Sustainable Tourism: Seven Tips for an Eco-Friendly City Break

How to be a Sustainable Traveller

Responsible travellers support the environment by making smart travel choices. By offsetting carbon emissions, reducing plastic pollution and supporting local communities, we can all be sustainable, more ethical explorers.

Having a positive impact on the places we visit is simple when you know where to start. Play your part in the sustainable tourism movement and make the planet a priority with these easy-to-implement, eco-friendly ideas.

Don’t follow the crowd

Mass tourism takes its environmental toll on popular destinations, so consider adding lesser-visited places to your holiday wish list. Second cities are beginning to steal the spotlight from their bigger siblings; while destinations such as Utrecht, Lyon and Cork may not have all the headline attractions of Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin, they also don’t suffer from the capitals’ overcrowding. The swell of summertime visitors puts the environment in popular destinations under serious strain, so book a trip in low or shoulder seasons when it isn’t so busy: not only will you be supporting the local economy during a quiet period, but you’ll also spend less time queuing at cultural attractions.

Arrive in (eco-conscious) style

There’s no denying it, air travel will cause your city break’s carbon footprint to soar. Where possible, swap flights for travel by train, coach or boat. Sure, journey times may be a little longer, but you’ll be skipping the hours hanging around in the airport buying over-priced snacks. What’s more, you’ll see a lot more of the places you’re visiting: take the Trenhotel Lusitania, a sleeper train which makes it way from Madrid to Lisbon through some charming rural landscapes. If you must fly, fly direct, and find out which airlines have the lowest emissions per passenger mile or use this calculator to see how you can offset your carbon footprint.

Pack with the environment in mind

Disposable plastic products may be convenient, but they pollute our cities and ultimately make their way into our seas. Clean out your wash bag and replace that single-use travel-sized shampoo with reusable toiletry bottles, and invest in a bamboo toothbrush and a zero-waste deodorant. If you plan to soak up the sun at an urban beach – such as Dubrovnik’s stunning Banje – use an ocean-safe sun cream that won’t harm underwater ecosystems. In addition, your sustainable travel sightseeing kit should include a canvas tote bag, a refillable water bottle and a reusable coffee cup.

Green ways to get around

Environmentally conscious explorers love walking, and hiring a bike to is a great way to see more of the city and get some free cardio to boot. Europe has many cycle-friendly cities – try Copenhagen’s car-free bike superways, or Ljubljana’s themed bicycle paths, such as the 14km Plečnik Route linking the historic Trnovo neighbourhood and Tivoli Castle. Public transport is always a good, eco-friendly option to get around the city centre and, if you do need to use a vehicle, look into options for hiring an electric car.

Book a sustainable stay

Look for hotels that have introduced eco initiatives, such as encouraging guests to reuse towels, composting food waste and reducing the use of bleaches and petrochemical-based cleaning products. London’s Edition hotel has pledged to be 100% free from single-use plastics by the end of 2020, while Hostal Grau in Barcelona is fitted out with taps designed to reduce water consumption and mattresses made from coconut-fibre materials.

Shop local

You can pick up your morning latte from that big-name coffee shop when you’re back home, so make the effort to eat and shop local while you are away. Visiting family-run cafés and independent restaurants and buying locally made crafts will open you up to a host of new experiences (and some one-of-a-kind souvenirs). In addition, look out for venues that are committed to sustainability, such as Relæ in Copenhagen, which sources organic ingredients and fair-trade coffee beans while championing seasonal produce.

Give something back

Reduce the environmental impact of your city break by signing up to a carbon emissions offsetting programme. Organisations such as Carbon Clear spend the money you donate on green projects including planting trees and installing renewable energy sources. There are also several ways in which to not only reduce your impact, but take positive action for the environment: volunteering with a conversation project, for example. Hop aboard a Plastic Whale – a boat made from recycled material – to help clean Amsterdam and Rotterdam’s waterways and give back to the city while you’re sightseeing.

What to pack