How to travel more sustainably
Martin BaeuerleView bio
I am frequently asked whether travelling can be entirely zero impact and the simple answer is no. Everything that we do has a carbon footprint attached to it and travelling always has a higher footprint than staying at home. There are, however, steps you can take to travel more sustainably.
Choosing your destination
Your choice of destination will have the maximum impact on your carbon footprint - especially considering the mode of transportation. Traveling by air compared to taking a train has a major impact. From a business perspective, you should always consider whether the meeting can be held online rather than in person. You may also want to investigate destinations which are local and accessible by public transport. As a bonus, the local option also boosts the local economy!
Many hotels are now adopting international certifications showcasing their environmental commitment, and it is becoming much easier for travellers to find these hotels online via green travel booking agents. My personal favourite is EcoHotels as they only list hotels with a trustworthy certification approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Furthermore, compared to many other big online travel agents, they operate on a low commission rate per stay, which means that more revenue remains in the local community. In addition, they plant one tree for every booking.
Another tip when selecting a hotel is to look for independently operated or family-run small and local hotels. The bigger the hotel and the more facilities (restaurants, recreational and conference facilities etc.) it has, the higher the base energy and water consumption of the property. This all contributes to your overall travel carbon footprint.
Do good and no harm
'Regenerative travel' is an emerging trend which means that you leave the place you visit in a better condition than when you arrived. This does not, however, mean spending your entire trip volunteering at your destination and planting trees for example. You can take the do-it-yourself approach with simple habits such as picking up pieces of garbage on your stroll along the beach. For someone like myself and my colleagues, working for an engineering consulting firm with a strong focus on net zero carbon design and sustainability, we can all share our knowledge with local communities or just engage and educate people on our way. For example, on my trip to Greece in September 2022, I will be fortunate enough to stay locally with friends and for a few days at a hotel. In order to practice what I propose here, I have offered the General Manager a free workshop with their “Green Team” on initiatives to make their operation more sustainable.
It is a bit like the popular saying about visiting beaches – "take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints". The aim of being more conscious about our travel is to ensure even those footprints are as small and light as possible.