Sustainable travel is a really elastic term. To make your vacation sustainable, today you'll get 20 tips for an eco-friendly trip that's in line with so-called soft tourism. I love to travel, but there are just so many ways to discover the world sustainably. Since I travel with my Environmental protection project I travel the world a lot myself, so I can pass on these tips on sustainable travel from my own experience. So far, so good - let's go!
Sustainable tourism - Simply travel differently
What does sustainable tourism actually mean? For this, I would like to go into more detail on a definition researched on the web. In the environmental database, the term sustainable tourism is defined as follows:
"Tourism is considered sustainable when it allows all resources to be managed in a way that meets economic, social, and aesthetic needs while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, and biodiversity."
I'll try to summarize: It's as sustainable a trip as possible if you can sustainably achieve your own goals with your vacation while leaving no damage to the culture and environment at your destination. On the contrary, your vacation should actually promote the region at your destination. I would like to add that in a foreign country you are always the ambassador of your own culture and therefore also responsible for transporting it well.
Sustainable travel - 20 tips in the spirit of soft tourism
To travel sustainably, there are a few things to consider both before and during your trip. Read my tips for sustainable tourism carefully and the world will be a little bit better on your next trip.
Sustainable travel - Vacation planning
First, you can heed these tips for planning your sustainable trip.
Sustainable Travel Tip #1 - Fly as rarely as possible:
The farther away the destination, the harder it is to do without the plane. But you should do so if possible. Because the greenhouse gases at high altitudes have a far greater impact on the climate than the exhaust gases on the ground. With thoughtful planning and a longer stay, you can still travel sustainably despite the flight. For example, I drove to my action in Genoa by car and offered myself as a ride. This way you can also help others to travel sustainably. Of course, the best way is to travel by train, because this train also runs without you.
Sustainable Travel Tip #2 - Discover nearby destinations too:
What is the purpose of your trip? Is it a relaxing vacation? If you can answer yes to the second question, won't a vacation nearby do? This way you can do without the plane and you can travel sustainably. Germany and Europe have a lot to offer. In the spirit of sustainable tourism, you can also travel to Hungary or Denmark by train or car. Sustainable tourism through close destinations. Go directly to the next point of the tips for sustainable travel.
Sustainable Travel Tip #3 - Note the ratio of distances:
As you may have gathered from the previous tips on sustainable travel, distance should be the deciding factor in choosing a mode of travel. The distance between your home and your vacation destination should be in reasonable proportion to the total travel time. Example: At the end of the year I would like to start my next CleanUp in an Asian country. Since the flight will probably take at least 12 hours, I will not stay there for a month, but try to combine my stay with other destinations and stay there for at least 3 months. Of course, this is not possible for everyone, yet this is what a sustainable trip looks like. Visiting London for a weekend is just as nonsensical from an environmental point of view as flying to the Canary Islands for a week. It is neither sustainable, nor really relaxing to travel for such a short time. Therefore, use the very simple rule of thumb: the longer the travel distance, the longer the total travel time should be.
Sustainable Travel Tip #4 - Pack as little as possible:
The more things you take with you, the less sustainable you can travel. With heavy luggage, you will use more fuel and be much less flexible with your luggage over the entire trip. Only take as many things as you really need. Here you can get my free travel checklist to check off and cross out things that you personally can do without. So pack well and you will travel sustainably.
Sustainable Travel Tip #5 - Check the eco-labels:
For those who use travel portals for their vacation search, there are three established seals of approval (each shown on the small icons) for recognizing travel in the spirit of sustainable tourism.
Blue flag: This environmental seal is an award for the sustainability of beaches. Every year, these beaches are then inspected for water quality and environmental management. If you see the blue flag on your beach or during your vacation research, that's already a good sign for sustainable tourism.
TourCert: One of the most established seals of approval for sustainable tourism is the TourCert seal, which recognizes sustainability and corporate responsibility in tourism. Here, too, the award-winning providers must provide sustainable proof that they have an environmentally friendly offering.
