Eco-travel: a woman travelling on a train in Switzerland.

Eco-friendly travel tips on choosing sustainable modes of transport and accommodation

In this guide, we will give you some examples of eco-tourism and we will also show you why sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly important. Travelling in an environmentally friendly way already starts when planning your trip because depending on your choice of accommodation and mode of transport this will have an impact on the environment. If you want to travel, sustainably choose local transport and book accommodation and activities that have the lowest possible environmental impact. With just a few small adjustments to your holiday plan, you can make an important contribution to protecting the environment, whilst exploring new places. We have therefore collected some important tips around sustainable modes of transport, accommodation and more.

Eco-friendly travel: tips on an environmentally friendly journey

Two modes of transport that aren’t very environmentally friendly as they harm the environment, and they emit a lot of CO2. To travel more sustainably it is recommended to avoid flying and going on cruise ship holidays. You can travel almost anywhere in Europe without needing to go on an aeroplane as you can switch to more environmentally friendly modes of transport.


How will your chosen mode of transport affect your carbon footprint? Using a CO2 calculator you can get an individual overview of your own carbon footprint, which will help you to quickly see which mode of transport is the most environmentally friendly. Using the following link, you can calculate your carbon footprint on the CO2 calculator:

Eco-travel: a man travelling by train

Avoiding air travel: environmentally friendly travel by train or on a coach

When travelling through Europe you can use more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as trains and coaches, which will get you to your destination safely, comfortably. Even when they are full, they have a significantly lower environmental impact than an aeroplane, as the CO2 emissions per person are overall lower.  When planning to travel long distance you should try and go by train or by coach. Below you will find a couple of handy tips:

  • Try and reserve a seat in advance, as you can usually take get a cheaper ticket.

  • Find out if you can get a discount on your ticket or if you are eligible for certain types of discounts. Children and young people, elderly people and students can usually benefit from discounts, but you can also often get group tickets at a lower price.

  • Before booking your ticket make sure to check the baggage allowance for the chosen mode of transport. When travelling by train larger pieces of luggage, bikes, prams, and wheelchair can easily be stowed. When travelling by coach you usually need to inform the respective coach provider if you want to bring larger pieces of luggage.

Generally, it is more environmentally friendly when the mode of transport has full capacity. A full car produces fewer emissions per passenger-km in comparison to an aeroplane.  If it is an electric car, then its carbon footprint is comparable to trains and coaches.

Is it possible to fly without having an impact on the environment?

It is not always possible to avoid travelling very long distances by plane. For intercontinental travel, there are currently no environmentally friendly alternatives. Below you can find tips on how you can reduce the environmental impact of air travel and how to fly more environmentally friendly:

  • Where possible try book and direct flights because take-off and landing consume a larger amount of fuel. Therefore, non-direct flights are more damaging due to the high emissions.

  • Fly using economy class. When flying business class and first-class the emissions are spread over a smaller number of people, and there is a sharp increase per capita inCO2 emissions.

  • Try and reduce the weight of your luggage as much as possible. Every extra kilo of luggage increases the fuel consumption of the aircraft.

  • Choosing the right airline: make sure to pick the right airline by comparing the emissions of different types of aircraft.

  • Staying longer: the necessity of any flight should be carefully considered. If you are travelling a long distance, it is best to stay there for two or even three weeks. It is better to spend short holidays in your local region.


It is recommended to "compensate" for the CO2 emissions from flying by donating to one of the climate protection organisations when flying cannot be avoided. Using the following CO2 calculator as an example ( you can work out how many emissions will be emitted. You can offset these by making a voluntary donation to support climate protection projects. However, the main goal is to avoid emissions, which is more important than offsetting.

Sustainable accommodation: holiday home on a picturesque lake.

Sustainable tourism: information on sustainable accommodation

After you have chosen your destination and planned your journey with an environmentally friendly mode of transport the next step is choosing the right accommodation. Here, you should also pay attention to the different sustainability criteria and use them as a guide, but this does not mean that you must forego the comfort whilst on holiday. A lot of accommodation providers are taking the necessary environmentally-friendly measures to make their accommodation more sustainable, but they are also catering for the needs of the guests as this is becoming increasingly important for holidaymakers.

How do I know if the accommodation is environmentally friendly?

Hotels, guesthouses, or other types of holiday accommodation have many opportunities to work in a more environmentally friendly way, but at the same time offer a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Below you will find a couple of tips on what to look out for when looking for sustainable accommodation:  

  • Energy supply: a sustainable accommodation relies on renewable energy sources for its electricity supply, or they may even produce their own electricity via solar panels for example. Even renewable energy should be used for heating.

