Europe is a beautiful and varied travel destination that boasts some of the world’s most dynamic cultures and rich histories. While visiting, it’s easy to get swept up in enjoying yourself rather than considering the impact you’ll leave behind in that country.
Carbon emissions, plastic use and littering are all tourist or travel issues. There are, however, many ways you can lessen your environmental impact while traveling. Here are some ways to be eco-friendly while adventuring in Europe:
Rethink Your Transportation
Unless you’re going to walk to Spain, you’ll need some transportation to get you to your destination! It’s inevitable if you’re coming overseas, unless you cruise, that you’ll take a plane. This is especially true if you are visiting several European countries during one trip.
While you can’t eliminate carbon emissions from planes, you can opt for a non-stop plane ride. Takeoffs and landings create the most carbon emissions. So, choose a non-stop flight if it is within your means.
Several airlines are part of the International Air Transport Association. These airlines participate in carbon offset programs to reduce carbon emissions from planes. Do some research before you fly and choose one of these companies if they fly to wherever you’re going.
If you can travel to your destination by bus or train, that will also lessen your environmental impact (and your expenses). Regardless of what city you’re in, make sure you have a detailed map of the location. This will not only save you time and money, but it will keep you from having to travel and produce fuel emissions for longer than you need to.
Choose a Green Hotel
Unfortunately, hotels are quite a detriment to the environment. They produce excessive carbon dioxide emissions from constantly washing linen, energy consumption from powering rooms, and water, food and plastic waste. Don’t hesitate to ask the hotel staff what their sustainability initiatives are. Try to find out if they use local produce and resources.
Many hotels, like The Whitepod Eco Resort in Switzerland, are built with sustainability in mind. Located in the Swiss Alps, this resort uses green sleeping pods that run on renewable energy. They also strive to minimize use of water and electricity.
If you want to go further than just staying at an eco-hotel, do these things during your stay:
- Unplug hotel appliances while they aren’t in use (coffee maker, blow-dryer)
- Simply put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. This can dramatically decrease the hotel’s water use since they won’t have to clean your room. Some hotels even offer guests rewards for choosing not to have their linen changed each day
- Take shorter showers
- Pack your own toiletry items rather than use hotel supplies, which are usually in single-use plastic containers.
- Don’t do your laundry in your hotel if they offer the service. They wash every guest’s clothes separately, even if the guest is only washing a few items
- Hang up your towels to let the cleaning staff know you plan on using them again
Also, don’t hesitate to put your voice to use. Talk to the hotel staff about potential sustainability initiatives. Most of the time, people are receptive to suggestions about how they can improve their business practices.
One of the easiest ways to be more sustainable while you travel is to conserve water. One simple way to do this is to bring a BPA-free water bottle with you wherever you go. This way, you can refill the bottle rather than purchase single-use water bottles. In Europe, most places have tap water that is safe to drink.
The Closca Bottle is a practical reusable bottle that works flawlessly for travelers. It is made from ultra-durable borosilicate glass. It even has an innovative strap system that allows you to easily attach the water bottle to your backpack.
A lot of Europe’s most popular destinations call for a lot of walking. Be conscious of this consumption and avoid single-use plastic whenever you can. It will save the planet and save you money. It’s free to refill your bottle.
Another way to save water is to keep hand sanitizer with you whenever you go. Rather than stopping in at restaurants or public restrooms to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer: less water use while being equally clean.
Minimize Energy Consumption
When you leave your hotel room, don’t forget to turn off the electronics and lights. One item frequently left on is the AC – a huge energy consumer. If you want to keep your room cool, try closing the curtains. This prevents the sun heating the room and keeps cool air in.
When you finish using paper maps, try and return them. Maps are one of the most frequently disposed of items in tourist destinations. Printing new ones wastes a great deal of energy. So long as the map is in good condition, there’s no reason not to return it. If this isn’t possible keep hold of it or give it to someone else. If you do your part in minimizing the demand for a wasteful product, the supply won’t be as large.
Another way to reduce energy use is to eat at local restaurants. They will often source their ingredients from nearby, reducing energy consumption from importing foods. Not only will you get to dine with locals and enjoy the area’s cultural cuisine, you’ll be doing your part to help the environment.
Another wasteful practice in Europe is the sale of souvenirs. These are often mass-produced using plastic and other wasteful materials. To combat this, buy locally-made souvenirs in fabric, wood or glass. That way you’re supporting local merchants and lessening your environmental impact.
Use Marked Hiking Trails
Europe boasts some of the world’s most beautiful hiking trails. Tourists can enjoy picturesque landscape views and interact with nature in a more intimate way. Unfortunately, tourists who venture off without a guide sometimes cause damage to the areas they are trying to explore.
If you go hiking, don’t divert from the marked path. The guides are placed where they are for your safety and the safety of the surrounding area. Veering off in the wrong direction could disrupt flora and fauna.
Be an Ethical Traveler
Essentially, being a sustainable traveler means being conscious of the choices you make and the places you visit. Europe is a massive continent full of cultural treasures. However, not all of the practices that tourists adopt while visiting are respectful of the land.
Remember to select the least harmful mode of transportation to get you from A to B. Practice your own sustainability initiatives at hotels and even discuss it with staff. Conserve water and energy, and always pay respect to areas you visit by following guidelines.
For more sustainability-oriented travel guides, check out The Green Travelling Guide!