Viabono: The Viabono certificate is sustainability symbol for accommodations, restaurants and travel service providers and was created by the Federal Environment Agency. Regularly, the certified businesses are examined with regard to water, waste, energy/climate and food.
Sustainable Travel Tip #6 - Choose hotels and apartments with a clear statement:
If you really want to travel sustainably, you should get to know your potential hotel better before you book. Do the people in charge show a clear stance on sustainable tourism in the web presence or the advertisement? Do they make an environmental statement regarding waste management, food offered, and resource use? Then this might be a good accommodation, in the spirit of sustainable tourism. Even easier you can find sustainable hotels via bookitgreen. (With the coupon code CAREBIG you get there directly 20€ discount on your first trip).
Sustainable Travel Tip #7 - Do without all-inclusive:
All-inclusive has absolutely nothing in common with sustainable travel. Because in this way you often only support the big tourism companies and not at all the local population of your destination. In addition, the food you are served is certainly not as healthy as you would like. So sustainable tourism does without all-inclusive.
Sustainable Travel Tip #8 - Visit organic hotels and organic farms:
The number of organic hotels in Europe is growing and growing. Here you can be sure that less plastic waste is produced and resources are conserved. Hotels that are allowed to call themselves organic hotels must adhere to sustainable principles that are regularly monitored. You can also spend a sustainable vacation on organic farms. Again, my recommendation, sustainable hotels to book via bookitgreen. Use coupon code CAREBIG to get $20 off your first sustainable trip.
Sustainable Travel Tip #9 - Familiarize yourself with your destination:
If you know where your sustainable journey is going, familiarize yourself with the culture, history and nature of your destination. If you know the most important words in the language of your destination, it's a wonderful conversation opener. You should be able to say "Hello", "Bye", "How are you?" in order to show respect and to represent your home country in a dignified way abroad. By treating people with respect, I was able to get to know an extended family in Sri Lanka, for example, during a meal together. For me, these are moments that really have value. So you definitely have the best chance to meet great people on your trip.
Sustainable Travel Tip #10 - Try as digital as possible:
Travel planners or paper maps end up either in the trash or in the closet after your vacation. I recommend downloading the offline map of your destination in the Google Maps app before your vacation. That way, you always have your map with you, especially when you're offline. If you make a round trip, you can always download the appropriate offline map when you have a new wifi connection. You should also have all other documents and papers with you digitally (e.g. on Dropbox) in order to produce less waste and to travel sustainably.
In the article Zero Waste Journey you can learn even more about waste prevention on vacation.
Sustainable travel - During vacation
Once you've finished planning your trip, there are of course things you can do during your vacation to make it sustainable.
Sustainable Travel Tip #11 - Use bike & public transport:
When you get to your destination, instead of renting a car, hop on public transportation or better yet, a bike. This way you can travel sustainably, whether you are in a fixed location or traveling through a country. In Sri Lanka, I traveled almost exclusively by train and and bus through the country. These are great experiences by the way, and you shouldn't miss out on them. By the way, a good alternative to rental cars is car sharing!
Sustainable Travel Tip #12 - Respect Environment & Nature Locally:
Like everywhere else in the world, you should respect nature at your vacation destination and reduce your garbage, reuse things and do not throw garbage into the environment, but into designated trash cans. In Sri Lanka, even in Yala National Park, I saw garbage next to the trails. It's unbelievable how people can be so done and just throw their trash out of the car in such reserves. Although it should be self-evident, I still include this tip for sustainable travel in the list.
Sustainable Travel Tip #13 - Consume from local suppliers:
Instead of supporting large corporations that are buying up more and more land and destroying the habitats of other people and also animals, you should rather support the small local businesses at your destination. Avoid global fast food chains and get to know new people and certainly healthier food in an unfamiliar place. If you Buy souvenirs then also look into small, perhaps at first glance inconspicuous stores. This is how sustainable tourism works.
