Climate: Vacation with a clear conscience

clean getaway

According to a travel analysis by the research community Holiday and Travel, 2013 40 percent of respondents said they wanted a clean, climate-friendly holiday. A year ago, it was only 31 percent. Socially acceptable holidays, ie fair working conditions and respect for the local population, wished even more, a proud 46 percent.
Our desire to travel affects worldwide. Pollutant emissions and consumption of resources intervene in the natural and social fabric of each holiday region. It is estimated that the share of tourism in global CO2 emissions is already 12 percent this year. So we are slowly but surely destroying what we are actually looking for: an intact environment and functioning social structures. Therefore, our holiday also supports climate change.

Climate-conscious holiday

Fortunately, those who consciously want to live as environmentally friendly as possible on vacation will find more and more offers that adorn themselves with terms such as “sustainability”, “gentle” or “green vacation”. This year there are more than 100 seals and certificates that are intended to cut a path through the jungle of holiday offers. But not all are equally meaningful. Some are only awarded subject to strict controls, while others are conveniently leased out by the providers themselves Friends of Nature International Vienna and other organizations 20 leading tourist sustainability labels selected according to objective criteria. In addition to the Austrian Ecolabel for tourism In Europe they meet the "Blue Swallow" and the "CSR" seal. Also offer worldwide "Earth check" and "Green Globe"Reliable orientation.
We can protect the environment by choosing our travel agent. Arrivals and departures as well as locomotion at the holiday resort cause around three quarters of all harmful emissions, whereas accommodation only causes 20 percent. An intercontinental flight from Europe to the Caribbean alone causes higher CO2 emissions than is sustainable for a single person in one year.

Improve the mismatch only by a long stay. Anyone who flies farther than 2.000 kilometers should stay at least four weeks in the distance. You just have to be able to afford it ... Disadvantages for the climate are the popular city short trips, at least whenever they are taken by plane. If you like our environment, you can hop on a bus or train for the weekend trip. So maybe a means of transportation will be maintained that is acutely threatened by the attitude - the night train. Due to a lack of demand, more and more European rail companies are canceling this offer from the timetable.
Sustainable tourism necessarily requires "gentle" mobility at the resort. "Alpine Pearls", an umbrella brand of 29 alpine holiday destinations in six countries, highlights its efforts in this area. So are available in the places e-bikes and electric vehicles, there are Segways and e-scooters. Offensively, the guest is asked to think about the nature of his vacation and if possible to travel by train. An individual pick-up service is organized by the tourist offices. Anyone who still eats local food, is interested in regional culture and practices sport without the help of internal combustion engines, is truly a sustainable vacationer.

Climate responsibility of travel groups

Tourism companies know that they and their customers are not only contributing to climate change, they will also have to bear its consequences. Be it that there will be no closed snow cover in low mountain ranges in the future or that water will be scarce at southern holiday destinations. “Climate change poses a dilemma for the major tour operators: On the one hand, they recognize that protecting the climate is indispensable for maintaining their product and economic success in the long term. On the other hand, effective climate protection would mean a fundamental restructuring of their traditional business model. The strategic expansion of areas with particularly high demand, such as long-distance flights or short vacations, should not be pushed further in this form. Due to market constraints and short-term profit thinking, the decision-makers in the industry still shy away from 'real' climate protection measures. ”Andreas Zotz came to this conclusion in a study in 2009.

"Due to market pressures and short-term profit thinking, decision-makers in the industry are still shying away from 'real' climate protection measures."
Andreas Zotz, Study "Sustainability in Tourism"

TUI, with a turnover of more than 15 billion euros largest tour operator in Europe, has nevertheless established its own "sustainability management". Harald Zeiss leads this area. He states: "Even if ever-decreasing per-capita emissions are achieved through constant improvements in the efficiency of aircraft, the burning of kerosene inevitably leads to climate-friendly emissions. The same applies to the hotel stay and the transfer from the airport to the hotel and back. Here, too, additional emissions are generated. "
TUIfly tries to be as efficient as possible by means of a modern fleet and high capacity utilization, which not only protects the environment but also the cash register of the company. Also, the Group offers package deals train to flight included and hopes that its customers on the way to the airport leave the car. TUI even goes one step further and compensates for the business trips of all employees of TUI Deutschland, which are carried out by plane. As a result, 40.000 Euro will also be invested annually in climate protection projects of myclimate. The foundation is based in Switzerland and organizes climate protection projects around the world.

Indulgence or good deed?

