Sustainable traveling in 2019: How to do it? 8 tips

You’ve probably heard of eco-tourism and sustainable traveling. It seems a weird combination. Traveling doesn’t seem to go together with a sustainable lifestyle, as traveling tends to be one of the most polluting activities of mankind. Airplanes, buses and cars are not only polluting for our planet, but especially for the local environment. Perhaps you can better stay home… Or try to travel as sustainable as possible. The following tips can help you to be more responsible and still be able to explore the world, have new experiences and pursue adventure.

8 tips for sustainable traveling

To following tips can help you to travel more environmental friendly in order not to damage the local environment too much and help local communities, cultures and economies.

  1. Stay close to home

Let me start with the most important rule if you want to travel sustainably: tourism close to homeStay close to home. Really! Every part of the world is beautiful, not only the parts that can be reached by airplane. Do you really think you’ve discovered de UK? The UK is extraordinary and surprisingly divers. The islands or Scotland, the mountains of Scotland, the midlands, London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Northern Ireland, Ireland, etc. There is sooooo much to see.

Or take a train toward France. Or a ferry towards The Netherlands.

Seriously, you don’t need a airplane to see the most beautiful places in the world, because they are close to home. You don’t even need a car of bus. Just take a train or ferry. Those are so much more environmental friendly ways to travel.

And seriously, there is a lot to see and to experience in just a few hundred miles from your house. And there is so much adventure waiting for you closer to home.

By not using that plane or other expensive mode of transport, but by staying a bit closer to home, you’ll save a lot of money that you can spend on way more trips and adventures.

You could also consider an eco-friendly hotel or eco-friendly hotel stay. It’s quite easy.

  1. Book a trip with a travel organisation that has a Fair Trade trademark

If you do want to travel far away (but seriously, don’t), take the following into account. You might not realise it, but there are travel agencies that are committed to environmental friendly travels. For example the agency FairTravel4u, that offers sustainable trips in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

However, getting all the way to South America will cost you a very polluting airplane trip. Once you’re there, it is definitely a great thing to support the local community by staying in small hotels, eating at local restaurants and having local guides. This will also give you the best experience by far.

  1. Travel like a local

This brings us to point 2. No matter where you go, do as the locals do. I love the website With Locals, cause it allows you to interact, experience and see the city as a local does. The money you spend on these activities will ensure you that you spend your money locally, instead of globally.

  1. Take a better mode of transport

There are more ways to get somewhere than an airplane, car or bus. For eco-friendly tourismexample by foot. Backpacking is great fun and a certain way for adventure. Or go by bike, to get a bit further. A bus is also a fine mode of transportation to go to the European continent. I personally really like Flixbus as a more sustainable way of traveling long distances.

  1. Pay a bit more for you ticket to reduce your ecological footprint

If you do need to use a polluting mode of transportation, there are ways to reduce the resulting ecological footprint. Especially air travel has a high ecological footprint.

Some airlines offer the option to pay a bit extra as a way to compensate the CO2 emissions of your trip. This money will be invested into a fund that works on environmental and sustainable projects. For example: your money will be spend on planting trees in Panama. These trees will eventually purify the air, however not all the polluted air caused by your air travel.

  1. Choose environmental friendly activities that support the local community

There is a fine line between tourist activities that support the local community and local environment, and activities that destroy the local environment for the local community and future generations.

Instead of renting a car or scooter, you can go kayaking or cycling. Or instead of a huge resort you can choose for a small scale eco-friendly hotel. Or instead of eating at a global fast food chain, eat at a restaurant that is run by a local family. Try to be a responsible visitor that doesn’t destroy or damage the local environment. We wouldn’t want that in our own environment either.

  1. Use your own water bottle

Plastics are a horrible threat to nature. Sustainable traveling can be as simple as using your own sustainable water bottle. You can refill this bottle, perhaps with drinkable tap water (if available), instead of buying bottles water and throwing this plastic away.

Don’t consume more plastic waste than necessary. Especially small islands and third world countries do not have the waste recycling programs as we do. Your plastic waste will probably end up on a waste dump or in the oceans.

  1. Don’t do activities that harm humans, nature or animals

Clear as that. Avoid any activities or areas that don’t treat other humans, sustainable tourismnature or animals in an irresponsible way.

