With some of the world’s most important and impressive historical sights, and such a diversity of food and culture in close proximity, it’s no wonder that Europe is one of the most popular places to visit in the world.
As we all try to find ways to make our travels and lifestyle more eco-friendly it’s good to know that most countries are taking sustainability seriously and there are many ways to travel more sustainably in Europe.
Sustainable travel in Europe doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. You just need to plan your Europe itinerary to take a more mindful approach to your impact and make small changes to the way you travel. Doing this can even save you money while giving you better insights into the culture.
You might even find that traveling more sustainably can have a positive impact on both the environment as well as your travel experience
Here are 7 tips for eco friendly and sustainable travel in Europe
Take the train instead of flying
The single biggest thing you can do to travel more sustainably in Europe is to take the train instead of flying. All of Europe’s major cities, as well as many tourist destinations and smaller towns, are well connected by rail. Taking the train is a much more sustainable, eco friendly and often less stressful way to travel Europe than flying.
For example, high speed trains connect London to Paris in only 2 hours and 20 minutes. When you think about the time it takes to travel to the airport, check in, pass security and wait to board, it’s often quicker and less stressful to take the train instead.
From cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, you can find connecting high speed and sleeper trains to almost anywhere in Europe. Traveling overnight also saves you money on accommodation. Railway stations, unlike airports, are often located right in the city center which offers easier access to all the attractions and hotels.
Train travel also allows you to see more of the destinations you are visiting than is possible from a plane as you can relax and watch the countryside passing you by from the window. In fact, Interrailing around Europe was my first big trip that gave me the travel bug and changed my life forever!
The key to making this affordable is knowing that the further in advance you book train tickets in Europe the more money you can save. Book tickets in advance with a reputable company like Omio, who have done a lot of research into sustainable travel as well.
Use public transport, walk or cycle as much as possible
Once you arrive at your destination make use of the buses, trams, ferries and local public transportation options in the city. Not only is using public transport a more sustainable way to travel and cuts down on traffic jams and pollution, it’s also cheaper than taking taxis and will give you more of an insight into how the locals live.
Walking or cycling is also a great way to really explore a destination. Not only does it keep you fit and reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll have time to take a lot more in when you slow down and walk around. Many European cities have beautiful historic areas of pedestrian streets that are just perfect for strolling and wandering. You can also easily hire e-bikes and scooters which make a fun, quick and sustainable way to explore.
Consider less famous destinations and visiting outside the peak season
Popular destinations like Barcelona, Rome and Venice are undeniably some of the best places to visit in Europe but are also suffering from over tourism as the huge number of visitors put a strain on the environment, resources and local community.
Why not consider an alternative, less well known, destination. Perhaps in Eastern Europe. All of Europe has beautiful nature, historic sights and amazing food and you’ll probably also enjoy less crowds and lower prices.
Also try to visit outside of the peak season for a more enjoyable experience and so you don’t contribute to the impact of hundreds of thousands of tourists all descending on one place at the same time. Here’s 24 of the best destinations to visit in Fall.
Stay in sustainable accommodation
Where you stay also has a big impact on how sustainable your trip is. There are an increasing number of eco-friendly hotels and accommodation options in Europe that are taking big steps to become more sustainable.
Many hotels are reducing their environmental impact by utilising sustainable best practices. These include reducing energy and water consumption, being more energy efficient, using renewable energy and environmentally friendly products, recycling, reducing food waste and supporting the local communities more.
Another tip is to stay in locally or family run guesthouses, homestays and hotels where your money goes directly to the local community instead of to big companies. Local hosts often go above and beyond to make you feel welcome and will give you a more authentic insight into the local culture which can be a really enriching experience.
You can also do your bit to make your trip more sustainable by reducing water and energy consumption in simple ways like turning off lights and air conditioners before leaving the room and only asking for sheets and towels to be washed if it’s really necessary.
Eat and shop locally
When you’re visiting an exciting new destination make the most of the local food, drink and other produce on offer. It’s good for you, good for the local community and good for the environment.
As well as getting to try amazing new dishes and local delicacies, eating at local restaurants and shopping in local markets can save money and food miles and puts the money straight into the hands of local people instead of big chains.
Shopping in local markets for handicrafts and souvenirs is a really fun way to experience the local culture and take home something unique to remind you of your trip. It also reduces the environmental impact of imported products.
And of course, while we’re on the subject, don’t forget your reusable water bottle, cups and bags and avoid single use plastics. Most of the tap water in Europe is safe to drink so you shouldn’t need to buy plastic water bottles.
Use sustainable and responsible tour operators
As tourists become more interested in sustainable travel in Europe, so do tour operators. Do your research into any tour operators you plan to use before you book. Make sure you go with a company that uses sustainable and responsible tourism practices to reduce their impact on the environment and protects the local community.
Using electric vehicles is just one way that tour companies can be more sustainable. Avoid companies that exploit people, animals or resources and support tour companies that work hard to preserve the environment and culture of the places you visit. This way you can make sure your tour is a positive experience for everyone involved.
Offset your carbon and help with reforestation
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint and make your travels more sustainable by purchasing carbon offsets and supporting reforestation projects. Trees help our planet by removing harmful CO2 from the atmosphere as well as protecting wildlife and creating sustainable work for local people.
Final thoughts about sustainable travel in Europe
Sustainable travel in Europe doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. And, if done responsibly, tourism has a huge potential to preserve wildlife and nature, provide employment for local communities and facilitate cross cultural exchange and understanding without too much damage to the environment.
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