How to Make Your Travel More Sustainable in Europe in 2024…

Sustainable travel is becoming increasingly popular as travelers seek ways to minimize their environmental impact and support local communities.

After traveling the world and living in Europe for many years we have really come to put a premium on trying to reduce our environmental footprint while we travel.  The great news is Europe is leading the way in terms of sustainable travel, making it easier than ever to make conscious and green choices while expiring this amazing continent. 

Sustainable travel throughout Europe is on the cutting edge of the most progressive, modern, eco-friendly and unique travel experiences offered in the travel industry.  With everything from world class organic farm to table cuisine, extensive eco-friendly train lines linking the entire continent and stunning accommodation using strict conservation building methods and practices.  

Traveling through Europe with an emphasis on sustainable and green practices results in experiencing some of the best things Europe has to offer, all while being a responsible traveler and treading gently.  

We have been lucky enough to experience some of the most sustainable European travel experiences and we are excited to share some of our tips and tricks on how to make travel more sustainable in Europe.

Let’s take a look at the ways to make travel more sustainable in Europe…

 

1. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodation: 

Your choice of accommodation while traveling is going to be one of the most meaningful ways you can travel more sustainably in Europe.  Look for hotels, hostels, or guesthouses that have eco-certifications or sustainable practices such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water conservation. There are websites like Select Green Hotels which showcase hotels across Europe that engage in sustainable travel practices making it easy to find stunning eco-friendly hotels. 

Here are some of our all time favorite eco friendly resorts throughout Europe.  These resorts have met sustainable travel industry standards and are one of a kind places to stay while traveling in Europe.  

Some of our favorite sustainable luxury hotels in Europe…

1. Croatia-Maslina Hotel  A beautiful retreat with sustainable luxury for the whole family.  Our kids love staying at this property and it is wonderful of kids and families.  Located on the Croatian island of Hvar, the Maslina Resort is a exceptional hideaway surrounded by untouched nature, and cultural heritage. There are lush pine forests on one side and the crystal blue Adriatic Sea on the other side. The materials used in the construction are locally sourced with quality and sustainable materials. All the amenities are created with organic ingredients and local essential oils.  Staying here has always exceeded expectations and you leave feeling relaxed and in tune with nature.  

2. Mallorca, Spain Es Raco d’Arta A serene and stunning resort located on the beautiful island of Mallorca.  After living on the island for over a year we were lucky enough to enjoy many trips to this oasis nestled adjacent to a natural park in a serene valley.  The hotel is protected by the mountains on one side and only a stone’s throw from the picturesque village of Artà and the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. Es Raco d’Artà is an old ‘finca’ dating back to the 13th century that has passed through different families over generations.  This restored finca combines nature, architecture, culture, gastronomy and sustainability. The property is designed and built in a completely sustainable way using natural and recycled materials. Energy is generated either through solar panels or by the geothermal system. The minimalistic design is completed with contemporary works by Mallorquin artists and you will leave feeling a sense of peace after even a short stay.  It really is a true sustainable gem in the middle of the island.  

3. France-Domaine des Etangs Is a 13th Century Chateau in Cognac Country, dedicated to the delicate balance of nature’s and the environment.  Nestled in the heart of Cognac country, between the valleys of the Périgord-Limousin nature reserve, Domaine des Etangs is all about connection to nature. There are twenty-five thousand acres of protected forests, grasslands, and ponds surrounding the Chateau, and hiking, boating, horseback riding, and fishing are available. There is also a large vegetable garden along with a free-range Limouisin cow farm, which provides produce and organic beef for Dyades, a charming gourmet restaurant located in the castle’s former stables. This resort is one of our all time favorite and it leaves you feeling like you are living in a fairytale.  Their commitment to sustainability is felt in every detail and it is a one of a kind experience.  

