Travel Greener: How to Recognize a Sustainable Destination and Expose Greenwashing

Being on the move, discovering the world – that is a dream for many people.

Travel Greener: How to Recognize a Sustainable Destination and Expose Greenwashing

Being on the move, discovering the world – that is a dream for many people. But traveling also causes emissions that are harmful to the climate. More and more people want to make their vacation more environmentally friendly - unfortunately, black sheep in the travel industry are also taking advantage of this. They advertise that they are particularly sustainable, environmentally friendly or socially acceptable. When there is nothing more behind the buzzwords than hot air, it is called greenwashing. How travelers can expose greenwashing and identify sustainable travel destinations.

Basically: traveling sustainably also means treating nature, local culture and the population with respect. So respect nature conservation areas, eat in local restaurants, learn something in the host country. So if you take a few tips with you in your luggage, you can make your vacation more sustainable. When traveling, most emissions are caused by the journey to and from the destination - unless travelers set off on foot or by bike.

When traveling, various greenhouse gases such as CO2, nitrous oxide and methane are produced, among other things, through arrival and departure. In order to be able to compare the different greenhouse gases, the CO2 equivalent is used for the calculations. This unit of measurement for the global warming potential is used to convert emissions, for example contrails from a flight, into the amount of carbon dioxide that corresponds to their climate impact.

Of the various means of transportation, flights are particularly harmful. A flight (round trip per person) from Frankfurt am Main to Mallorca causes 500 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. According to the Federal Environment Agency, you would have to drive 2,400 kilometers by car to achieve the same climate impact.

Stiftung Warentest has calculated the footprint for various local and long-distance trips. Airplanes use a lot of fuel when climbing. Calculated per kilometer, short-haul flights therefore have a poor carbon footprint. The high consumption at the start is therefore not worth it for the short distance. The product testers advise solo travelers to take the bus or train for distances of up to 800 kilometers. Several people can also share a car.

In general, where we spend our vacation has a major influence on how many climate-damaging emissions are created. The further away the travel destination is, the higher the environmental impact is - especially if the trip takes place by plane. Even a single outward and return flight causes a lot of climate-damaging emissions in one fell swoop. A flight from Frankfurt am Main to Sydney causes 6.8 tons of CO2 equivalent (round trip per person). According to the Federal Environment Agency, 31,900 kilometers could be traveled by car until the same climate impact is achieved.

When choosing sustainable accommodation, travelers can consider four main points, as the European Consumer Center informs.

The European Consumer Center advises paying attention to how easy it is to find further information about the destination, the operator or the accommodation. Is what exactly is being done made transparent? What exactly is the goal of a sustainable project? Is it explained why a hotel has been awarded a label and who awarded the label according to which criteria? Travelers should check the legal notice to see who is behind supposed sustainability projects of hotels or tour operators. Check the price realistically - if the offer is very cheap, it is questionable whether a hotel really uses green electricity and only serves organic meat. And orientation towards labels and seals can help.

Sources: Federal Environment Agency, Stiftung Warentest, European Consumer Center 1, European Consumer Center 2