Achieving a 100% Sustainable Vacation: A Comprehensive Guide from Planning to Packing
As global consciousness around environmental sustainability grows, travelers are increasingly recognizing the importance of incorporating sustainable practices into their journeys. In fact, a 2022 report on the Travel and Tourism sector by the World Economic Forum highlights that a staggering 80% of global travelers have expressed a desire for sustainable travel experiences. This marks a critical shift in travel attitudes, especially as 11% of global emissions are caused by the travel and tourism sector.
However, despite this shift, the actual adoption of sustainable travel products and practices has not kept pace with these aspirations due to roadblocks such as a lack of awareness or price premiums. Traveler uptake of eco-friendly alternatives still lags, revealing significant gaps between travelers’ intentions and their behaviors. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to help individuals bridge these gaps, offering practical insights on how to achieve a 100% sustainable vacation — from meticulously planning itineraries to thoughtfully packing essentials.
Planning a sustainable itinerary
Crafting a sustainable itinerary involves thoughtful choices at every turn. This begins when deciding where to go. While the allure of the popular island destination of Hawaii or the city of Barcelona may be tempting, consider exploring less-touristed destinations like the Dodecanese island of Astypalea or Salamanca, a lesser-known Spanish city. By venturing off the beaten path, you minimize the strain on overcrowded tourist hotspots while spreading tourism benefits to other local communities. You can even enjoy a more unique and authentic experience this way.
Upon selecting your destination, choosing where to stay requires a more discerning eye. It’s important to properly distinguish genuine eco-friendly accommodations from those engaged in “performative sustainability.” Consider factors such as the hotel’s sustainable practices, commitment to minimizing environmental impact, and support for local communities. For instance, you can check out the Cayuga Collection hotels and their back-of-house tours, wherein the management transparently reveals how they invest in the well-being of staff. Learning to identify the real deal when it comes to ‘eco’ hotels, beyond tokenistic provisions of organic shampoo in refillable bottles, ensures that your stay actively contributes to environmental conservation rather than merely making green claims.
After booking your stay, you can try to get sustainable with your transportation as well. As a general rule of thumb, trains offer a lower carbon footprint compared to automobiles and airplanes, providing an eco-friendly means to travel the whole length and breadth of Europe’s storied cities. This allows for a more comfortable journey, too, with railway companies such as ÖBB offering cozy sleeper cars and other amenities such as free wifi or F&B served seatside. If you must take a plane, you can pitch in for the extra cost of fuel or buy an offset. Notable airlines that offer sustainable aviation fuel, which is similar to conventional jet fuel but is 80% less carbon intensive, include AirFrance and Brussels Airlines. By consciously choosing alternatives, you can craft a sustainable itinerary without sacrificing the comforts of your travel experience.
Packing sustainable travel essentials
Opting for eco-friendly essentials not only reduces your environmental footprint but also supports ethical practices across various industries. From clothing to personal items, thoughtful choices while packing can minimize your environmental impact.
Sustainable clothing choices
The fashion industry accounts for nearly 20% of global wastewater, 10% of global carbon emissions, and more than 92 million tons of clothes-related waste. That is why, when updating your travel wardrobe, it’s important to embrace eco-conscious apparel brands, even in swimwear. For example, luxury RSB Swimwear coordinates are inspired by ethnic Venezuelan ancestry while practicing ethical sourcing and fair labor practices, similar to how brand Thrifts and Threads celebrates local handiwork while employing time-honored traditions. Moreover, you can consider the eco-friendly and cost-efficient alternative of purchasing second-hand clothing. Thrifting contributes to circular fashion, extending the life of garments and minimizing the impact of fast fashion on the environment.
Accessories with a green vision
Choosing functional accessories such as sunglasses presents a unique challenge as these involve balancing safety and UV protection with ethical and environmental considerations. Once again, you can opt for reputable brands to err on the side of caution. Many eyewear brands now highlight sustainability by not just using eco-friendly materials but also by contributing further to sustainability initiatives. See how Oakley sunglasses aren’t simply available in the environmentally-friendly BiO-Matter frame material but are also part of the company’s other initiatives like the Better Cotton Initiative. This program aims to source at least 50% of the brand’s cotton from ‘more sustainable cotton’ by 2025. By opting for such brands, readers not only access better quality accessories and goods but also support ethical and environmentally conscious practices that make a lasting impact beyond one purchase.
Traditional sunscreens often contain harmful chemicals that contribute to coral bleaching and harm marine life. Opt for sunscreens labeled as reef-safe and free from oxybenzone and octinoxate, like the products of Australian Gold or even Reef Safe. The latter is based on the world’s first solar-powered, non-nano zinc oxide powder for SPF-rated cosmetics, EcoZinc. This helps you preserve fragile coral ecosystems and protect your skin responsibly while you’re out exploring the sun and surf of obscure Greek beaches or European cities.
Reusable water bottles
Plastic water bottles take approximately 450 years to decompose, so it’s not surprising that over 80% of the plastic water bottles we buy end up in landfills. Carrying a reusable water bottle can easily mitigate these consequences. While plastic Nalgene bottles may have a lower production emissions footprint than steel alternatives of S’well or Hydroflask, any reusable bottle becomes more environmentally friendly than disposable plastic bottles after approximately 20 uses. Therefore, rather than simply focusing on the material, try to consider your travel lifestyle when choosing your reusable water bottle to reduce breakage or lack of use. Opt for a lightweight plastic tumbler if you’ll be doing plenty of walking, and avoid glass if you’ll be partaking in active sports such as hiking or rock climbing.
Sustainably vacationing while on your trip
So you’ve successfully planned your itinerary, packed your things, and arrived at your chosen destination. Now, there are practical steps you can take to ensure your sustainable journey continues. For starters, you can engage in the practice of slow travel by immersing yourself more fully in your destination and avoiding fast-paced itineraries. This makes it easier to refuse single-use products, from plastic utensils to shampoo sachets, and join in activities that contribute positively to the environment, such as local conservation efforts, nature-based excursions, or community initiatives.
Moreover, you can choose to buy local, whether in your food choices or souvenir purchases, without falling into the “local trap.” As detailed in The Guardian, buying local can mean looking beyond the origin of your meals and instead considering the entire production process, including farming practices and supply chains. Opt for small, home-grown establishments that prioritize environmentally friendly production methods and inclusivity so that you can ensure that your choices contribute positively to the local community and the planet.
For more tips on vacationing sustainably, you can check out our AI-powered travel planning tools that suggest activities tailored to individual interests. Our own Wonderplan’s algorithms can generate a personalized itinerary for you based on your interests, preferences, and budget, ensuring a unique yet sustainable experience for every traveler. By considering the environmental impact of every aspect of your journey, you can align your travel experiences with your values, ensuring a more memorable and satisfying vacation in the long run.