You may assume that prostitution is involuntarily most of the time. Don’t go and watch prostitutes as if they are a tourist attraction. Don’t contribute in this way to this inhuman way of exploitation.

The same counts for animals. Any animals is suppose to be free. However, in many countries animals are used as tourist attraction. As long as tourists pay for riding an elephant of having pictures taken with lions, these animals will be exploited and tortured for the fun of it. Don’t support these horrible activities.

And don’t have the local natural environment. Clean up your own garbage and don’t destroy local nature. Be responsible! That’s the most sustainable you can be as a tourist.

What to book: A hotel, hostel, Airbnb or b&b?

This is a very important question to consider when you book a stay or plan your trip. Do you want to say in a hotel, hostel Airbnb or b&b? Every option has its own unique characteristics. Make the right choice, because the place where you stay is very important in the overall successfulness of your trip.

Every kind of accommodation has its own unique characteristics. What fits your liking and your type of travel?

Let me explain the particular strengths and weaknesses of each type of accommodation. I promise you I will be honest.

Book an accommodation: hotel

On most of my trips I prefer to stay in a hotel. I love a certain level of luxuryhotel or hostel? and attention, with clean rooms, a nice bed, soft towels, daily cleaning service and a 24/7 reception.

Hotels are available in all price ranges. Choose the hotel that fits your budget. I love the anonymity of a hotel. You can do as you please, without being disturbed of feeling as if you invade someone’s house (which can be the case with Airbnb and B&B’s).

I love checking in at a hotel, receiving an excellent service, arriving at a great room in neutral colour tones and have a comfortable bathroom with preferably a bath. I love the little extra attention you receive in great hotels. I also love having breakfast at a hotel, passing by the breakfast buffet and choose only the things you love the most.

I just love a good hotel with nice, helpful staff, clean rooms, a comfortable bed, a luxurious bathroom and a delicious breakfast. These are precisely the reasons I generally book a hotel room, instead of a hostel, Airbnb or B&B.

I do advise you not to book hotels that are too cheap or with bad ratings. These hotels tend to be traps. If you have a limited budget, consider booking a nice, clean hostel instead of a bad hotel.

Or perhaps book an eco-friendly hotel.

Book an accommodation: hostel

At the other side of the spectrum are hostels. Hostels had the image of beinghostel or airbnb dirty and noisy, in which you have to share a dorm room with drunken, hippie backpackers that wake you up by entering the room in the middle of the night.

However, nothing can be further away from the truth. Hostels are experiencing a great revival. Hostels are great places to meet people and have fun with like-minded travellers, especially compared to anonymous hotels.

If you have a limited budget, a dorm room might still be a great option. If you do prefer a bit more privacy you can book a private room with a private bathroom at a hostel. Then you can enjoy the advantages of a hostel and meet new people, but at a more affordable price. Hostels these days are very trendy and also clean. They are nothing like the old image they used to have.

Actually, hostels tend to be a trendy way of accommodation that meets current trends in the hospitality sector. Who needs a boring room, with all kinds of amenities you don’t use but still have to pay for?

So try a hostel on your next trip. You’ll have great fun.

Book an accommodation: Airbnb

You’ve probably heard of it, but did you ever stay at an Airbnb? Airbnb is likeairbnb or b&b a bed & breakfast, but then offered privately by someone who rents out a bedroom or his/her entire house or apartment. An Airbnb is generally more affordable than a hotel, although you can enjoy the amenities of an entire house. Feel at home.

The most known provider of Airbnb accommodation is Airbnb.com, although there are also other, more specialised providers or Airbnb accommodations. At Airbnb.com you’ll find a long list of people who offer a room, their house or a unique accommodation to travellers. Airbnb surely is a unique way of accommodation. Mostly, however, you’re just staying in someone’s house.

That’s also the negative side of Airbnb. The accommodation you book is offered by a normal person like you and me, and not by a professional in the hospitality sector. Although you can check reviews, Airbnb has some serious limitations, like:

  • Perhaps the cleanness of the accommodation does not meet your standards.
  • The check-in and check-out times are generally pretty strict and don’t include leaving your luggage for the afternoon before heading to the airport.
  • You don’t have a 24/7 reception service. What to do when something happens and you don’t have any mobile phone service?
  • You’re mostly staying in some else’s home.

