxation, beauty and health.” By making our holidays more climate-friendly, we can have a better experience overall.
If you’ve been inspired to try some of these tips, why not make them part of a pledge and join the European Climate Pact? It’s by pledging to make small changes such as these that together we’ll reach our goal of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050.
Enjoy whatever holiday plans you have – stay safe by checking out local COVID-19 rules, and give nature a break too with a little climate-friendly planning.
- Publication date
- 29 July 2021