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Sustainable travel is it doable?

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Porträtbild Isabel
Sales advisor, Transa store Markthalle Bern
© Fotos

Transa’s Sanne and Isabel spoke to Antonia from the organisation fairunterwegs about ferries, Venice, carbon offsetting and the joys of travelling.

Antonia, how do I pick an eco-friendly holiday destination?
From an ecological point of view, it’s the journey to and from the destination that generates the most CO2, especially if you take the plane. The further you fly, the longer you should spend at your destination.

Many people in Switzerland only get four weeks’ holiday, though. But they still have their heart set on something like going trekking in Peru or watching kangaroos in Australia.
Of course, and that’s totally understandable. This is where the system needs to be changed. It ought to be important for employers to make people’s wishes possible. For example, they could allow longer holidays or offer the chance to take a workation, where you combine work and a vacation. Sometimes, as an employee, you have to be bold enough to ask. Another key point is our mindset: in Switzerland, it seems perfectly normal to go abroad two or three times a year or take weekend trips to a capital city. These are all things that are only possible for a tiny fraction of the world’s population. This is where we might ask ourselves, how do we want to utilise this privilege?

What else can I look at?
We also have to make social and financial decisions when choosing a holiday destination. If I book a one-week package holiday to Gran Canaria for CHF 500, then it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone who works to ensure that I have a good holiday can make a living from it. Labels can be helpful here.


The organisation fairunterwegs strives to show how holidays can be fair, environmentally friendly and provide memorable experiences.

Antonia is a community manager and once cycled from Lake Constance to Indonesia on a tandem bike.

So, which labels can I confidently trust?
There are about 120 labels, so it’s a real maze. We have created a list of 20 labels that we think are good. One example is Tourcert.

We’ve all known for a long time that travelling by train is more environmentally friendly than flying. Many people still choose to fly to European cities. How can we make rail travel more attractive?It all starts with your own attitude: the journey is the destination and it begins on your doorstep. Thinking that way makes you see great places that you would otherwise pass over. Plus, travelling by train means you always ‘land’ in the centre of the city and can start exploring straight away. Airports are often located far out of town.

Another means of transport are ferries. Do they have a bad reputation in terms of their environmental footprint?
It depends on which type of ferry: cargo ships don’t transport people, they transport freight. So our collective consumption is the deciding factor for this method, not you. Cruise ships score worse from an environmental perspective because they don’t sail if there is no demand. Passenger ferries are certainly the best option.

You mentioned myclimate, a platform that offers CO2 offsetting in the form of various payments. Is that worthwhile?
That’s something everyone has to decide for themselves. I am definitely in favour of it. Once I’ve weighed up all the arguments and decided to take a trip – rather than not taking one and therefore not creating a footprint – then I should offset it. I don’t see it as a sale of indulgences, more a conscious decision to take responsibility. The money is used to support great projects.

Are there any destinations or areas that are no longer ‘acceptable’?
Travelling to the Maldives is unfortunately helping to raise the sea level further, and the Maldives will eventually sink. But it’s virtually impossible to travel there any other way. It’s a trade-off. Another keyword is ‘overtourism’. A well-known case here is Venice. The locals are annoyed, partly because the cost of living has gone up for the local population. Do I want to go to a place where many people no longer feel like being hosts? Another point is a country’s political situation. Am I possibly supporting a military regime by using the tourist infrastructure?

How can we get around on a fair basis while at our destination?
We have devised a happiness formula to help people decide - it’s our formula for sustainable happiness for everyone involved in your trip. Because tourism is a low-threshold economic sector – one in eleven people on our planet work in tourism and very few are protected by labour rights. Appreciation of the people, their country and their culture is also our responsibility.

How can I be more conscious of what I pack to go? What do I take with me and what not?
I recommend travelling as light as possible. Take a water bottle and a Swiss Army knife (smiles). In countries where tap water cannot be drunk, boil water or take a water filter with you. This is an option in the city, not just outdoors.

How can you stick to your principles for a more sustainable lifestyle while travelling, for example if you’re vegan?
There are websites with good tips. Otherwise, I think it’s important to engage in dialogue with people, explaining to them why I don’t want to eat meat. Especially when it concerns traditional dishes. I am always amazed at how receptive people are. Usually there are also great vegetarian or vegan local specialities.

How can you take as much as possible back home with you, in a sustainable way?
Share what you experienced, talk about it, indulge in your thoughts. Read more books or news about the country and keep in touch with the people you met there.

Tips: questions to help prepare for your trip

Travelling, getting to know cultures and exploring the diversity of different lifestyles are Sanne and Isabel’s passions. Being aware of the environment is important to them. In preparing for their next adventure to Ireland, they asked themselves a lot of questions:

1. Picking a destination: You have a destination in mind, so why exactly do you want to go there? Will you actually have enough time there to fulfil what you want? What is the current situation in the country?

2. Getting there: Are there more sustainable options for travelling to your desired destination? Do you want to include a stopover? How could you journey to your destination?

3. Packing: Try to take as little as possible when travelling. Can you borrow or hire items you don’t take with you? Linen shopping bags and reusable water bottles should now be standard items in every household, so take good habits away with you.

4. How to behave when travelling: You can look out for sustainable labels when booking things where you’re going. Where possible, support local providers, accommodation and people. Be mindful when travelling, write down your experiences and keep a diary so that you can look back on your memories long after your trip.

5. Stay in touch: Keep in touch with the people you met while away. Try to minimise the number of photos you take. What can you take away from the trip for your life back at home?

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