On the other hand: You can enjoy an entire apartment instead of a small hotel room or a bed in a dorm room, including a kitchen and dining area. The prices are mostly lower than a hotel room, which is also a great advantage.

Book an accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

The last accommodation option I would like to discuss is the old fashioned Bed & Breakfast. The difference between an Airbnb and B&B is that a B&B is done semi-professional and all year long. In the case of an Airbnb it is done privately for a certain amount of time in order to make some money with your house.

In a B&B you can expect more professionalism. However, a B&B is a very particular way of accommodating yourself for the night.

Traditionally a B&B includes a bed and breakfast, and not much more. You’ll b&b or hotel get a private bedroom, sometimes a shared bathroom and breakfast. After breakfast you’re expected to leave the accommodation again. These days, however, B&B’s can be more luxurious and can include private accommodations, a private bathroom en suite and unique accommodations.

A B&B has always been a great option if you want an affordable stay with a personal touch. You generally, but not always, sleep at someone’s home, but this person does value your privacy and your presence. For some this personal touch can be an advantage, for others a disadvantage.

For every trip you can prefer another type of accommodations. For a business trip you might prefer a hotel. During a trip with you partner, a unique accommodation might be great fun, like a B&B or Airbnb. If you only have a limited budget, you might consider a hostel of Airbnb. This allows you to have some money left for other things, like a nice night out or to visit a museum. What will you book for your next trip?

14 tips for eco-friendly hotels

It is absolutely lovely to be away from home for a few days and allow yourself to be pampered in a hotel. It might be comfortable, relaxing and fun, but in order to be a responsible person you should think about the sustainability efforts of the hotel. Your choices in life reflect your level of responsibility. What can a hotel do to become more eco-friendly hotel?

Sustainability efforts of hotels

Traditionally, hotels tend to be reluctant on environmental issues. Everyone thinks that luxury and comfort go against eco-friendly guidelines. Several hotels have proven this is not the case at all. In this blog I will elaborate on a number of basic issues that can be carried out by hotels in order to be more eco-friendly. When booking a hotel, check to what extent the hotel follows some basic environmental issues.

Sustainable lighting

Every year, hotels consume a lot of energy for lightning. Lights in eco lights in hotelscommunal areas tend to be on 24/7. By changing to energy-efficient lightning, a hotel can certainly contribute to a more eco-friendly business.

Options are to use LED-lights instead of other forms of lightning. By using timers on the lights that switch on when movements are detected, a lot of energy can be saved as well. This prevents the lights being on all the time, but allow lights to be burning only when necessary.

Sustainable design

A sustainable hotel starts during the design phase. A hotel can choose environmental friendly furniture in the rooms and the communal areas, preferably furniture that has been designed and produced locally.

Eco-friendly toiletries

In hotels, but also hostels, free toiletries offered by the hotel are more-and-more expected by guests. These form an extra amenity offered by the hotel. The hotel can therefor influence the level of service and luxury they provide by choosing luxury, eco-friendly toiletries.

These are valued by guest as they are more friendly for the skin. It is a great gesture of the hotel when plant based and hypoallergenic toiletries are offered to the hotel guests. It is an extra luxury without extra costs.

Another eco-friendly solution is to use refillable soap and shampoo dispensers. These can be refilled to prevent to use of those little plastic hotel bottles that guests like to take home as a memory.

Use towels more than one day

Many hotels still change the towels of rooms on a daily basis. If guests stay sustainability in hotelsmore nights, it is absolutely not necessary to change the towels every day. Since a few years, many hotels do clearly state to guests that towels don’t need to be change daily, but can be used in a more sustainable way. Towels are only replaced by clean towels when left on the floor. This saves an enormous amount of laundry, detergents, water and energy, but also expands the lifetime of towels.

Save toilet paper

In some hotels, it is seen as appropriate to always change the toilet paper rolls with a new one, regardless whether the roll is finished or not. A more eco-friendly way is to leave rolls when not finished completely, as half rolls of toilet paper can still be used without decreasing the level of hygiene.