Austrian Airlines is also committed to protecting the environment. But they really do not seem to want to advertise that offensively. Only those who search long enough on the website will finally find this reference: "We support the climate protection initiative Climate Austria. With this, our passengers can already voluntarily compensate for the CO2 emissions generated by their flight when buying tickets. "But how many passengers make use of this offer? "Only two to three percent," admits Andrea Stockinger, project manager at Climate Austria, "Tendency rising slightly".
Not all climate friends are happy about this form of compensation. "Voluntary compensation payments for air miles are only the second best solution," says Dr. Christian Baumgartner, Managing Director of the Naturefriends International. Some critics even criticize CO2 compensation payments as indulgences because compensation only mitigates but can not lower an increase in CO2 issuance. The best thing would be to do without vacation flights altogether. After all, a flight to the holidays is not a fundamental right, but only a flourishing affluent society, starting in the 70 years of the last century. But it's not that easy. Tourism has an important economic function in many developing countries. That's why it's important to minimize negative environmental impacts and promote positive economic aspects. For example, the UN General Assembly in January 2014 noted that sustainable tourism in Central America has become an engine of poverty eradication, "a fundamental pillar of regional integration, a motor for the social and economic development of the region". The big travel companies can promote this. Either through sustainable holiday offers in these regions or local development projects.

Projects for climate and environmental protection

Myclimate finances reforestation projects, such as in Nicaragua.
Myclimate finances reforestation projects, such as in Nicaragua.

A good example of this is a reforestation project from myclimate in Nicaragua. In the municipality of San Juan de Limay, small farmers have been reforesting more than 2011 hectares of land since 643, which corresponds to 900 football fields. myclimate believes that the benefits of this project are particularly high as the project area is one of the most important watersheds in the community, suffering from seasonal water shortages and floods. The extended forest area acts like a sponge. In the rainy season, she absorbs water and thus reduces floods, in the dry season, she gives it off.
The dedicated environmental project also distributes energy efficient cook stoves with fireplaces that greatly reduce household smoke levels, which is above all beneficial to women's health.
Improving living conditions, preserving cultural identities in the host countries, protecting the environment and the climate, and preserving biodiversity are also important topics for Europe's second largest tourism group, Thomas Cook. Many destinations of the mass tour operator are located in arid regions. Together with the sustainability initiative Futouris, Thomas Cook is therefore launching the "Valuable Water" project this year.
In the first phase in summer 2014, detailed “water footprints” will be created for twelve Thomas Cook hotels on the Greek island of Rhodes. These “water footprints” are intended to reveal potential for water and cost savings. In addition to the “direct” water consumption, the “indirect” consumption, which occurs, for example, in the production of food for the hotel in other parts of the world, is also included in the assessment. The result is a universal water management handbook that is intended to serve as a guide and savings target for all concept hotels. In the second project phase, suggestions are made for specific improvement options. Hotels that are ready to implement these will receive water management training for staff and materials for guest awareness. According to the motto, do good and talk about it. Is that how consumers get excited about sustainable vacations?

Vacation: responsibility of the traveler

Around 20 percent of travelers should be willing to pay more for a sustainable vacation. In any case, theoretically. In practice, however, the factors sun, relaxation and price are the more important reasons to choose a holiday destination or a holiday form. "Customers are not prepared to spend more money on sustainable holidays," says Ury Steinweg, Managing Director of study travel provider Gebeco. Nevertheless, he sees a plus point: "With similar offers, the customer decides but rather for what is sustainable."

"With similar offers, the customer decides but rather for what is sustainable."
Ury Steinweg, Gebeco

Credibility will play an important role. Critics like to talk about greenwashing when the highly advertised environmental activities end up having little or no positive effect on the climate and the environment. Some reforestation projects fall into this category whenever the planted trees are cut down for furniture production. Once incurred damage can not be undone by CO2 compensation measures anyway.

Climate: Sinful cruise

A critical look is also appropriate for cruises. Most of these floating mega hotels generate their energy with heavy oil, a waste product of the oil industry, which is not only very sulphurous, but also carcinogenic and damages the genetic material. A clean alternative would be LNG vessels, but such rebuilding is not possible on older vessels. And so a conventionally operated cruise ship blows as many pollutants on a single voyage as five million cars on the comparable route. This has been calculated by the Nature Conservation Union Germany - we are hardly conducive to our climate. Those who still crave long-distance harbors can look for ships with liquefied natural gas or book the most environmentally friendly voyage on a sailing ship by far.
For the first time more than a billion foreign holidays counted the world tourism organization 2012. And in the future even more people will travel. So let's think about the environment and the climate at the next vacation planning. Let us inform you, because sustainable holidays are feasible and affordable. Hiking on the Danube. By bike to the Adriatic. Or hitchhiking to India. We have it in our own hands.

Photo / Video: Shutterstock, MyClimate.

Written by Jörg Hinners

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