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Climate positive

Travelling in times of climate change

Whether it's a business trip or a holiday, every journey emits CO₂. What can I do to travel sustainably?
February 21, 2023
Climate positive

Society, on the other hand, would be willing to travel in a more environmentally friendly way, according to a study by the German Travel Association (DRV). 62 percent say they find climate-friendly travel important. Almost half (42 percent) would even be willing to pay a higher price for air travel if the CO₂ emissions were compensated. 42 percent would accept a longer journey to and from the airport.

5 tips for climate-friendly travel

So how can we integrate climate protection into our own travel behaviour and business trips? It is clear that politics must act and create the framework conditions. A paraffin tax, the CO₂ levy or the expansion of the rail network are on the to-do list of our politicians. But employers, employees and private individuals can also contribute to climate-friendly travel.

1. travel sustainably by bus, train or bicycle

How sustainable a trip is is almost solely determined by the choice of transport. 75 per cent of all emissions are caused by the journey to and from the destination. Air travel, in particular, has a significant impact on the climate: a single flight alone can emit more CO₂ than the average footprint of a person in Germany per year.

The long-distance bus is the most ecological means of transport, directly followed by the train. In terms of climate protection, travelling by bus or train is therefore recommended for longer distances - especially when travelling in Europe. Travelling by car is about five times higher in terms of CO₂ emissions, although the number of people in the car must be taken into account here.

For business trips, the train can be preferred to the flight, especially for journeys within Germany. If the journey and the time at the airport are included in the flight duration, the time difference is not very great. If a train connection is not worthwhile, employees can be provided with a company car or a share car - preferably electric.

2. sustainable accommodation

Directly after arrival and departure comes the choice of accommodation, which accounts for 21 per cent of CO₂ emissions in tourism. Instead of huge hotel chains, small and privately run hotels or guesthouses should be preferred here. A holiday home is generally more environmentally friendly than a hotel. Here, savings are made on daily cleaning, changing towels and the guests can cater for themselves: with seasonal and regional food.

In addition, there are also sustainable accommodations that can be booked directly. For business trips, accommodation with certifications and labels can be considered when booking a hotel.

3. climate tips for the holiday destination
Planted volunteer Uta Nabert on her trip through New Zealand

In the resort itself, the most environmentally friendly way to explore the area is on foot, by bike or public transport. Car sharing is also an option to explore more distant places. Some accommodations also rent e-bikes or bicycles, and resorts arrange affordable mobility services such as car rental or car sharing. The same applies to travelling to business meetings.

Otherwise, the same applies as at home: save water as much as possible, buy locally, regionally and seasonally, learn about proper waste separation, use towels more than once, use the air conditioner sparingly - if at all, treat nature with respect and take a bag with you when you go shopping.

4. CO₂ compensation

Even if offsetting is only the second-best solution and avoidance and reduction should also be in the foreground when travelling, this combination is still better than a flight without offsetting. By offsetting your travel footprint, you support global climate protection projects that actively save CO₂ on site, promote the lives of local people and support the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

5. the duration of the journey

Generally speaking, the longer the trip, the better. Especially with long-distance travel, the climate-damaging flight cannot be avoided. Therefore, such holidays should take place less frequently and for longer periods. For business trips, this concept may be difficult to implement in some cases. Therefore, one should always ask oneself: Is the trip even necessary or is an online meeting enough?

By container ship to Canada

During her journey, our volunteer author Uta Nabert implemented a first important step of sustainable travel: Instead of taking the plane, she travelled by train from Germany to Asia and then continued by container ship to Canada.

Author and Planted volunteer Uta Nabert

What it is like to come back

But what is it actually like to come back? The travel journalist has now published a book about this with Delius Klasing Verlag: "Wieder da und doch nicht hier". She is donating her fee to Planted. An interview.

Uta, you will donate your fee to Planted. Why?

I have already fulfilled two dreams: I have travelled around the world and I have written a book. My third dream has always been to plant my own forest. But since I'm better with letters than with beech trees, I decided to leave that to someone who knows.

Why Planted?

I came across Planted through research for the Frankfurter Rundschau. At the time, I wrote an article about a young woman who wants to reforest the whole of Russia. In Planted I saw the German counterpart. It was important to me that the forest is located in a country where the property rights are secured, so that it has a chance of being protected from clearing in a hundred or two hundred years. I also want to help plant the forest in the future and see how it grows. Until that happens, I sometimes support Planted on a voluntary basis and write texts.

On the one hand, you've travelled a long way, on the other hand, it's bad for the environment. Do you have any tips for commuters and travellers?

I think we have all seen in the past two years that we don't have to jet around the world for work and meetings. This saves time, money and avoids stress. Last but not least, it protects the environment. From an employee's point of view, I can say that I wouldn't work for a company today that didn't allow at least 80 per cent of its employees to work from home. In my company, all meetings and agreements take place digitally and are extremely effective.

I can recommend the train to all those who can't avoid business trips: I find that especially when you are on the train for many hours at a time, it's a great way to work. I experience ICEs as rolling open-plan offices. My book was written on long journeys by train.

You donate your fee to an organisation that plants trees. At the same time, your book was printed on dead trees. Problematic?

Book "Back again and yet not here

Every kind of production and consumption is problematic. Basically, the only solution is to do without. But the question arises whether we should do without reading, of all things. After all, I made sure that Delius Klasing Verlag used FSC-certified paper for my book. According to the WWF, FSC-certified paper is obtained from forests that are managed according to stricter ecological and social principles, among other things. But the seal does not seem to be the universal solution either: Greenpeace ended its membership of the FSC in 2018. Of course, you can also download the e-book version of "Wieder da und doch nicht hier". But to read it, you need other valuable resources. The best thing is to buy the book, read it and put it in the nearest bookcase - keyword sharing economy.

And what is your book about now?

Travelling around the world is an adventure - coming home is a challenge. Many globetrotters, whether backpackers or professional travellers, experience this. Many who have spent some time abroad realise after returning home that it takes a long time to get back mentally. Until then, friendships fall apart, partners go their separate ways and plans go awry. In the book, 23 travellers - backpackers and professional travellers - have their say. They also tell how they dealt with problems and conflicts.

Curious? You can get Uta's book here.