A better solution is to fold the end of the toilet paper roll into a triangle. This gives a good impression that the hygiene has been taken into account, without throwing away half a roll of toilet paper. It is a small adjustment to limit the annual waste of useable toilet paper and therefor also limit the costs of hotels.

Cleaning the hotel eco-friendly

A hotel is cleaned daily by the housekeeping staff. Just like at home, eco-environmental friendly cleaning products for hotelsfriendly cleaning products can have the same cleaning power as chemical products. The advantage of eco-friendly cleaning products is that it is way better for the health of housekeeping staff, guests, animals and the environment.

One should realise that the chloride used for cleaning the toilet always damages nature eventually and/or returns as supposedly drinking water. By using chloride and other chemical cleaning products, we are damaging nature and our own body without a doubt.

And really: eco-friendly alternatives clean just as well.

Eco-friendly transfers

Transport towards the airport or train station could be done eco-friendly, by using an electric car. It is a great way to present yourself as an eco-friendly hotel.

Eco-friendly image

The efforts of the hotel towards an eco-friendly hotel can be used to build a better image. It can for example be mentioned on the website of the hotel, not only as self-marketing, but also to inspire guests to pursue a more environmental-friendly lifestyle.

Green-Key hotels

Several hotels have a Green-Key label. Green-Key is an international organization that strives for environmental conscious en sustainable hotels. A hotel can only join when strict rules have been followed. This Green-Key label is the least a hotel should do, seriously.

A better heating and cooling system in the hotel room

Many hotels still have systems in which the temperature in the room can be individually regulated. When done sustainably, the temperature in the room does not have to be arranged 24/7, as guests usually mainly sleep in the room and don’t spend the entire day at the hotel room.

Systems are available to better arrange the temperature in the hotel by using heating and cold storages and arranging heating by having large windows, or arranging cooling by allowing a window to open.

Automatically turn of lights and energy outlets

Many hotels arrange the energy in the hotel room by a system, in which a key card needs to be inserted in order for lights and devices to work. When a guest leaves the room, all devices and lights are automatically turned off. This is a more eco-friendly way that doesn’t influence the experience of the guests.

Breakfast buffet or not?

Breakfast at hotels is usually arranged with a buffet. Research has showneco-friendly hotel breakfast that buffets stimulate people to overeat, caused by the larger amount of food that is being offered and by guests that load their plates too full. Also, a lot of food is being thrown away when using buffets.

An alternative is to provide the amount of food that the guest prefers, for example by using an a la carte breakfast. Another solution is to offer a buffet that only displays a limited amount of food to decrease waste.

Limit the consumption of water

Staying at a hotel usually implies that people tend to use more water by taking baths and longer showers. Convince people to act as the do at home.

Recycle waste as much as possible

Hotels tend to produce a lot of waste. A great eco-friendly solution is to treat waste more wisely. For example, by limiting the use of plastic, printed paper (we live in the digital age nowadays) and glass.

Another solution is to recycle waste. Food that is perfectly good, but does not meet the standards of the hotel can be donated to organizations that serve this food to less fortunate citizens. Other food waste can be recycled.

The way that a hotel deals with waste might be the best way to determine the eco-friendly principles of the hotel.

Both luxury and sustainability in an eco-friendly hotel in Amsterdam

Sustainability without being hippie or tacky. In Amsterdam, the first hotel in Europe that combines sustainability and circularity with the luxury of four to five stars has opened in April 2018, named QO Amsterdam. This hotel is an example to the world that the hotel and hospitality sector can be done differently. Let’s leave the Green Key and lazy sustainability efforts of hotels behind and make some real steps towards an actual sustainable hotel. It can be done, it doesn’t have to affect the level of luxury negatively, but it does needs a bit more effort and courage.

The construction of a sustainable hotel

Although the area is still in development, the new QO Amsterdam hotel is finished after just seven years of construction. It will be the first hotel in Europe that combines sustainability and circularity with a high level of luxury. It can be done! The QO hotel does not yet have an official rating, but will be in the four to five-star segment. It is part of the InterContinental Hotels Group.

