Not yet back to school? Still traveling? Here is how you can become carbon neutral during your holidays as sustainable tourism principles suggest.

Today, traveling is often associated with flights, airports, airplanes, taxis … and therefore transportation. Logically, the farthest you travel, the more connections you make, the more important your carbon footprint is. And that’s the opposite of sustainable tourism.

Recently, while I was traveling in Nice, my brother-in-law told me, “You can talk about climate change! You claim yourself ecological and responsible traveler, but you very often take the plane! “. At the time, I didn’t take it very well because I always try to apply sustainable tourism principles but he raised an important point. How can we travel responsibly while using transports such as the plane? I do not have the opportunity to “slow travel” and, to use means slower and greener transportation means like the train or the bus.

1st  step: Calculate your carbon footprint

carbon footprint calculator sustainable tourism


There are many tools to help you calculate your carbon footprint based on the means of transport you use and the distance you travel.

One of them and the one I use is the carbon footprint calculator.

Another site lets you calculate your food carbon footprint is this one.

2nd step : Reduce your carbon footprint for your holidays

Test your carbon footprint with those calculators. See what your vacation will cost to the planet. It is very shocking to see how much we weight individually when you know you are one among millions. So I looked at the solutions to compensate for the ecological cost because I couldn’t just keep on traveling the same way now that I knew.

Unfortunately, there are no miracle solutions. There are no solar planes yet and there is no car using 100% renewable energy … So how to travel responsible if you can’t at least compensate your carbon footprint?

1st solution : The Carbon Offset

Through associations specialized in carbon offset, you can buy the equivalent of carbon credits in donations. These associations offer you to calculate your carbon footprint and to pay a certain amount to compensate them.

sustainable tourism carbon offests

Let’s say I travel to Nice with a direct flight from Amsterdam. My carbon emissions will be about 0.35 tonnes. The site GreenSeat will suggest me to give € 3.5 to offset for this trip. These € 3.5 will go to verified and certified projects (VGS or VCS) which have a positive carbon footprint. This solution is only partial as there are only a few ways to actually verify if the compensation happened but this is a great first solution.

2nd solution : Try to cut your carbon footprint during your vacation

Once you have calculated your carbon footprint, try to think about how to reduce it. For example, on the French Riviera, it is difficult to go anywhere without a car. Some villages, some attractions are only accessible by car. So, one solution is to take the bus for the “easy” paths or to carpool if you go to specific places! When we went to Estérel Adrets, we had about 1 hour drive. We offered our trip on a carpooling website and took 2 other people with us which cut our carbon footprint by 2.

sustainable tourism responsible travel earth lungs WWF

For the flights, the only way to reduce your carbon footprint is to reduce the number of stopovers. You can also use this great new website called Glooby, that helps you choose the most sustainable flight! And choose an airline with real projects dedicated to environment protection such as KLM, which also offers carbon offsets.

For food and restaurants, calculating your carbon footprint is rather approximate. Indeed, you do not know the origin of all ingredients when you go to a regular restaurant (it is quite surprising but many restaurateurs do not know either).

This is one of the reasons why eating local is so important. This allows you to eat for a lesser footprint. Meat is a major carbon emitter, thus reducing your meat consumption and eating local is better for the environment. This site (Happy Cows) provides a list by country of vegetarian and organic restaurants for example. And a simple search on Trip advisor can also give you the list of restaurants serving local, organic or even vegetarian food.

organic restaurant sustainable tourism

3rd solution : Post-holiday check your carbon footprint and plant (a) tree(s)!

Back from holidays, I measure our total carbon footprint based on what we consumed, transport used and purchases made.

Our carbon footprint is always negative! Unfortunately, despite my efforts and the carbon credits, there is still a part that I did not compensate. Sustainable tourism is difficult, that’s true, as you need to be self-conscious about your impact as a consumer.

So, as I wanted to really see if it would be possible to be carbon neutral while traveling, I decided to go beyond the last 2 solutions and decided to donate to an association of “reforestation”. A tree (of course depending on the species and the age) consumes about 48lbs of CO2 per year. So if my last holidays cost 1 ton of CO2 to the planet, I will have to plant around nine trees. Done! I just planted nine trees in Peru for 16 euros! This is really nice to think that I am a contributor in planting a forest. So rewarding! Long live sustainable tourism!

onetreeplanted planting trees sustainable tourism

3rd step : Always more sustainable

It is often said, “Next time, I’ll be more careful” or “Next time I will organize myself better.” So yes next time you can do better and you will find new and innovative solutions to travel more sustainable. Here are a few examples of sustainable tourism.

  • Travel lighter, make fewer stops
  • Eating vegetarian as often as possible
  • Travelling by public transport, bicycle or by foot
  • Buy local
  • Choose a “green” and eco-friendly hotel 
  • Avoid « made in China » souvenirs …

You can find more ideas to travel responsible in our responsible traveler guide.

You CAN carbon offset your holiday and become carbon neutral, by acting on several levels, including on your way to consume and travel. We always include our carbon footprint in our itineraries and destination guides, so you can refer to them if you need inspiration! Doing sustainable tourism, is a complex process, yet, so rewarding!

sustainable tourism green travel responsible travel carbon footprint neutral

Cet article est disponible en Français (French)