Eco-responsible travel: our guide for 2022

Tourism can cause some negative impacts on the environment. But how can we still have fun traveling while respecting the environment in 2022?

Carbon Footprint 👣



July 18, 2022


Table of contents

As the world's largest industry, tourism is responsible for 8% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Beyond impacting the well-being of vacationers, mass tourism also has negative impacts on the environment, and local population. 🌱

So, how can we limit its environmental impact? And what are the consequences of mass tourism on our planet? 

At Greenly, we decided to list the best practices to travel responsibly. ✅

🔎 What are the two major forms of tourism?

Mass tourism 👥

95% of the world's tourists are concentrated in 5% land area. 

This phenomenon has a name: mass tourism or "overtourism". Concretely, an extremely high number of tourists mass within the most popular destinations, even though these tourists individually may have little impact. 

Why? The democratization of the price of transport, and resort accommodation. 🏘

👀 The barometer of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, has already counted the arrival of 117 million tourists worldwide in the first quarter of 2022. This is 76 million more than in the same period in 2021. 

 For the record, mass tourism was born in the 1960s with the appearance of paid vacations. Discovering this advantage, many French people stormed the coasts (Deauville, Cannes or Nice)... And this was only the beginning!

Since then, cruises have been piling up, while seaside resorts and spas have been set up on the beaches. 

Unsurprisingly, this way of traveling has had many negative impacts on local populations, the environment and historical sites:

  • increased consumption of water, raw materials and food products;
  • the increase in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • the inflation of housing and food prices;
  • the degradation of natural and cultural heritage.

It's gotten to the point where travelers themselves may not enjoy going on vacation anymore, because of the crowds and noise. Even though tourism brings in money, some destinations are gradually becoming unlivable and less attractive. 📉

Sustainable tourism 💚

Opposed to mass tourism, sustainable tourism is tourism that "takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, meeting the needs of visitors, professionals, the environment and host communities." (Source: WTO). 

In other words, it is based on the three pillars of sustainable development. 🌿

But what is the role of the tourist in all this? By undertaking a sustainable tourism approach, the traveler commits to limiting the negative impacts of their stay, on the environment as well as on society. 

👋 Moving from mass tourism to sustainable tourism therefore requires a radical change in our practices.

😰 Mass tourism, a threat for some cities

Mass tourism is a real threat for some cities already weakened by global warming. What's even worse: some corners of paradise could disappear, like Tulum and Venice.

Tulum, Mexico 🇲🇽

Every year, millions of curious people come to enjoy the fine sandy beach and turquoise water of Tulum, with the goal of relaxing and observing the ruins of Mayan temples. 

The problem? Mass tourism creates new needs and requires new infrastructure that destroys this postcard landscape, located in the Yucatan Peninsula. ❌

The rapid development of the Mexican city - which saw its population triple in size from 10,000 to 30,000 inhabitants between 2008 and 2015 - generates :

  • the destruction of the forest and mangroves; 
  • the weakening of wastewater treatment that pollutes the water table and the sea;
  • the construction of hotels and concrete roads;
  • the appearance of open-air dumps.

👀 Due to the growing interest of tourists in Tulum, the city is gradually becoming a popular beach resort, like the neighboring localities of Cancún and Playa del Carmen.

Venice, Italy 🎭

Responsible for the degradation of Venice, mass tourism is a real nuisance for the residents as well as for the cultural heritage. Indeed, the municipality estimates that 30,000 to 40,000 tourists rush to Venice every day... When the city has only 54,000 residents in all! 👀

From then on, restrictive measures of visitation were born to protect the city from the mass of tourists. The city has already banned boats of more than 25,000 tons in its historic center, as well as souvenir stores that were proliferating the village 🎁

From January 16, 2023, day-trippers will have to pay an entrance fee that can range from €3 to €10 depending on the busy period. 

The goal? To encourage tourists to come when it's less crowded or to postpone their stay to less busy season. 👋

👉 Without these restrictions in place, Venice could be placed on the World Heritage in Danger list.

👀 How to travel eco-responsibly in 2022?

Even if traveling will always have an impact, know that it is possible to limit it. So it's not a question of stopping tourism, but rather of traveling differently and better.

Respect the global code of ethics for tourism 📝

The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism encompasses several principles for local populations, industry professionals, public authorities and travelers. The objective? To reduce the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and cultural heritage, in order to promote its responsible and sustainable development on a global scale.

