We’re in the middle of an urban tourism boom - and the world’s cultural capitals are groaning under the strain. Does that mean ethical holiday makers should eschew traditional city breaks? Not a bit of it. Just give your trip an eco-twist by embracing a more sustainable approach to travel.

Posted on : 2019-11-14 11:18:42

1. Ditch the car

Increased visitor numbers mean greater pressure on roads and public transport. Minimise your impact by avoiding car hire and walking or cycling instead. Many cities have bike-sharing schemes, allowing tourists to rent their own set of wheels for only a few Euros per week. For travel across longer distances, use trains, trams or buses.

2. Be a savvy flyer…

Regular short flights can play havoc with your carbon footprint. There are a few things you can do to minimise the environmental impact of journeys by air, including packing light, flying direct and travelling from your local airport. Choose airlines that run carbon offset programmes. Alternatively, balance out your emissions by investing in a carbon-saving environmental project.

sun and cloud capture from plane window
Copenhagen, Denmark above the clouds

3. …or take the train

The most effective way to slash the environmental cost of your city break is not to fly at all. Follow in the footsteps of environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg and embrace long-distance train travel.

The most effective way to slash the environmental cost of your city break is not to fly at all. Follow in the footsteps of environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg and embrace long-distance train travel.

5. Choose eco hotels

Encourage positive environmental practices by supporting sustainable accommodation. In Europe, look for hotels with EU Ecolabel certification. Don’t be afraid to ask your hotel questions about their green policies. Do they subscribe to a recycling scheme? Where does their electricity come from? Is their food locally sourced – and what steps do they take to save on water?

6. Be a green guest

Hotels need your help to save energy. Hang up towels to let housekeeping know you’re happy to reuse them and turn off lights when you leave your room. That roll-top bath might look enticing, but showers will use far less water and power.

7. Cut down on plastic

It’s tempting to relax your standards on holiday, but don’t turn your back on the fight against plastic pollution. Pack a few reusable bags and a refillable water bottle to carry around with you. It’s also worth researching local recycling schemes before you travel. In Berlin, for example, most apartment buildings have colour-coded recycling bins, and many European countries, including Finland, operate a deposit-based return system for drinks packaging.

8. Avoid the crowds

To reduce the pressure on public transport systems and famous landmarks, give the most popular sights a miss. Instead, get a more intimate look at the city you’re visiting by uncovering local secrets. Most city tourism boards will be able to recommend ‘alternative’ itineraries. If you do want to tick off the top sights, try to plan your trip for the off-season.

9. Opt for green eateries

It’s hard to track down eco-friendly eateries on the go, so research any pit stops in advance. Look for cafes and restaurants advertising seasonal menus based on organic, locally-sourced produce. Avoid coffee shops selling plastic-wrapped sandwiches and drinks in disposable cups.

10. Support urban eco schemes

Many cities have green projects that deserve your support. Pioneering examples include Nice’s green Promenade du Paillon walkway, BedZED eco-quarter in London and the world’s biggest vertical farm in Chicago: FarmedHere. In Amsterdam you can boost local eco-systems just by using the loo, thanks to public toilets that recycle urine into fertiliser.

11. Visit sustainable cities

It’s easy to be green when you’re visiting an eco-aware city. In Copenhagen, for instance, over 70% of hotel rooms hold an official eco-certification. Stockholm boasts a carbon-neutral airport, while San Francisco has banned the sale of plastic water bottles. Good green infrastructure will help slash your individual carbon footprint.

Town located at river bank
Stockholm, Sweden has a carbon-neutral airport