Travel Tips > Reducing Carbon Footprint With More Authentic Traveling in Europe in 2021

10 min read
February 8th, 2021

It's most certainly one of the hottest topics around right now, ever more changing our ways of life, and very rightly so. Our planet is changing, and not for the better, the biggest imminent problem is climate change and global warming, we need to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact of our everyday lives if we want to leave a place for our children and grandchildren to live.

Humans are persistent beings, and we adapt to survive. We are ever more attentive to the issues facing our planet and that is one of the reasons behind the push for electric vehicles, reducing meat consumption, renewable electricity, and much more. We know that it is wrong, and we want to fix it.

At Trippola we take the environment very seriously, and one of the big differences between our trip planner and others out there is that we take environmental impact into account when planning trips!

The environment versus travel

One of the topics of environmentalism that was forming up before the COVID pandemic was the impact of travel, it is well known that flying is one of the highest carbon footprint impacts we make as individuals on our planet. And the whole process of traveling can be very energy-intensive and damaging.

Swedes started coining the term flygskam back in 2019, which basically means "flight-shaming" and is a movement of taking alternative types of transportation when traveling in Sweden and inside Europe. The movement didn't have much time to get up to speed because, well, we all know what happened.

The Coronavirus pandemic surely has given the planet a breather when it comes to environmental impact, but once it is all gone and we are back to normal, the travel itch that we have been holding back for so long while trapped in our homes will fire like a slingshot that has been pulled back for over a year. We will all want to dive out and travel as much as we can to compensate for everything that we have been through in 2020, but we have to be careful to not destroy our peace once again and (literally) sink the planet, and no, it doesn't mean traveling less, fewer places and less fun! We will explain and give tips on what does it mean to travel responsibly post-COVID.

Traveling responsibly in Europe... But, why Europe?

Of all the places in the world that are tourism hotspots, no other places are as well equipped for reducing the carbon footprint as Europe. As developed nations with grids of renewable energy and astonishing infrastructure for public transportation, walking, and cycling, this is the place where you absolutely have no excuses for being more environmentally friendly and where the least amount of compromises have to be made, in fact, it may even turn out to be more fun! Also, most of the countries in the European continent are at the top of the list of highest carbon emissions per capita in the world, so it is also one of the places most in need of re-thinking its travel style.

These tips are gold for exploring the vibrant capital of Berlin or the Hungarian countryside but of course, they are general information that can be applied everywhere where suitable. Keeping these tips in mind may come in handy anywhere in the world.

Reducing the carbon footprint while traveling

Here is what you clicked on the link for, the tips for decreasing your carbon footprint while traveling in 2021 in a, hopefully, COVID-free world. We organized them in order of importance when it comes to the weight of carbon emissions:

  • Train > Bus > Car > Plane

    Easy to memorize, this order of priority is by far the most important thing to take into consideration when trying to decrease the environmental impact of your travel planning, whether you are planning months in advance or on the spot. The usual "American way" of taking an airplane for any distance longer than a few hundred miles and jumping on a rental car for the remainder of the trip on the ground is quite probably the most damaging way you can possibly travel outside of using a private jet and helicopter. Here it is very relevant to point out the excellent structure of public transportation available in Europe, which greatly minimizes or even plainly eliminates the need for any personal car.

    As you can see in the image below stating the carbon emissions per kg per person in Britain, there is an absurd difference between taking the train and taking the plane (keep in mind that Britain National Rail has one of the highest emission rates for railways in the world), and outside of flying a thousand kilometers more, what are you taking an airplane for? The high-speed rail in most countries means that traveling by train is not just much more comfortable, easy, and stress-free but in most cases just a bit longer than the airplane, buying tickets in advance means prices that are very competitive even with the cheapest budget airlines, so ask yourself if the carbon destruction is worth that 10 or 20 extra euros?

  • Walking and cycling

    Directly related to the previous note, taking your time walking, hiking, and cycling is not only an incredibly healthy and fun way to get yourself around places nearby but is effectively carbon-free. And this is by no means a small detail to point out, in places like the Netherlands, Belgium, and Scandinavia, you can effectively travel the whole country on a bicycle and, trust me, can be an adventure of a lifetime. Taking to the pedals all the way from Amsterdam to Eindhoven through Utrecht made me see the Netherlands from a completely different perspective than I ever could have thought of, while gently moving through the windmills and in between the canals and the small but extremely efficient farmlands in a bike track that was unbelievably smooth and perfectly flat.

