• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

Travel environmentally friendly, a message from Rick Steve’s

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
I just got an email from a well-known American travel expert who brings lots of tour groups to Europe. He makes yearly contributions to groups that offset the carbon generated by our travels. Here are his tips for friendlier environmental travel:

By Rick Steves​

With every visit to Europe, I'm inspired by the way Europeans recognize human-created climate change not as a "theory" — they accept it as a reality — and take meaningful action to address it.

In England's Portsmouth, floodgates are being built on medieval streets that never needed them before. The Swiss (who don't build ski lifts these days without outfitting them with plumbing to make snow) remember summer skiing in the Alps as something their parents did. And the Dutch — famously smart, famously frugal, and famously below sea level — are spending billions of euros to shore up their dikes and prepare for a rising sea.

Europe, long ahead of the curve environmentally, already legislates in a way that minimizes its carbon footprint. In various parts of Europe, high-speed (and energy-efficient) trains have replaced long drives and polluting flights, wind farms dot the landscape, industries are held to rigid emissions standards, and entire communities are competing to become fully self-sustaining.

As travelers — who burn fossil fuels with every intercontinental flight and bus tour — we need to do our part to address climate change, too. Here are 10 simple tips for curbing your carbon footprint when traveling:

  1. Make sure your home isn't bleeding energy while you're away — turn down the thermostat, unplug as many appliances as you can, and suspend print subscriptions.
  2. When possible, travel by train — rail travel is very energy efficient. And in Europe it's also generally fast, easy, and comfortable.
  3. If you rent a car, rent the most fuel-efficient option, and decline any free "upgrade" to a model that's bigger than you need.
  4. In cities, enjoy the thrill of getting around by bike if you can, and take advantage of Europe's fantastic public transportation rather than relying on taxis. (And remember that Europe's airports are all well-served by easy, frequent transit.) Before taking a bus tour, look into a bike or walking tour instead.
  5. Be conscious of your energy consumption in hotels. Turn off the lights and air-conditioning when you leave the room. (Many European hotel rooms help you do this already: The power turns on only when the key is in a slot.) On warm days, close the window shutters or curtains before you leave in the morning, and you won't need to blast the air-con when you return. Because room service generates needless laundry, I hang the "Do not disturb" sign on my door and reuse my towel.
  6. Most of Europe is flowing with great tap water, often available in fountains around towns and cities. By reusing a plastic water bottle or bringing your own refillable water bottle, you not only save money, but also avoid consuming bunches of plastic and reduce demand for water that's shipped overland in trucks and trains.
  7. Cut down on other wasteful consumption as much as possible. Travel habits prompt many of us to use disposable items much more often than we do at home, but you can reduce this with a little prep: Pack a lightweight shopping bag and keep it in your day bag, and bring a set of reusable picnic ware. Don't pick up brochures, maps, or other materials that you don't need to keep — consider taking photos of them instead. (The fewer brochures that get picked up at tourist offices, the fewer they'll print next year.) Avoid using the individually packaged, itsy-bitsy toiletries supplied by hotel rooms. A single bar of soap and squeeze bottle of shampoo from home can last an entire trip.
  8. Eat locally: Food that hasn't been trucked long distances is easier on the environment (and tastier). Picnic shop at farmers markets when you can, and avoid chain restaurants. Look for restaurants that use mainly local and organic ingredients (more likely with smaller family-run places; "bio" is shorthand for "organic" in many European languages).
  9. Patronize hotels and travel companies that promote and practice sustainable traveling practices.
  10. Notice how Europeans seem to live more while consuming less, and how they live as if their choices can shape a better future. And take home a little of that sensibility as a souvenir.
This is just a start. There's plenty more that can be done to compensate for the environmental costs of international travel. But even in small ways, we can make a difference.

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
I get a bit grumpy about the effect Steves has on places that were moderately touristy, but now risk their identity being scrubbed by mass tourism.

However I do generally agree with the advice here.

A few minor comments:
2. Train is indeed generally a much better experience than modern flying, and in Italy is wonderfully cheap and reliable (not so much in the UK, and indeed I recall reluctantly flying from Norwich to Manchester for work in Liverpool, because it was faster and cheaper).
3. Sometimes there's a choice, sometimes there isn't
4. Whilst I hate the ubiquitous city bus tours, yes public transport is often great for tourists, with some super daily or multi-day prices. In London, try to save tube trips for longer distances, as a clever plan can have you walking the surprisingly short distances between landmarks and avoiding the stale air (and not insignificant walking) underground
5. A wry :) at this one, as when staying in the Residence du Parc (apartments) in Torino, it seemed like a constant battle with the cleaners, as we'd turn the apartment heating right down, but every day they'd bang it back up to 25C on their daily cleaning run.
7. I find shampoo bars much more convenient than bottles, and with 'Lush' in many cities, there's often a chance to buy one when travelling if you can't get such bars at home.
8. Agriturismo worth a mention here, as typically they either grow or rear the produce themselves, or get it locally from someone they've been dealing with for years. These often huge 'banquets' are often one of the great bargains, and local Italians have an eye for such bargains, so you'll often find yourself in their company for these convivial meals.

I'd also add a big 'cultural' respect as an eleventh suggestion. Don't expect or demand the same as you get at home, and revel in the culture that you're temporarily embedded in, rather than trying to fight against it. Learn as much language as you are *able to, adapt to the local culture, and you'll have some wonderful and genuine encounters as a result.

* making an effort is what's important, not being perfect. Effort is appreciated.

How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.


Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Guides, Apps and Books

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
French Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
She Left No Note, Lake Iseo Italy Mystery 1 by J L Crellina

Share this page