It’s become routine to think about sustainable decisions a little more, and there are many ways to get started when it comes to everyday choices – like cycling to work or switching to a vegan diet. But when you go on vacation — which thankfully is getting a little more possible for some of us — it can be hard to maintain a low-carbon lifestyle.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was one of the fastest-growing global industries — and its carbon emissions grew rapidly at the same time. The 2018 survey found that the travel industry was responsible for about 8% of global emissions, with flights accounting for about half of those emissions.

At the same time, traveling the world, meeting new people or learning interesting things about new cultures is a fulfilling experience you probably would not want to miss — of course, at a time when travel restrictions between COVID-19 are allow it. Moreover, taking vacations and vacations, if you can, is vital to our well-being.

Fortunately, there are ways you can manage to take a break without charging your carbon emissions. As more tourists become aware of their impact on the environment, more tour operators have created trips that offer the best of a typical vacation without a giant carbon footprint.

With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to make your next vacation good for you and the planet.

Explore train travel in a big way

Aviation contributes to about 2.4% of global carbon dioxide emissions. When you add other gases produced by air travel, such as nitrous oxide and traces of water vapor produced by aircraft, it actually accounts for 5% of global emissions, according to the BBC.

So one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to find a way to reach your vacation destination without flying.

It may take longer, but it can be fun. This is the view of travel expert Susanna Elfors, who, following the success of her Facebook page for the “flygskam” movement – which means “flight shame” in Swedish – co-founded a train holiday website to help in removing hassle from booking multiple trains.

She told Global Citizen in 2019: “You can jump off the train and stay in a small village and have it as part of your holiday experience. On airplanes you just see clouds passing by.”

There are many vacation companies that offer train travel only. From the UK you can use Eurostar to go to Paris or Brussels, then get an interrail permit for multiple train journeys across the continent (it is especially affordable if you are under 27). Check out the “Man in Seat 61” blog for more inspiration — an award-winning travel website from global train travel fan Mark Smith.

2. Find a place to stay that works with renewable energy

Staying in a hotel or vacation home that runs on renewable energy is a great way to reduce emissions on your trip and learn more about sustainable technology while you are there.

The British heritage organization National Trust, has a list of its rental houses run on solar or water, proving that old properties can be made energy efficient. Or you can switch Airbnb to Ecobnb, a website that lets you browse rental homes around the world with detailed estimates of how stable they are. Thinking of an organic green energy farm in Tuscany, anyone? Yes, please!

Or if you want something that looks like a Hobbit house perched on a Scottish hill, check out the Perthshire Landcraft: it is made from recycled materials and recovered items, uses wool for insulation and draws energy from wind turbines on the work farm in on which it is based.

For a more urban setting – check out luxury hotels like the Breeze Hotel in central Amsterdam, which has won awards for innovation and the source of all its energy from its renewable systems. It uses sunlight to heat water for showers, solar panels and even has a natural air conditioning system using reused water.

3. Electric cars and bicycle friendly destinations

You may find that even if you avoid flights, you may need a car to get to your destination. If so, you may want to consider hiring an electric car, which is a widely available option in Europe and America. While the electricity used to power cars is often produced using fossil fuels, they are still better for emissions in general than driving regular cars with gasoline.

A 2020 study predicted that by 2050 every other car on the road on the road would be electric, which would save on annual carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the size of all annual carbon emissions in Russia.

The Ecobnb website tells you with help which of its rents are located near electric car charging points or if they have one on site. If you are in Europe, Norway and France are two leading countries in terms of getting electric cars and the number of charging points available.

If you are on a city holiday – and therefore can probably live without a car – think of cities that make cycling easier. In the United States, San Francisco, Portland, and Fort Collins in Colorado topped a recent roundtable of bike-friendly cities. In Europe, Utrecht in the Netherlands, Antwerp in Belgium and Ljubljana in Slovenia are all recommended for the number of bike paths they have.

Go to lesser known or local destinations

Bucket list attractions and beautiful famous spots can suffer from over-tourism, which in turn contributes to air pollution and puts a lot of pressure on local water and food sources in those places.

In Barcelona, ​​the mayor threatened to restrict tourism in the city after being named the most polluted port in Europe in 2019. Meanwhile coral reefs in tropical parts of the world have been damaged by swimmers and speeding boats

The global travel restrictions brought to address the COVID-19 pandemic helped reveal the true impact of tourism during normal times. For example, there were rare tendencies of dolphins in the canals of Venice in April 2020, after severe blockages in Italy, which had resulted in the slowing down of boat traffic in the city normally occupied by tourists.

However, tourism can be good for the local economy and boost sustainable development efforts when done well – try doing some research and find a place that would really benefit from your first visit there. Or switch to famous destinations with lesser known but still beautiful and attractive alternatives.

In fact before you explore a distant destination there may be amazing places to visit within a few hours of where you live to try first.

5. Learn about nature conservation during the holidays

By taking the idea of ​​making your choice of account destination a step further, you can actually use the journey to find more – and contribute to – environmental conservation efforts.

For example, the charity WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) has a travel website where you can book adventure tours that help fund conservation efforts and provide the opportunity to spot wildlife. The organization also joins local vacation providers, certifying eco-friendly places to stay near national parks and hiking trails, so visitors can enjoy nature with less impact.

Another option is to camp on a remodeled property, gaining popularity in places like the UK, where landowners have made an effort to restore nature and reintroduce endangered species or species that have become extinct in the wild. place, such as beavers and storks.

6. Think about food

Hotel food normally brings to mind licking all you can eat, which are extremely pointless. Although some hotels are thinking of ways to reduce their food waste – from offering smaller portions to eliminating free bread – many still have a long way to go.

Globally, less than half of hotels compost their food waste and often send it to landfill, creating methane gas that is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to Sustainable World Travel, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable tourism.

Another issue is that in popular holiday destinations on islands, like the Maldives, a large amount of food is imported for tourists. Sustainable World Travel estimates that 80% of the food consumed by the tourism industry in the Pacific islands is imported, generating greenhouse gas emissions to get there.

As you travel, consider a ready-made feast and restaurants serving locally sourced food. And while you may have difficulty eating a plant-based diet everywhere, vegan and vegetarian diets are a growing trend, and apps like Happy Cow, which has lists in cities around the world, can help you. show nearby places serving vegan or vegetarian dishes.

And finally, avoid disposable plastic by bringing a reusable water bottle and cup of coffee when you are out.