Sustainable travel: 5 tips for climate-friendly vacations

Cosima Haas

Traveling is cheaper and easier than ever before. But what about sustainable travel? Due to climate change, it is becoming increasingly important to travel sustainably and to reduce our own personal carbon footprint as much as possible. The good news is that there are a few tips that can make a big difference with little effort.

Tip 1: Choose a sustainable destination

Sustainable Travel in Germany

In general, one can follow the rule: the closer the vacation to your own home, the more sustainable. Accordingly, vacationing in your home country not only emits the least greenhouse gases, but also supports the local economy. So, if, you don't want to miss out on sun and beach in Germany despite sustainable travel, you have the option of vacationing on the Baltic Sea for example. Germany also has a lot to offer for hiking enthusiasts. Whether hiking in the Harz Mountains or in the Erzgebirge - it only takes a few hours by car or train to get to Germany's most popular vacation spots within the country.  

City breaks in Europe: climate-friendly tourism 

When it comes to environmentally friendly travel, long-distance travel is not excluded from this. You just have to inform yourself properly beforehand! If you want to travel sustainably in Europe, Estonia is a good choice as a holiday destination. Although a rather unknown holiday destination, it is nevertheless becoming more and more popular. Estonia, the northernmost country in Europe in the Baltic States, not only has about 4000 kilometres of beautiful coastline, but also the most environmentally conscious capital in Europe 2023. And not without reason: since 2013, Tallinn has been the first European capital to offer its inhabitants free public transport. This avoids many harmful C02 emissions, which is also reflected in the good air quality within the city. In addition, with the 15-minute target, citizens should be able to reach all necessary infrastructure within 15 minutes using non-motorised transport. Other measures, such as rainwater management systems and the redesign of streets, show that Tallinn has great climate awareness and promotes biodiversity conservation within the city. All climate goals are summarised in an ambitious development strategy until 2035, which is linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

No matter which holiday destination you finally decide on, it is already good to inform yourself in advance especially about local transport possibilities and climate measures of the country. Because there are cities or areas that do more for climate protection and less for it. You can get an overview of the most sustainable, European cities here.

Tip No. 2: Train & carpool instead of plane

Even if it is obvious, it must be emphasized once again: Airplanes are the most climate-damaging means of transportation. Short-haul flights, often made attractive by low-cost airlines, can easily be avoided. A Greenpeace study shows: almost one third of the most popular short-haul flights within Europe can be replaced with a train journey that takes less than six hours. This could save up to 23.5 million tons of C02 annually. Even if a six-hour train ride seems too long compared to a one-hour flight, for a flight one still has to consider the time of getting to the airport, waiting at security and at the gate, and getting back to your hotel. Meanwhile, there are many great offers from the European train lines. In addition to night travel, there are also flexible tickets, such as Interrail. Those who prefer the bus can book bus trips at very reasonable prices.

If you still don't want to give up your car, you can try carpooling. For car trips, the rule is: the higher the number of people in the car, the lower the C02 footprint. Platforms such as Blablabar or Carpoolworld offer drivers the opportunity to offer their own ride and find potential passengers. This not only saves costs and emissions, but also makes a boring car trip more exciting.

Regardless of the mode of transportation, C02 emissions from the trip should be offset. One way to do this is to offset the greenhouse gases released by the trip through climate projects, such as reforestation projects or similar. In other words, investing in projects that help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. C02 footprint calculators help when choosing a means of transport.

Tip No. 3: Pack smart

The more weight ends up in our suitcase, the more fuel is needed for trains, cars & co. Therefore, it is not only worthwhile for the climate to pack little and thoughtfully, but it also literally makes traveling easier. In addition to avoiding books and plastic-packed drugstore items, it's best to pack clothes that can be combined in a variety of ways.

Durable, high quality and comfortable - the SANVT Essentials should become your long-time companions. Depending on your clothing style, the Essentials can be combined in different ways, saving a lot of space in your suitcase. All SANVT products are handmade in Portugal and are transported climate-neutrally to our supplier in Germany.

Lack of inspiration for sustainable packing? Basically, you only need a few items of clothing that you can combine in different ways, but you are still prepared for any weather. This saves space and emissions. The SANVT Essentials pictured in the video provide the following emissions:

But here’s what: all production-related emissions at SANVT are 100% compensated. For example, one climate projects consists of planting one tree for every article sold together with Eden Projects. Read more about it here.

Tip No. 4: Support local institutions

Developing countries, in particular, are often dependent on tourism. But this can also have a negative impact on the nature within the country, as well as the culture and the local population. Therefore, it is important to support local institutions during one's stay in a foreign country and to treat the culture and the environment respectfully. The following tips will help in this regard:

  • Book local guides for authentic excursions
  • Stay with host families
  • Avoid international chain restaurants
  • Support local retailers

When booking accommodations, guides, and restaurants, it's always important to make sure providers aren't greenwashing and meet real sustainability standards. Some online-platforms offer an overview of sustainable hotels and hostels.

Tip No. 5: Eat vegan or vegetarian food

Flying, fast-fashion and meat are among the consumption habits that have the greatest negative impact on climate change. In particular, industrial livestock farming not only leads to the deforestation of climate-relevant biotopes such as rainforests, but also to the emission of climate-damaging gases. A 2022 study showed that a global shift to a plant-based diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2100. So, when it comes to traveling sustainably, it's best to avoid meat and dairy products on site whenever possible. This way, the food is not only fresher, but usually also much healthier.

If you still want to try traditional food, you should make sure that the food and especially the animal products were grown regionally and are of organic quality.