You step off the plane. The soles of your sandals touch the hot asphalt of the runway. You take a deep breath and the exciting air of your vacation destination is mixed with the thought of having produced a lot of CO2 on the way here. Travel is wonderful. But wherever we leave our mark, bathing beach or hiking trail, we also leave our ecological footprint. Fortunately, there is sustainable travel. That means planning your vacation so that from the moment you pack your suitcase to the moment you drive home, you’re protecting the environment and its inhabitants.
How does our vacation harm the climate?
Means of transport
We like to fly the distance from our desk to the beach. Especially if we want to set up the deck chair far away from home. The airplane causes the greatest climate damage of all means of transportation. A round-trip flight from Berlin to Palma de Mallorca would produce 610 kilograms of CO2. If the journey takes you far away, to New York or the Maldives, it would even be around three tons. Traveling by water is similarly bad. A sea voyage is fun, until each of a thousand passengers on an ocean liner for a week on the world’s oceans is responsible for almost 2.5 tons of greenhouse gas. The question is: How busy is your mode of transportation of choice? In a packed coach, you consume much less per person-kilometer than if you were traveling alone in your car. In addition to the environmental costs of the journey to and from the destination, there are the daily transport costs at the destination as well as possible excursions.
It’s vacation, you’re off, you want to put your feet up. In this mode, we also give our sense of responsibility a break. We have a habit of treating other people’s property more inconsiderately than our own. This is most visible in the garbage dumps into which we turn the landscapes of vacation spots. Mass tourism clusters masses of travelers in a single spot. Mostly there, where one can lie comfortably tempered on the skin or shoot the best photo. The result: plastic bottles, aluminum foil, disposable grills in the sand or grass. The throwaways disappear, the discarded remains. The ones who suffer are the locals and their flora and fauna. In this way we destroy nature and culture, which must be preserved not only for our travel pleasure.
The lax vacation mentality continues in our consumption of resources. A favorite crime scene is the hotel. The place to be served, where everything is ready and someone else cleans up for us after we use it. That comes at a price. Especially for the energy budget. Finding fresh towels every two days costs resources. So does the fully air-conditioned room in Cairo in August, the pool within sight of the beach, the watered green areas and the too-small shampoo bottles in the bathroom. The water consumption in the hotel alone rises to over 500 liters per guest and night. By comparison, we use an average of 127 liters at home.
Tips for sustainable travel
1. choose climate-friendly means of transport
Traveling by train saves much more CO2 than flying or shipping. That’s no secret. But it has even more advantages. By plane, you take off and land one Adam Sandler movie later. By train, you travel through varied landscapes and make the journey itself an experience. By coach, you can travel just as excitingly and in an equally climate-friendly way. Once you arrive on site, you can cover distances on foot or on a bicycle. This brings you a little closer to the local world. If your dream vacation — in terms of kilometers — is far away, the plane is of course the only option. In that case, you can ask about airline offers to compensate for the emissions produced.
2. look for nearby travel destinations
Ask yourself: What am I going on vacation for? For some vacations, you don’t have to go far. Windsurfing is said to work very well on the North Sea waves, hiking is also the miller’s delight in the Harz mountains, and with your eyes closed, along with the right playlist, the vegan yoga retreat in the city park feels just like being in Bangkok.
3. pack only what you need
The heavier the load of your luggage, the more fuel your mode of transportation will consume. Think about what you really want to carry before you start your trip. Lighter luggage makes you more mobile. You can borrow items locally, and clothes can be washed and put back on. This way, your seven things quickly become seven things.
4. organize your vacation yourself
Choose where you go, how you get there and where you stay. A vacation designed according to your own wishes means freedom. Sure, it’s more work than clicking the package tour into the shopping cart. But single-handedly, you have the option to focus on sustainability. For example, look for accommodation that has an environmental certificate. If you’d rather have the all-inclusive package, there are travel portals that specialize in climate-friendly tourism.
5. support local businesses and people
The little restaurant in the back alley where you can taste the soul of the region in every bite. The weekly market that has exotic spices and handmade treasures for you. The hostel, run by a lovely couple, who will tell you the secret hotspots of the city over breakfast. Many countries on your itinerary rely on income from tourists. But when the money gets stuck in all-inclusive hotels run by international corporations, the locals get nothing out of it. If you buy, eat and stay local, you make the value chain more sustainable.
Bonus tip: Improve your vacation budget with Wattify
Your piggy bank is only enough for your balcony? A certain crowdinvesting platform can help. Just like sustainability and travel, impact and investment go together. How does it work? Simply invest indirectly in sustainable energy projects with Wattify and use the return to improve the budget for your next vacation. At the same time, you support the planet you want to explore. Whether it’s a city trip or a world tour, Lake Garda or the Galapagos Islands, wherever your wanderlust takes you — the Wattify app is there for you.