Sustainable Travel Tip #14 - Look outside the box:
The best and most sustainable trips are when you simply don't take the prescribed route. So you get to know things that you would not have experienced in the usually boring tourist program. In addition, one supports in this way again smaller businesses or people who normally profit little from tourism. The easiest way is to ask people about tips in the area, who live locally. On Sri Lanka I also helped the fishermen in Arugam Bay and Weligama with their work. Both on the boat and transporting the tuna to the road. I have rarely felt so much gratitude as after this work. These are moments for me that I will always remember. And that only because I dared to look beyond my own nose. For me, that is also sustainable travel.
Sustainable Travel Tip #15 - Always be a role model:
Especially in developing countries, things that people from Western countries do are often considered desirable. Whether this is the case at your destination or not, you should always behave in an exemplary manner and explain your way of life. In the case of the plastic-free lifeI explain to the people at my CleanUps why I free the beach from plastic and why I live without plastic. What we take for granted can be completely foreign in another place. In this way, you can have a lasting positive effect on your environment in your vacation destination.
Sustainable Travel Tip #16 - Avoid waste, even on vacation:
Following on from your role model function, you should of course also minimize your waste on vacation for truly sustainable travel. Just like at home, you should reuse things as often as possible and use glass or stainless steel drinking bottles. Often you can't fill them up from the tap like we do here, but you can still get your bottles filled up with drinking water in many stores. Paperwork can also be photographed and you don't produce any waste. Fruits and vegetables can be bought plastic-free at the markets in foreign countries. Please also read my article Plastic-free on the plane so that you don't produce any plastic waste on the plane itself!
Sustainable Travel Tip #17 - Learn to say no:
Especially in tourist areas, locals can be really crafty and get you into situations that you normally wouldn't support. Often you are offered typical specialties of foreign cultures, which are morally very questionable. You decide what you do. A photo with a chained elephant, a monkey dancing to a flute playing... that is Cruelty to animals and must not be supported. So for sustainable tourism you have to say no sometimes. If someone begs for money, say no and offer your labor for a short time instead. This way you get in contact with the locals and have a great sustainable vacation. You can also read my article Reject - Say No by.
Sustainable Travel Tip #18 - Do CleanUps in the Environment:
Depending on the destination, CleanUps are more or less necessary. However, the need for CleanUps is particularly high in coastal areas. Because plastic waste tends to be everywhere here. Get several garbage bags, take 1-3 hours and just start collecting the plastic waste. You will attract attention after a short time and people will start helping you. It's a great feeling and at the same time a great way to travel sustainably. I have one rule of thumb for you here as well: Every time you visit the beach, just take 3 pieces of plastic trash with you and dispose of them. More and more people are following this rule and making a sustainable difference together. You are welcome to join our worldwide Facebook group for Beach CleanUps (CareElite CleanUps) Invited to share your cleanup efforts with the world.
Sustainable travel tip #19 - Do without air conditioning
Sustainable tourism also means saving electricity. Air conditioning or fans run almost constantly in warm countries. If it's too hot to go without air conditioning, always turn off the air conditioning when you leave your home to travel as sustainably as possible.
Sustainable Travel Tip #20 - Give a tip
The people who serve you, drive you and cook for you on vacation usually don't profit as much from your trip as the companies behind it. I think it is proper to leave a tip for the nice staff. Compared to the tips here in Germany, the tip on Sri Lanka, for example, is the equivalent of 0.20€. A good opportunity to make your trip sustainable.
Sustainable Tourism - My Conclusion:
Maybe when you read it, it sometimes feels like sustainable tourism was created to lower the fun of travel. However, the list of sustainable travel tips is simply an inspiration on how you can make your vacation more environmentally conscious, eventful and sustainable by doing little things. Use the tips for your next hopefully sustainable trip and rethink each of your trips before you book them. You can also simply find sustainable accommodation around the world via bookitgreen. Use the coupon code CAREBIG to save 20€ on your first booking. Enjoy your next trip!
PS.: In the article about my trip and environmental actions on Sri Lanka you can learn even more about sustainable travel. Let yourself also be inspired by the The best reasons for traveling alone inspire.