4. Italy-Tenuta Zamparina A Fusion of Contemporary Luxury and Tuscan Charm. Tenuta Zamparina is a small boutique hotel nestled hillside in the lush landscapes of Montignoso, overlooking the renowned Tuscan Riviera. At this modern luxury hotel, every detail is a bold statement in style and sustainability. With only six keys, each suite is unique in its design and every room offers gorgeous views of the coast and Gulf of Poets.  The outdoor area has a serene backdrop of the Tuscan hills with a beautiful infinity pool and the solar panels and terrace design allow for an eco-conscious and harmonious blend with nature.  Dining at Tenuta Zamparina is an experience in itself.  Dinner is tailor-made and available to order in advance. The cuisine reflects the best of Tuscany, with ingredients from local organic farms according to the km 0 principle.  If you are headed to Italy this location should be at the top of your list.  

Now that we have looked at some of the more luxurious eco-friendly accommodations, let’s explore some more budget friendly (and in some cases FREE options) for sustainable travel accommodation in Europe.  And to be honest some of our favorite!

Some of our favorite sustainable budget friendly accommodations in Europe…

One of our all time favorite ways to travel as a family of five throughout Europe is by staying in eco-lodges, farm stays, or home-stays for a more immersive cultural experience.  We have volunteered on organic farms as well as lodged at one of a kid home-stays all over Europe.  These accommodations are not only free or low cost but you get to enjoy and experience beautiful natural settings while having very little impact on the environment in a very personal setting.  And while we love a good luxury stay, these eco-friendly experiences and homestay are always our favorite.  

1. WWOOF-World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farmers:  WWOOF is a worldwide movement to link visitors (WWOOFers) with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build a global community of ecological farming and sustainability practices.

When engaging in these programs, you will participate in the daily life of your host, help on the farm, learn about sustainability, experience a new culture and meet new people, and receive free room and board during your stay.

Our daughters are currently having the best time volunteering in exchange for free room and board on a sustainable family farm in Spain gaining valuable experience with animals and regenerative farming practices.  We have also spent incredible time volunteering on organic farms in Portugal and an organic apple farm in Sweden.  We highly suggest checking out their website and seeing which country might appeal to you for a one of a kind sustainable and life-changing travel experience.  

2. Spain-Cloud House Farm :Cloud House Farm is a secluded mountain hideaway located deep in the hills of the Andalucian Rio Genal Valley, just 1hr from Ronda and close to the white washed village of Genalguacil and definitely off the beaten path.  Cloud House is set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Bermeja Mountain range and is perfect for an adventure amongst Andalucia’s most spectacular hiking routes. Featuring its own natural spring, the farm is completely off grid with solar panels as their main energy source. Staying at Cloud House is  an opportunity to reconnect with nature and explore an eco sanctuary amongst the trees.  Our kids love the river pools and rope swings which are located just a short distance down a secluded path. 

3. Greece-Milia Mountain Retreat: Milia Mountain Retreat is an eco-friendly hotel and restaurant. Our staff are passionate, professional and quality-oriented.

2. Use Public Transportation:

Using public and sustainable transportation in Europe is one of the best parts of traveling throughout this amazing continent.  Now that we live in Europe being able to hop on the train, metro, tube or trams no matter what city or country you are in, not only makes the experience so much more fun and EASY but I always feel better using these eco-friendly systems of transportations. The whole of Europe has an extensive and efficient public transportation network, including trains, buses, trams, and metro systems and it is so easy (and enjoyable!) to get to any destination via these systems. 

Trains:

Trains are easily the best way to travel!  We use the train throughout Europe and it makes travel so enjoyable.  We can get on a website and within minutes find reasonably fares with almost immediate departure times to every destination big or small throughout Europe.  You arrive at the train station, which often are picturesque and charming, bring your suitcase with you with no need to go through security, take your seat and sit back and relax while you take in the scenery.   You can head to the dining cart to have a healthy snack or even better a glass of wine and you can work or rest with ease.  Trains are also fantastic if you are traveling with little ones who have a hard time sitting still as you can walk the isles and help them stretch and move so they don’t get so restless.  

