Here are SANDEMANs, we are firm believers in the power of responsible travel, so we’ve put together a list of our favourite ideas to not only minimize your footprint, but to actually benefit those places you visit. Happy traveling!
1. Join a cleanup event
Want to get the dirt on a destination? Then you might want to consider rolling up your sleeves and joining a cleanup crew! One of the more stimulating ways to get involved with sustainable travel, these kinds of volunteer events are a great way of meeting other like-minded travellers and environmentally-conscious residents.
We’ve been putting a lot of these events together at SANDEMANs NEW Europe. While our pals at Starboard Boats are known for being a fantastic Amsterdam boat hire company, and offering top quality tours of the canals, lately they’ve been taking us and our guests out for a delicious breakfast on the water while we fish for trash. It’s an event that most companies would make you pay for, but thanks to Starboard’s generosity, we’ve been able to offer it for free. Thanks guys!
Fishing for trash with the team at Starboard Boats
Not one of the sea-faring folk? We also run similar events across Europe for landlubbers – check out our Berlin team in the German news, and our Paris team in the French news! We’re striving to create more and more events like this, so keep an eye on our website for more details.
Having our roots in the walking tour industry, it is only natural that SANDEMANs favors getting around on foot. Where this isn’t possible, most European cities are well-served by efficient public transport networks – or if you’re even luckier, decent cycling infrastructure! Wired Magazine recently created the ‘Copenhagenize’ index, in homage to the trendy Scandinavian city’s penchant for two-wheeled transport. Ranking cities across the world according to their degree of cycling infrastructure, the index made it clear that you don’t have to be staying in the Danish capital (or other obvious winners, like Amsterdam) to take to the humble cycle lane – whether that be whilst travelling through, or staying long-term.
European cities fared fairly well across the board with many tourist hotspots like Berlin, Paris, Vienna and Barcelona snagging a spot in the top 20. So while you may not need to be in Copenhagen to be a true biking viking, we do recommend that you always wear a helmet!
SANDEMANs’ Barcelona Bike Tour
Other opportunities also exist for those with differing interests, or with special qualifications to give back while they’re traveling. Whether you’re musical, sporty, entrepreneurial or passionate about the environment, a wide world of opportunities to donate these skills to noble causes lies out there waiting for you. Be careful, however, to select a program or a location where your skills are in need rather than your money – and be wary of hefty program fees.
There are a million ways to volunteer while travelling
4. Shop local
A tried and trusted mantra of the green travel community, this is worth revisiting if you’re heading to a region or a country you are not familiar with. In some parts of the world, it is common practice to pass off goods manufactured and ordered in bulk from another part of the world as locally-made, leaving genuine local artisans struggling to compete.
Since local traditions and market practices vary from place to place, it can be worth doing your research into how this works in your area, as well as researching to see whether it is possible to provide support to local artisans while sourcing a cool souvenir.
Brussels Beer Tour
5. Stay local
In smaller towns or less developed regions, it’s worth keeping an eye out for accommodation that will support the local population. Homestays with local families are a great way to do so, as well as being a fantastic opportunity to explore the local culture (and if you’re lucky, maybe even some of that food we mentioned before!).
If homestays aren’t for you, look out for hotels and hostels that are locally owned, and remember that some popular home-sharing platforms drive up local rents, making some areas unaffordable for residents.
6. Be mindful of ‘overtourism’
In many of our favorite European cities, some locals are starting to wonder if tourism = too much of a good thing. Cheap flights and home-sharing platforms are crowding some city centers and putting pressure on local infrastructure. There are however a number of ways to visit Europe’s best cities in a way that doesn’t make you just one of the masses; for example, consider visiting outside of the peak season, and look for ways to explore beyond the city center.
Howth Day Trip from Dublin
7. Be aware of ‘green-washing’
With the rise of ‘sustainable travel’ as a popular concept, savvy companies are beginning to catch onto the trend. Be aware, though, that some of these companies are simply marketing themselves as ‘green’ – there are a number of sites such as BookDifferent and EcoBnb, which allow you to search through verified environmentally-friendly accommodation and homestays.
8. ‘Pay to Play’
It’s no secret that travelling can be expensive. Particularly over longer trips, small amounts paid for daily expenses can quickly accumulate. For the nature lovers amongst us, entrance fees to beaches and national parks can soon stack up, however, it’s worth being aware that these fees are sometimes directed back towards the cost of maintaining those places. Although a free alternative may exist, ask yourself if the local government is likely to reinvest these funds back into the area.
9. Skip the printouts
According to the New York Times, the Louvre disposes of around 1,200 tons of waste a year – the bulk of which is composed of maps and entrance tickets. In the smartphone era, all of this can (and should) be moved online, which is why SANDEMANs are moving towards the use of mobile ticketing and promotion. For example, we’re starting to use posters like the one below with QR codes, encouraging people to visit our website rather than taking our flyers.
10. Consider how you travel to the destination itself
Beyond leaving your destination in better condition, this will benefit the atmosphere as a whole. Today, it is possible to search for (with commonly-used engines such as SkyScanner and Momondo) flights which offer options to offset your carbon footprint. Even better – if you can skip the flight, consider using the train! Our pals at Eurail can help with our European train adventure, and Eurail pass holders even get discounts on SANDEMANs tour tickets!