Climate crisis: ten tips for more sustainability when travelling

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Forest fires, fish kills and drought: we are becoming more and more aware of the climate crisis. Sustainability and environmentally friendly behavior have almost become a necessity. Luckily, this is also possible on vacation.

Traveling is one of the favorite leisure activities of Germans. Since the pandemic situation has allowed us to go on vacation again, that’s exactly what we’re doing: we’re packing our bags and flocking to the train stations and airports.

But Corona is only one topic that influences our travel behavior. The climate crisis also causes a bad conscience from time to time. This is often the case when we are sitting on the beach and actually want to switch off.

However, the most climate-damaging factor when traveling is still the arrival and departure. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the entire tourism sector is responsible for around five percent of global CO2 emissions – 75 percent of which are caused by flights and car journeys.

Giving up travel for the sake of the climate? However, for many people this is not an option. And maybe it doesn’t have to be. We have ten tips that you can use to significantly reduce your ecological footprint on vacation.

Sustainability: ten tips for conscious travel

Tip 1: Pack only the essentials
It’s hard to believe, but sustainable travel starts with packing your suitcase. This is based on a very simple calculation: the more we pack in our travel bag, the heavier the plane or car will end up being. And the more weight such a means of transport has to carry from A to B, the more emissions it emits. And if you travel light, you might be more willing to walk some distances. With a heavy backpack, however, this is a real feat.

Tip 2: Eat in the restaurant, hotel or cook yourself
Italy, Greece, Thailand – many countries are a real paradise for gourmets. Unfortunately, word gets around quickly, so many restaurants import food from all over the world to really cater to every taste. If you want to support local people and protect the climate, you should instead focus on local restaurants – and eat locally. Because to-go is often associated with plastic. And it is also important to save money on vacation. Even better: shop at the market (you can find it almost anywhere) and prepare your own food at the accommodation. In the best case scenario, you can also learn how to prepare new dishes right away.

Tip 3: Book sustainable accommodation
Speaking of accommodation: Here too there are big differences in terms of sustainability. It is therefore worth finding out about the climate-friendly commitment of the desired hotel before booking. Since sustainability has now established itself as a real selling point, you can usually already learn a lot about the commitment to environmental protection on the accommodation websites. It is worth checking the information again. And: You often only see in the hotel room how sustainable the whole thing really is.

Tip 4: Leave technical devices at home
Checking e-mails while relaxing at the hotel pool or following the news all the time, instead of getting involved in the experiences in the holiday destination – that’s not only a shame for us personally, but also for the environment. If we simply leave all technical devices at home on our next vacation, not only will the suitcase be lighter, but we will also save electricity. And by the way, when in doubt, we experience our trip more intensely.

Tip 5: Treat nature with respect
The Swiss Alps, the Algarve coast in Portugal or the Great Barrier Reef off Australia – there are countless natural highlights around the world. As impressive as nature is sometimes, it also gets overcrowded at some point. The result: mountains of rubbish, destroyed plants and expelled animal species. Anyone who treats nature carelessly should not be surprised if at some point it loses its magic. That’s why the following applies: It doesn’t matter whether it’s a beach, mountains, forest or meadow: treat nature with respect. We only have this one.

Tip 6: Fly as little as possible
A point that has come up again and again, especially in recent years: avoiding air travel. This is because flights still emit comparatively many emissions. It’s worth it for the climate if you don’t use every vacation for a flight. Of course, this does not mean that a flight to America or South Africa is no longer okay. But it can also be a road trip to Italy, a train trip to Spain or a hiking tour to the Mecklenburg Lake District.

Tip 7: Do without all-inclusive
King prawns next to chicken thighs next to vegan meatballs, broccoli next to fries next to salad – the bulging buffet at the all-inclusive hotel is a real gourmet paradise for many holidaymakers. Unfortunately, we often forget what consequences this type of vacation can have for the climate. After all, buffets are predestined for food to end up in the trash can instead of on the plate. It is therefore better for the climate to dine as individually as possible. It’s like this: you can usually get full from a normal portion of pasta in a restaurant.

Tip 8: Trust digitization
What does digitization have to do with travel? It can make things much easier for us – and more climate-friendly at that. Just think of the many maps that people used to drive through the countries back then. Today we can put that in the hands of an app and let it guide us. The same applies to many tickets and travel guides. The advantage: All of this no longer has to be printed out, which in turn saves emissions and paper. In addition, the risk of getting lost or getting stuck in traffic decreases when we use digital navigation. And that saves us stress in the end.

Tip 9: Stay true to your values
As the saying goes: different countries, different customs. There are destinations where the locals are less careful with the environment. This often has a cultural and sociological background. We humans are very willing to quickly adapt to our environment. In this case, however, it is worthwhile to orientate yourself on your own values. So treat nature with respect anywhere in the world, dispose of your rubbish properly and be mindful when choosing your food.

Tip 10: Discover your travel destination off the beaten track
When souvenir shops line up next to souvenir shops and the crowds form queues to reach certain places, this is a typical consequence of mass tourism. Unfortunately, such mass movements are not really sustainable, especially for the local people. As soon as a place is developed for tourism, large corporations with hotels and international restaurants quickly get the upper hand in the area. The sufferers: Local operators, farmers, traders. Sustainable travel also means paying attention to the people at the destination, being friendly and respectful – and when in doubt, choosing the shop or restaurant that may be a little out of the way but is run by real locals. Believe me – it will be an asset in every way.