Another huge benefit of taking trains is that they are rarely delayed compared to air travel.  I can’t tell you how many times we have had delayed flights due to weather or other issues and wish we would have taken the train.  

Train stations in Europe are often delightful places full of local food and shopping and so much less stressful to navigate than airports which are crowded and stressful.  And trains are almost six times safer than air travel.  

Hopefully all these reasons have convinced you how wonderful, easy and sustainable train travel is so that next time you go to buy an airline ticket in Europe you will think twice and buy your train ticket instead.  

Local Public Transportation:

We also love to use local public transportation in every European city we are in weather it is the tube or metro as it is not only an easy way to get around a location, but it also allows you to see how the locals live and you can watch families taking their kids to school, women coming home from the market with a bag of fresh veggies or locals on their business commute.  

We highly suggest you opt for public transportation whenever possible to reduce carbon emissions and minimize traffic congestion….and simultaneously enjoy your travel experience!  

using trains and public transportation through Europe is easier than ever and Europe is continually expanding it’s already extensive networks and systems of trains, metros and trams.  

Our favorite website to find available travel options and schedules is Omio which allows you to put in your desired destination and route and it will show you several transportation and itinerary options that include trains, buses, ferries and flight options.  It is so easy to use anti has over 1000 travel companies and partners.  It is the only website you need to put together your perfect sustainable travel itinerary in Europe.

Walk or Bike or Electric Scooter:

If you are traveling in Europe the best way to see the picturesque streets and cities is easily by walking, riding a bike or hoping on an electric scooter. Many European cities are pedestrian-friendly and offer bike-sharing programs or rental services. Explore cities on foot or by bike to reduce your carbon footprint and discover hidden gems off the beaten path.

Walking allows you to meander and explore areas with ease.  It also allows you to see so many hidden European gems that are hiding down the small cobblestone streets in most European cities.  You can walk and explore and take a break easily at one of the cute cafes hidden down the alley.  

Most European cities also have electric bike and rental options throughout the city, making it easier than ever to see the sites on two wheels.

I suggest looking up the major electric bike or scooter providers in the city you are visiting and installing the app on your phone before you go.  That way when you arrive you can hop on a bike or scooter at one of the many stands through the city.  They are so easy to use and so much fun!

For instance whenever we are in Madrid we always use the electric scooters to get around.  The stands are everywhere and you can install Lime or Dots on your phone and for little to no money hop on and off throughout your day of exploring.  

Or if you are passing through Germany and want to buzz all over the cities Bolt is a fantastic scooter company where you can hop off and on throughout the city. 

Be sure to check out what company is available in the city you are visiting and download the app before you arrive.  It is so fun convenient to just hop on a bike or scooter as you are exploring town.  

3. Support Local Communities:

This sustainable travel suggestion is perhaps the one I support the most!  Choosing to really support the local communities can have a lasting impact on both you as a trader, the environment and the local community.  Travel really is a way to intimately get to know another culture and people different than you own.  It can make the world feel small and it hopefully changes you as a person.  

Supporting the locally-owned businesses, restaurants, and shops to support the local economy and reduce the environmental impact of long-distance transportation is a personal and meaningful way to make a difference and enrich your travel experience.

Before you travel look up locally owned businesses as well as what the community is known for when it comes to wares, art and products.  Be sure to seek them out on your travels by visiting the farmers’ markets, artisans, and cultural experiences to engage with local communities.

We try to avoid any major retailers while traveling.  Why would you go to a giant chain store (especially the fast fashion industry) if you can find those all over the world?

Finding unique, small and local shops and communities with one of a kind products is one of the best parts of shopping and participating in local culture while traveling.  

