Most of us make great efforts to live environmentally sustainably in our everyday lives: we walk to work, we’ve embraced second-hand clothing, and we don’t hesitate to wrap our children’s snacks in beeswax-coated cloths.
But do we think about sustainability during vacations? After all, holidays are the enjoyment of the fruits of a year’s work: driving, and even flying, to the seaside, cocktails, jacuzzis, Thai massages…
Some popular destinations (Venice, Barcelona, etc.) actively combat over-tourism, while others keep raising prices. For example, near Slovenia’s natural treasures, parking fees can be exorbitant…
Could it be done differently? Here are some ideas for a sustainable vacation:
The most sustainable vacation is probably house swapping. Not only because there’s no money involved in accommodation, as you’ll be sleeping where someone else goes on vacation, and their house would be empty. Also, there’s no need to build a brand-new holiday home just for your pleasure (the ecological footprint of the construction industry rivals that of the abominable snowman). No need for ongoing administrative overhead, paying accommodation intermediary commissions, certification, daily guest counts – a lot of invisible administrative burden and associated costs are eliminated. The only downside is that it requires adaptation and organization: you need to vacation at the same time as the partner family, and find a family with similar needs (house size, amenities, cleanliness, pets, etc.) to ensure everyone is happy. There are websites and Facebook groups specializing in this.
The second most sustainable option is the team of kayakers descending rivers during the day and camping in the floodplains at night, cooking for themselves in a cauldron. Provided they carry their trash to the next village and bury their waste in the sediment. It was quite popular in the eighties; perhaps we’ll rediscover its beauty soon.
The third option is to stay with a private accommodation provider in the chosen region, instead of choosing a hotel. Consider this: private hosts raise their children with the income, which goes directly into the family budget. They also maintain local infrastructure (schools, etc.) and the landscape. In a hotel, on the other hand, your accommodation fee will likely finance the third Porsche of a distant board member, probably in the capital. And if you want to focus on environmental sustainability: choose a building that was built long ago and has been given a new function as accommodation by the owner (due to a lack of residents). Choose something that fits into the landscape (beautiful) or maybe even a historic monument (more challenging to maintain than usual). Trust me, you’ll have a unique experience. (Here’s an example here.)
Once you’ve arrived, bike around! It’s one thing to get to your accommodation by car or public transport; it’s another to decide how to get around during your vacation. Biking is not only greener, but it also brings you closer to the landscape and the people.
Look for local products! One of the joys of foreign travel is that everything is DIFFERENT. Salami, bread, even vegetables taste different. If you manage to avoid supermarkets during your vacation and buy from local markets, you can experience the same thing at home. Or choose accommodation where you can have a local product breakfast or find a shelf with local products. (e.g., here) Just think about it: most revenue comes from tourism in a rural area, but it’s the cheesemaker and the winemaker who maintain that picturesque landscape, which is why you’re going there in the first place. So don’t be lazy to find their products – of course, if you’re interested in sustainability.
Travel off-peak! There’s nothing more wasteful than infrastructure built for thousands of tourists standing empty for part of the year. Try autumn in the Balaton-felvidék or early spring – you’ll be surprised how calm and beautiful it is.