Good for the climate, good for the soul: sustainable traveling

by tine sintermann on February 11, 2021

Since 2020, the Corona pandemic has largely brought the travel world to a standstill: Planes were grounded, cruise ships in port, and trains ran with empty carriages. People increasingly used their own cars, but the proportion of cyclists also seemed to have doubled. Nature and recreational areas on one's own doorstep were rediscovered. What can we learn from this experience?

Sustainable travelling


A good vacation is possible

The Corona pandemic has made people rethink and change their behavior: it meant dusting off bikes and seeking relaxation in the local countryside, enjoying the clear air and finally seeing the starry sky again in the city. Why not pause and rethink your own travel habits here, too? "Sustainable travel" is the central keyword. It refers to ecologically conscious and resource-conserving travel that is in harmony with nature and local social conditions. This refers to the means of transport as well as the choice of accommodation and the behavior of each individual on site.


Next destination: recreation with a sense of proportion

Sustainable travel, like so many things, starts in the mind. When planning your trip, it is important to consider how you can reconcile your own needs for rest and relaxation with those of the environment. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vacation, and not everyone will be happy in a hammock under a canopy of stars. But you can question whether it necessarily has to be noisy all-inclusive party tourism on a faraway tropical island.

  • Why not vacation in your own region? There are still many undiscovered places here! Not only since the Corona pandemic, there are a lot of tips on social media for trips and excursions on your own doorstep.
  • The distance of the destination should be weighed against the duration of the trip: is an intercontinental flight proportionate to a few days off? Is there a more suitable destination than Bali for a break of a couple of days? When it comes to air travel, it's important to remember that it's better to take one long vacation than several short trips.
  • Sustainable travel doesn't have to be expensive, it just may require a bit more creativity and planning. But it pays off at least twice: Not only your environment, but also your good conscience is spared and rewarded.


Sustainable travels 


The journey: With a good CO2 balance

Car, train, plane? A comparison is worthwhile, especially for short and medium distances.

    • The best CO2 balance is achieved by rail, many cities are easy to reach by train. What's more, you'll arrive at your destination much more relaxed than by car or plane. To avoid wasting a day of vacation time, night trains, which are currently experiencing a revival, are also a good option.
    • Coaches have a similarly good carbon footprint, but these journeys take longer and also increase the volume of traffic on the roads.
    • A trip by car scores mediocre. Here, the calculation depends primarily on how many people are traveling together - the more, the better. Apart from the CO2 balance, one should also consider the environmental impact of particulate matter and tire wear. If in doubt, CO2 calculators on the Internet can help clarify your own travel plans.
    • Climate killer number 2 is the airplane. Of course, some vacation destinations cannot be reached by bicycle. Consider here: if possible, never take the plane for trips of less than 700 km. In addition, book direct flights, because each stopover causes emissions for two.
    • Climate killer number 1 are by far cruise ships. These usually run on toxic heavy fuel oil and emit a lot of harmful exhaust gases into the atmosphere: the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) calculated in 2012 that a cruise ship emits about as much CO2 per day as 84,000 cars, about as much nitrogen oxide as 421,00 cars, as much particulate matter as over 1 million cars and as much sulfur dioxide as around 376 million cars.


    The accommodation: from tent to luxury eco-resort.

    When choosing accommodation, you also make important decisions about sustainability. From campgrounds to luxury hotels, here too there are seals and certificates that can help with planning, such as the Blue Flag, TourCert or Viabono.

    • Sustainable hotels use green electricity, take care with water, avoid plastic, offer ecological and low-pollution facilities, rely on waste separation and support local suppliers. The food, of course, is also organic. All-inclusive, by the way, is not compatible with sustainable travel, because in such locations it is too difficult to plan ahead and, as a result, too much food has to be thrown away.
    • There are also platforms and certificates for vacation apartments, guesthouses and campsites that stand for sustainability and environmental compatibility.
    • Outdoor travelers should choose environmentally friendly equipment in advance that does not contain microplastics and is, in the best case, recyclable. Not that the first rain shower contaminates the ground under your feet! If you still have space in your backpack, a solar panel is worthwhile, with which you can charge your smartphone and powerbank absolutely carbon-neutral!


    Behavior while traveling: No different than at home

    Everyone can make the world a little better every day! There are a few things you can be mindful of and considerate of, no matter where you are.
    • Leave No Trace!  Whether in the wilderness or on the beach, it is important not to leave any trash behind, to keep nature intact, and to treat animals with respect and keep your distance from them. By the way, it is best to stay on marked trails. Not only for safety, but also for the environment.
    • Conserve resources, save electricity and water. Water shortages are no longer just a problem in southern countries. In Central Europe, too, increasingly hot and dry summers are causing regional water shortages.
    • Buy food at the market or unpackaged. When buying food on vacation, you should also make sure that the packaging waste is kept to a minimum and that transport distances are kept short. If you want to get involved while on vacation, you can find out about so-called CleanUp campaigns from local environmental protection organizations. Here, people collect trash together and quickly get to know locals and other travelers.