One of our all time favorite things is to do is shop second hand or vintage in every town we visit.  having two teenage daughters they love to see the fashion choices in every city we visit.  When we go to Paris there are the most remarkable second hand fashion stores from low price to high end designers.  Amsterdam is another one of our all time favorite cities for thrift fashion.  The second hand store are enormous and you will not only find incredible unique fashion but you will be shopping sustainably.

You can also look up artisans and their shops in every European location and make a point of stopping in and visiting if you want to bring back a one of a kind item that supports the local community.

4. Reduce Plastic Waste: 

Reducing plastic is one of the easiest things you can do to make travel more sustainable in Europe.  If you are on the move you will likely be drinking a lot of water and you don’t want to be using single use plastics where ever you go.  Most cafes, restaurants, and train stations hav water refill stations making it easier than ever to refill your water.  

Bring a reusable water bottle, shopping bag, and utensils to avoid single-use plastics. Refuse plastic straws and choose products with minimal packaging.

5. Conserve Energy and Water: 

Practice energy and water conservation by turning off lights, air conditioning, and heating when not in use. Take shorter showers and reuse towels to minimize water consumption in hotels and accommodations.

6. Respect Nature and Wildlife:

This should be obvious but we read headlines regularly about travelers who went off the designated path or approached local wild life with major consequences.  Follow Leave No Trace principles when hiking or exploring natural areas. Stay on designated trails, avoid disturbing wildlife, and dispose of waste properly. Choose responsible wildlife tours and avoid activities that exploit or harm animals. Before you take a tour or visit a tourist attraction do a quick search to see if they adhere to sustainable and respectful practices.  There are still many popular tourist sites across the globe that do not regard the safety and health of the animals or natural surroundings enough.  Doing a quick search can reveal if the place you will be supporting is in good standing with he community and local environmental and animal welfare groups.  The adage “take only pictures, leave only footprints” still holds as well, although leaving fewer footprints is even better. Preserve the past: Examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.

7. Offset Your Carbon Emissions:

Consider offsetting the carbon emissions from your flights or transportation by investing in carbon offset projects or supporting initiatives that promote renewable energy and reforestation. There are a variety of companies that have give-back programs so that with every flight they do a give back to try to offset the affects of flying. While these programs are imperfect it is worth exploring.

One Tree Planted is our favorite carbon offset company As part of our Nature-based Solutions program, One Tree Planted offers carbon offsets from US-based third-party projects, certified by the Climate Action Reserve. These credits derive from projects focused on forest preservation and sustainable forest management, and prevent their conversion for agricultural purposes

8. Learn About Sustainable Practices and Leave a positive impact:

Educate yourself about local environmental issues and sustainable tourism initiatives in the destinations you visit. Support organizations and initiatives that promote conservation, environmental protection, and sustainable development.

You can do quick google searches to find out the most prominent and meaningful enviormental issues in any given location.  Make choices based around this new found knowledge that aligns with the local issues. 

For example Mallorca, Spain which is a foveate destination of ours is having challenges with over tourism.  Therefor we make a point of never traveling to that destination during peak seasons.  And if we go we make sure to pay close attention to the sensitive ecosystem, only use electric cars, and only buy from locals.  

Or in Fracne for example we know that there are major issues affecting the livelihoods and economics of French farmers.  So we try whenever we are there to only source food in restruarunts or markets directly from the farmers. Direct purchases like this allow you to have a much more authentic travel experience, connect with the local community, support sustainable farming, and enrich your travel in a very meaningful way. This article is a great resource for how to help contribute to the problem in a sustaialb way. 

Doing a bit of research before hand does not take any time at all and can result in much more ec-friendly travel practices.  

You can also look for local volunteer projects which is a wonderful way to contribute to a community and get to know the future.   projects, beach cleanups, or community-based initiatives. Respect local customs, traditions, and cultures, and be mindful of your actions as a responsible traveler.

leave destiatninos better than you found them 

By incorporating these sustainable practices into your travels, you can reduce your environmental footprint, support local communities, and contribute to the preservation of the environment!

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