How to be a more sustainable traveller

The Staycation Collection was created out of personal frustration. When I moved to Germany, I was full of fresh energy and determined to explore the country I’d decided to call home. I started planning my first weekend away, and got overwhelmed: Where is Bölkze? What do I do here? Where would I stay? Instead, I booked flights to Spain for the weekend.

But I had a sense of guilt in my stomach. Not only was I not exploring Germany’s spectacular landscape, but my travel habits weren’t good for the climate. In fact, most of our travel habits aren’t good for the climate. That needs to change. 

I’m not saying travel has no place in a sustainable future, quite the opposite! Travel and tourism are key for a lot of local economies and for building cultural appreciation, not to mention how good it is for your mind and body!

So once COVID hit, international borders closed and 14-day quarantines came into existence, I began thinking more and more about the benefits to the climate that taking staycations and exploring the world around us more consciously could have. 

Of course, domestic travel isn’t the only way to explore in a climate-friendly way, so here are six things you can do to travel in the most eco-friendly way possible.

"Choosing to stay somewhere where the climate is a priority rather than at a huge resort makes a statement"

Practice slow travel

Slow travel is a part of the wider ‘slow movement’, a shift that advocates for the slowing down of life's pace. Many of you, I’m sure, will have been practising this for years without having given it a name. It effectively means travelling to connect with a place, its culture and its people, rather than rushing to collect stamps in your passport or tick off all the sights you must see. 

Slow travel is beneficial for many reasons, including the fact you’ll likely feel more rested and fulfilled, but a huge plus of slow travel is that it tends to be more sustainable. This is because you’re not jumping on and off transportation and are spending more time supporting local economies.

Take more staycations

Of course, the ultimate form of sustainable travel is a staycation; taking a holiday closer to home dramatically reduces your carbon footprint. The word staycation has different connotations for different people. In the UK, where I’m from, a staycation means taking a vacation in your own country, while in the US it means taking a holiday in your own city, and in Germany it means taking a holiday from your own home. 

All of these are great options, and there is something incredibly special about discovering new things about the world on your doorstep. Looking at your immediate surroundings with a tourist’s eyes can really change your perception of things you had perhaps taken for granted! I challenge you to try all three: book a vacation in your home country, check into a hotel in your city, and take a weekend staycation in your own home.

Calculate your carbon footprint before choosing how you travel

Aeroplanes account for about 3 per cent of total global climate emissions, and we are all clued up as to the fact plane travel is the most pollutive form of transportation. Beyond that, it gets a little more complex depending on how many people you’re travelling with and therefore it’s worth looking at a carbon footprint calculator. 

As a general rule of thumb, one person in a car is worse than bus travel, whereas a full car is much better than bus travel. Rail travel is better than cars and buses, but coaches are the best for your footprint (when full!).

Support local businesses

Spending your holiday money at local businesses rather than at larger corporations is key to creating a more equitable, sustainable future. Why? Because, for starters, local business owners tend to care about, and are invested in, the wellbeing of their community and its future, meaning they act in much more accountable ways.

Additionally, they generally have a smaller carbon footprint than big companies due to a smaller supply chain and a focus on using local produce and production facilities.

Stay in properties with eco-credentials

Choosing to stay somewhere where the climate is a priority rather than at a huge resort makes a statement, and ensures that there is an increased focus and prioritisation of sustainability in the tourism industry more generally. Our money speaks, and if there is a trend towards stays in sustainable properties, the tourism industry will prioritise developments in this area.

Many of our independently-run properties on The Staycation Collection have a huge emphasis on sustainability, taking steps to ensure their actions look after the planet. Find out exactly how on the review pages, and take a look at our favourite sustainable places to stay.

Leave landscapes the way you found them

It is oh-so-simple and oh-so-important to leave the places your visit as you found them. Picking up your rubbish and disposing of it properly is important. But so is not collecting shells, volcanic rocks or local flowers. Each is a key part of a localised ecosystem, and removing these things can cause a significant shift in an environment if enough people do the same.

Pictures last better, so take plenty of those instead!

What other tips do you have for how to travel more sustainably? I’d love to know.

The Staycation Collection is a where-to-stay guide and travel inspiration platform for travel in Germany. Think travel agency for the digital age! 

We exist to showcase Germany’s most beautiful and affordable places to stay from cabins to B&Bs to apartments, and give you insider tips shared by the owners on what to do in the area while you’re there.

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