  • Water management: in the accommodation, there should be measures in place to help save water for example through water-saving taps, showerheads, or a toilet water-saving device. The water treatment measures in place need to make sure that no sewage ends up affecting the environment.

  • Waste disposal: sustainable accommodation should separate rubbish and offer guests a way to separate and recycle their rubbish. Organic waste should ideally be composted. Unnecessary plastic packaging waste at buffets or for cosmetic products should be avoided.

  • Food: sustainable accommodation should use regional and seasonal (organic) products for catering. This is a good way to help support local businesses and to avoid produce being transported over long distances. On imports such as coffee and cocoa, the accommodation should use Fairtrade products. Environmentally friendly hotels and guesthouses should offer enough vegetarian and vegan options. Set menus will help to cut down on food being wasted and they are often more resource-efficient than buffets.

  • Hygiene: a sustainable accommodation should ideally use biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. In many sustainable hotels, guests can also choose how often the room should be cleaned or weather towels and bed linen should be changed.

  • Transport: a sustainable accommodation should have good public transport links. If there is a shuttle service, then a bus or a minibus should be used for this. The mode of transport should be able to transport several guests at once. In addition, a rental service for bicycles or e-bikes can motivate guests to explore their holiday destinations in an environmentally friendly way.

In addition, to environmental sustainability, sustainable hotels, guesthouses, and other types of accommodation, are also characterised by social and economic sustainability. This means that local businesses and service providers are supported. The members of staff should also ideally come from the region, and they need to be paid fairly.


Upon arrival think about how you are going to travel around the area. Ideally, you should also use environmentally friendly modes of transport (e.g. public transport) when you are at your destination, but a good infrastructure is not available at all holiday destinations. Of course, you can also travel flexibly and carbon-free by bike. You can either take on holiday or make some enquires about local bike rentals. However, if you need to rent a car for longer distances try to book a model that is as environmentally friendly or fuel-efficient as possible.

What type of certificates and awards are there for sustainable accommodation?

Where can I get information on how sustainable the accommodation is? Environmentally friendly measures, which have been put in place are not always immediately visible to guests before they start their journey. Find out more on the homepage of the accommodation, where you will often find their guideline on sustainability or a separate menu option for sustainability reports.

You can often find information about the environmentally-friendly features of an accommodation by reading the reviews, which have been left by past guests. However, various certifications can also give an important indication of how sustainable the accommodation is. A range of the most common green tourism certifications can be found below:

Green Globe

  • Internationally recognised

  • Certified businesses, hotels, resorts, and attractions

  • Assesses environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability (e.g. climate protection, working conditions, support for local entrepreneurs, etc.).


Green Key

  • Internationally recognised

  • Certified hotels, youth hostels, campsites, small holiday accommodations, restaurants

  • Assesses environmental sustainability


Travel life

  • Internationally valid

  • Certifies accommodation establishments and travel companies

  • Evaluates ecological, economic, social and cultural sustainability (e.g. energy and water management, fair wages, dealing with the cultural heritage of a region etc.)


European Ecolabel

  • The official sustainable certification for the European Union

  • Certified accommodation establishments and campsites

  • Assesses environmental sustainability


Sustainable accommodation: a father and son spending their holiday in a holiday home.

You can find further information on the exact sustainability criteria by looking at the websites listed above. In addition, some countries have their own specific sustainability certification for hotels and restaurants that you can look out for when booking a holiday.

  • Viabono (Germany)

  • Nordic Swan (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland)

  • ibex fairstay (Switzerland)

  • The Austrian Ecolabel (Austria)

Conclusion: with the know-how on how to travel sustainably you will easily be able to plan your next holiday

Travelling in an environmentally friendly way should not be equated to missing out on or sacrificing something. On the contrary, eco-travel can enrichen your holiday experience and reduce travel stress. As a holidaymaker you can plan your holiday carefully and think about the following aspects: could you travel by train instead of taking a short-haul flight? Do you need a heated pool or air conditioning in the hotel? Choosing environmentally friendly modes of transport and accommodation makes a significant contribution to reducing the impact on the environment, which can give you some peace of mind.

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(Accessed on 19.04.2022)

(Accessed on 19.04.2022)

(Accessed on 19.04.2022)

(Accessed on 19.04.2022)

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