The building of this revolutionary hotel counts twenty-one floors and is located at the Amstel river in a newly developed area of the city. The hotel has a restaurant, called Persijn, which offers high-class Dutch cuisine. The hotel bar is called Juniper & Kin bar and offers a great view over de Amstel river, that flows towards the old city centre.

The hotel counts 288 rooms, which vary in price between averagely €200 and €600 per night. The very exclusive Amstel suite has no more than 101 square meters and includes a personal trainer. This suite is therefor a bit more expensive, at averagely €7500 per night.

Sustainability in the rooms

As mentioned, sustainability has been implemented in all levels of the QOeco friendly restaurant hotel. This sustainable effort already started during the construction. An ingenious system with panels in front of the windows and a heat and cold storage in the basement of the hotel controls the climate inside the building in an energy-efficient way. The toilets are flushed with used shower water through a special water system that reuses waste water. Everything that is served in the hotel, food wise at least, is cooked on induction stoves. The hotel staff uses digital solutions and screens, as iPads, instead of printed paper and printed receipts.

Honestly, when staying in this hotel one realises how unnecessarily unsustainable the average hotel actually is. For example with paper receipts, unnecessary prints of paper, new towels after one day, water waste, etcetera. It can be done differently. Small steps are better than nothing, but big steps in sustainability are not so difficult as it may seem.

A sustainable breakfast

Naturally there is no breakfast buffet. A buffet leads to relatively a lot of waste and encourages people to eat excessively. Instead, it is healthier and more sustainable to be served the amount of food one is going to eat. Therefore, all meals at the QO hotel are à la carte. Meat is served, but in small portions. The meat comes from so called ‘dual purpose cow’s that give both milk and meat.

Furthermore, all products that guests use and eat are preferably locally sustainable organic hotel breakfastgrown or produced. The wooden trays in the restaurants are, for example, made from trees from a local park: the Vondelpark. At breakfast, a range of products come from local businesses, like the peanut butter and the typically Dutch and delicious chocolate sprinkles. Locally produced products limit the emissions caused by transport. Therefore, the QO hotel strives to find its suppliers nearby, when possible of course.

This does include that certain products are not available at this hotel. Limes and lemons, for example, don’t grow anywhere near to The Netherlands. Instead alternatives are found and used.

A greenhouse at an altitude of 76 meters

And that’s not all. One of the most unique parts of the QO hotel is the greenhouse that is located on the roof of the hotel. The hotel grows its own vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in this greenhouse, at a height of 76 meters. The products are used in the bar and restaurant of the hotel. This is not only unique, but locally grown products cannot be more local.

In terms of herbs and flowers, the hotel can be self sufficient. This guarantees the most delicious fresh herbs and, in some cases, vegetables imaginable.

Of course sustainability does not end there. The fish served in the restaurant of the hotel swims in a water tank in the greenhouse. This water tank is part of a circular aquaponic system. The water with the excrement of the fish serves as food for the plants in the greenhouse, that in turn purify the water. For the future, the hotel plans to use composted vegetable and fruit waste from the kitchen as food for the fish.

As sustainable as can be

Of course, not everything can be as sustainable as described above. A hotel sustainable hotel roomshould strive to be a hotel that is as sustainable as possible. One of the things that didn’t work out as preferred by the QO hotel is coffee and tea. Coffee and tea produced locally is simply not available, nor an alternative. Of course, fresh herb tea is possible, but in the end guests do prefer a cup of coffee or regular tea.

Another issue is that the hotel is part of a very polluting travel industry. Their guests do not live locally, but rather travel (around the world) in order to stay at this sustainable hotel. It is questionable whether a stay at the most sustainable hotel of Europe makes sense after flying to Amsterdam by a most polluting airplane from the other side of the world.

Encouraging people to travel less is therefore difficult. QO is however committed to inspire its guests and show their guests and the world that accommodation can be done differently by using sustainable and local products. That is definitely a step in the right direction for the very unsustainable hospitality industry.

To inspire is not only a good intention. QO aims to organize events to spread their solutions to sustainability in combination with luxury. Sustainability doesn’t have to be boring, old fashioned, hippie or basic. On the other hand, luxury doesn’t have to mean excessiveness. The QO hotel is an existing proof it can be done.

You want more tips on the best eco-friendly hotels? Read my blog on the best eco-friendly hotels of 2019.