Adopted in 1999 by the UNWTO, this non-binding Code is composed of ten principles, which emphasize:

  1. Tourism's contribution to mutual understanding and respect between peoples and societies
  2. Tourism as a vehicle for individual and collective fulfillment
  3. Tourism, a factor of sustainable development
  4. Tourism, a user of the cultural heritage of mankind and contributor to its enhancement
  5. Tourism, a beneficial activity for host countries and communities
  6. Obligations of stakeholders in tourism development
  7. The right to tourism
  8. Liberty of tourist movements
  9. Rights of the workers and entrepreneurs in the tourism industry
  10. Implementation of the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

Focus on a less touristy destination 🗺

There are so many beautiful places to discover in the world, why limit yourself to capital cities and popular destinations? Visiting less crowded places allows you to stumble upon little treasures away from the crowds and noise. 🌍

If a traveler desperately wants to go to a destination considered touristy, it is recommended to go during the off-season for more tranquility. Haven't you ever dreamed of visiting popular places completely clear of tourists? 

Finally, sustainable tourism implies traveling less often but longer, to soak up the local culture instead of sailing from one tourist establishment to another.

Choose a labeled accommodation 🏨

Exit the big hotel chains and take advantage of the labeled establishments! The latter not only allows you to reconnect with nature, but also to protect it. Concretely, these certifications frame the environmental impacts of an establishment by paying special attention to:

  • heating and air conditioning systems;
  • food products and textiles used;
  • water and energy consumption;
  • waste production and management;
  • Eco-construction.

In this sense, there are three main labels: the European Ecolabel, the Green Key and the Green Globe. ✅

We can also mention the Gîtes Panda label, which guarantees the owner's involvement in the environmental cause. In addition, the latter is committed to accompanying its tenants in the discovery of the local heritage.

Let's face it: staying in a labeled establishment does not exempt the tourist from some eco-actions. You can still favor a lukewarm shower - or a cold one for the more daring -, or try turning off the light each time you leave the room, limiting the use of air conditioning, and not asking for a change of towels every day. 👋

🏠 Looking for an unconventional accommodation? Opt for an ecolodge, an accommodation with very low environmental impact, built to be in harmony with nature. It protects the surrounding spaces, involves the local population and offers a new experience to tourists.

​​Using green transportation 🚃

Of the 8% of GHG emissions caused by global tourism, three quarters are due to transportation and 40% to airplanes. The latter should therefore be avoided. ✈️

But how to go on vacation without damaging the environment? 🔎 Considered the most ecological mode of transport over long distances, the train is favored by eco-responsible travelers. 

Once there, the alternatives are numerous: 

  • cycling ;
  • walking ;
  • public transportation (subway, bus, streetcar, etc.);
  • carpooling - as a last resort.

💥 Moreover, offers to promote these means of transport are constantly increasing. As an illustration, this summer, Germany is offering a €9 ticket allowing unlimited use of all public transport for a full month. This is a great way to visit the country while limiting CO2 emissions.

Consume local products 🍽

Don't neglect the importance of the culinary journey by enjoying local specialties. In addition to tasting wonderful dishes, you are participating in the preservation :

  • culinary traditions, by supporting small restaurants;
  • the environment, by using fresh, local products - not imported from the other side of the world or from fast food chains.

In addition, it is impossible to return from vacation without bringing back a small souvenir: in order to participate in the development of the local economy, choose to bring back artisanal products to support local artists. 

👉 Be careful to check that souvenirs are not stamped "Made in China" or any other country that does not correspond to the travel location.

Avoid waste production 🚮

Try out a tour involves visiting a country without leaving a trace. The goal? To blend in with the masses, in order to soak up a new culture and appreciate the beauty of the landscapes without degrading them. This means not throwing garbage in nature. 

As in all places, it is advisable to keep the waste in your pocket at the time of the visit, to be thrown away later. In addition, travelers who are conscious of their environmental impact will take along sturdy hygiene products and reusable dishes in case of nomadic and outdoor meals.

👋 Just because you're visiting a country far from home doesn't mean you have to forget all manners! As an example, in 2017, beach tourism was responsible for 52% of the waste found in the Mediterranean Sea. (Source: WWF).  

💥 Measure your carbon impact with ease!

Whether you are involved in tourism or not, perhaps this article made you want to contribute, too, to the fight against global warming...

Carry out your company's carbon footprint now, and participate in the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions! 

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