  • Travel less and travel for longer

    Instead of doing those 12 "few days getaways" to the other side of the continent, why not travel only once but for a 2 or 3 months-long trip? COVID has changed our lives forever not only for the bad, but companies have also now embraced the concept of remote working. And this is one of the most wonderful ways to travel in general, going to an exotic land with your laptop and staying there for a whole month gives you time to truly seep in the culture, the cuisine, visit every single spot and also relax, it gives you an experience that honestly you will absolutely not get in a 4-day visit no matter how much you try. Why not combine a month of remote work somewhere with a month-long vacation backpacking through many regions?

    You can even try to avoid plane travel altogether, it is not only perfectly feasible literally anywhere in Europe, and probably more in this continent than anywhere other continents on Earth, but it makes it much more fun and engaging, to watch the geography, demographics, culture and weather change smoothly and you roll. When we did our first travel through the Balkans, we took a whole total of 1 flight in our journey from Tallinn to Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Istanbul.

  • Local cuisine over fast-food

    If you remember I said earlier that you can have even more fun while practicing green-travel, and well, is there anything better than enjoying local cuisine? That would absolutely be a huge thing for you to try out if you already aren't, there are few other ways of experiencing a different culture that is as impactful and lasting of an experience then enjoying the local food. And it's also incredibly environmentally friendly! Many oversee the importance of this but most fast-food chains, or really every restaurant chain out there that has a "standard menu" that never changes regardless of where you go, import a lot of ingredients from overseas and, in most cases, make heavy use of processed food. Eating local food is healthy, much more fun, much more engaging and the planet will feel much better, I consider it a quadruple-win.

  • Reusability

    This is an obvious one, but plastic is bad, really bad, really really bad. Leave it all at home, or better, in your recycling center, and pack your reuseable water bottle, soup container, toothbrush, your refillable shampoo bottle and whatever you can, to leave absolutely no trace. Also pack and always bring with you, something to be used as short term trash container, this whole paragraph really goes without saying but, in the worst case you should always carry you trash with you until the next bin.

  • Take it easy on the souvenirs

    Sure, I am guilty of buying many mugs from exotic places, but in all fairness I use them literally almost everyday, but it is no secret that a vast majority of tourists fill bags of souvenirs to bring home that they probably won't ever see again, or as "gifts" for their relatives and friends. But come on, the true lasting gift of traveling is your experiences, memories and stories that will leave a mark on you somewhere, forever. Only buy that of which is truly and utterly fascinating to you, that will provide usefulness and fulfilling value. Preferably, only buy handmade souvenirs as opposed to factory mass-manufactured in random shops in the tourist center.

Consider Minimalistic Traveling

With a backpack on, forgetting all of your possessions and material obsessions, embarking on a journey to some exotic land with a full focus on experiences, the minimalistic travel movement is a naturally environmentally-friendly way to do your trip and will forever change how you think about the world, if you are curious and want to know more, you can check out our Minimalistic travel manifesto.

The "sacrifices" necessary for green travel are nothing outstanding, out of the ordinary or that even make your life that much harder. In most cases, by using them, you can actually discover so much more, experience things that you would not otherwise, and even make your journey that much more enjoyable. The planet is hurting, and it is not demanding you to stop your leisure, it's just asking you to try something new.

Trippola and green travel

In case you don't already know, we are building a next-generation, smart and user-friendly trip planning application focused on backpackers.

One of the main differentials will be our AI, recommendation algorithm. You, know when you are trying to find transport between A and B on your travel planning? It helps you find the cheapest transport, the fastest, and maybe also with the less transfer.... It's always the same, like a cake recipe. A major reason we got together to disrupt the travel planning app scene is to add environmental care into the mix. Our application will have a carbon footprint meter and our recommendation algorithm will take into account things you just read in this article right now! You will receive ideas of switching your €10 unnecessary plane for a €20 train ride and even stop by some adventure on the way, that would not be possible while cramped on a plane seat!

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Nathan Danzmann

Still round the corner, there may wait, a new road or secret gate - J.R.R.Tolkien