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Traveling to Europe Sustainably

Hi all! I am currently planning on traveling to Amsterdam this summer. I do plan on staying for a few weeks and traveling to a few other undecided locations in Europe as well. I try to be aware of my environmental impact, and I recently came across an article about ways to travel while also being cautious of my own carbon footprint. I was wondering if anyone had any other tips not listed in the article they'd like to share with me! I've gotten some pretty good tips on other forums so far and was hoping for some more here!

The article I read was: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ecotravel/how-can-i-make-traveling-more-eco-friendly-f6nfadkj4r

All tips are appreciated! Thanks!

Posted by
27425 posts

didn't you get the answers you wanted in your other copy of this question? https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/netherlands/traveling-to-amsterdam-sustainably-and-solo

I thought you had a good response.

I agree with points made on the other post. I am very environmentally minded.

Once you have sat in a transatlantic airplane and go home in one too everything else you do while here will be just a drop in the ocean.

Can you sail a boat? Do a Greta and come by boat.

Posted by
2879 posts

Thanks for this rj. I will be interested in what people have to say.

Whether to continue to travel by airplane (or ship) for pleasure has been on my mind a lot lately. I have a voucher with BA, which I can also use on American, but I'm just having a hard time justifying my pleasure over the climate. I'm surrounded by younger people who are beside themselves with the lack of action (and well justified). At home, we think about everything we do to try to mitigate our affect on the environment. Some of it is hard, but not flying for pleasure is an easy thing to do, just not that fun or easy to stop doing. But then climate change and the destruction of the earth is not 'fun'. I'm still looking for a reason to travel abroad next year, but it's becoming harder and harder to see it happening. I think my future travel should be by rail, which will limit me to the Americas, or part of them, and so less interesting to me.

Posted by
7 posts

I agree I got good responses Nigel, but I am trying to get as many tips as I can before my trip. I'm currently trying to learn as much about sustainability as much as possible because it's something fairly new to me. I thought posting in this broader topic might bring some new people and ideas. I'm sorry if this is frowned upon I really had no idea

Posted by
2879 posts

rj, Actually, I think you are correct to post it under General Europe, so hopefully you do get more responses. Besides, it is time everyone seriously started recognizing the significance of choosing to fly (or cruise) for leisure. Again, it's not a fun topic, but certainly a necessary discussion to have.

Posted by
1043 posts

I am not sure what you do at home for the environment is any different than what you should do when traveling in Europe. Avoiding travel at all for the good of the environment is commendable, but not something many people are willing to give up. As mentioned, flying over and back is the biggest impact. I'm sure you will have better luck getting info by Goggling this topic.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you, Wray. This definitely is not a fun topic for a lot of people, but probably a necessary one for most.

Posted by
5467 posts

Stop flying is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint and cycle, don’t drive where possible. Anything else is somewhat irrelevant.

Eat less meat and dairy. Eat seasonal food produced locally.

Rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel and stay longer, so bedding and towels can be washed less frequently.

Buy better quality and less fashionable clothes that will last longer. I often see recommendations on this forum to pack light then buy whatever you need in Europe and junk it before returning home - NO!

Posted by
12926 posts

You need to consider the total picture and tackle every aspect of the greenhouse gas emission problem, not just air travel, and modify your day-to-days behavior along with your travel.

According to two climate-change -fighting sources I trust (The Sierra Club and Population Connection), food waste is a greater source of greenhouse gases in the US than the airline industry. This newspaper article explains how and why:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2021/02/25/climate-curious-food-waste/

We are very careful about minimizing or eliminating food waste both at home and when we travel. Also we avoid excess packaging, particularly plastic. We carry our own shopping bags to Europe so we don’t have to use plastic bags. We plan our apartment meals carefully so there is no waste. We never get take-out (and did not during the pandemic) because it wastes so much packaging.

Other steps, not food-related: we minimize energy consumption by washing clothes only when actually soiled. We take shorter showers, and (don’t snicker) we often shower together. ( Who else remembers the 1970’s when Californians were advised to shower with a friend to save water ? ). We drink only tap water and carry our own re-usable water bottles Instead of buying bottled water. We try to patronize “green” hotels and other businesses that acknowledge the problem and take steps to be more sustainable.

We try to limit our consumer buying to things that are really necessary. Like the old Yankee slogan—- “-use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. We have driven our cars for 17-20 years before replacing them, and the most recent replacement is an all-electric Chevy Bolt. Even that we try to drive as little as possible, by walking or biking for local errands. I try to choose clothing brands with the BlueSign label, meaning they are certified as following sustainable and eco-friendly practices throughout the manufacturing process. One reason I like Patagonia outdoor clothing so much, apart from the quality and design, is the company actively promotes the concept of “less is more” and encourages postponing purchasing of new gear until what you have is absolutely worn out. And then you return the item to then for recycling.

I am not saying all this because I am virtuous. These are all small steps that most of us can take, if we just stop to think about it. I am sure others have additional ideas and practices they can suggest ( isn’t that the point of this thread?)

And this doesn’t mean I am suggesting that air travel is not also a problem. We personally cannot sail to Europe ( my husband gets seasick easily), but we are cutting our international trips by half. And I am buying carbon offsets from a reliable source for the international flights we do take. The flights to and from the US are the only flights we take; no intra-Europe flying. Trains powered by electricity are much cleaner than cars or airplanes, so we do not rent cars either, unless necessary for a short distance to reach a village or other destination not served by bus or train. And I try to encourage others to do the same: whenever I see the question “car or train?” here on the forum, there is only one answer.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you Jennifer and Lola for the great tips! I will definitely take a look at that article. I appreciate the examples you gave, Lola, and plan on incorporating as much of those as I can during my travels.

Posted by
13391 posts

Rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel and stay longer, so
bedding and towels can be washed less frequently.

Most hotels dont wash bedding and towels often. They say for environmental reasons but they are saving a bunch on labor and the cost of washing. If you stay in any hotel they will probably control the temperature more precisely (and less comfortably) than you will if you stay in an apartment. If you stay in a newer hotel, the HVAC system will probably be more efficient in general than in an apartment. If you stay in a hotel your room will be maybe 160 sf that needs to be lighted and airconditioned, the apartment probably much larger. Most hotels these days use your key to turn on the lights and turn them off when you remove the key and leave the room. Apartments, probably not as efficient in that regard.

Its hard for me to tell a person of modest income to turn off his lights, when I take a trip to Europe where my carbon footprint is larger than his in two years; and while his may be survival, mine if for personal self gratification.

Posted by
455 posts

Then there's the most basic way to be friendly to Mother Nature and yourself: bicycle (under your own steam if you can rather than on a carbon-hungry e-bike) from one place to another, town to town, spend a few days, take the train to somewhere new, then begin the process all over again.

Bike rentals, urban bike lanes, trails and canal towpaths are found all over Europe where two-wheeled travel is everyday stuff (especially in the Netherlands and Denmark), cyclists are respected by drivers and where you can get some great exercise away from the noise and pollution of motorized vehicles.

Check out the Eurovelo site for routes all over the continent:

https://en.eurovelo.com/