Traveler’s dilemma: sustainable travel

Sustainable travel. This is something I struggle with a lot. And actually not speaking out, because as long as you don’t really talk about it, then it doesn’t exist right? What is this about I hear you thinking. It’s about sustainability, because well catching a plane is not that sustainable anyway. I know there are many things that are bad for our earth. With our (Western) materialistic lifestyles, we need 4 Earths. But any right-thinking person can feel on his/her clogs that we don’t have one.

Just not living anymore

We have a real problem. And then you have those figures like Donald Trump who just pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Because hey, yes what does it matter if in the future people start killing each other because of food scarcity or entire landscapes are wiped out by floods. In itself, for the sake of the earth, it is good, because if you want to live very sustainably, you really should NOT live. Did you know that with 1 year of life you emit 1 ton of CO-2? But to kill yourself is not really a solution for me. Love life way too much! Right?

I do believe that everyone has the right to a nice, happy life with respect for every living being and without making our earth worse. It’s about balance in my eyes and making conscious choices. Do you choose one thing? Then think twice about the other if you really should. Wow, I find that quite difficult! And I’m telling you right now….I’m not perfect. And so I think it’s mainly about insight and making conscious choices. And I hope that eventually sustainable travel and more sustainable delivery will be higher on the priority list for everyone.

I see I see what you don’t see

Babette Porcelijn wrote an entire book on The Hidden Impact , all for an eco-positive life. Enlightening, well I needed something like this to further analyze my own CO2 emissions to see where I can get even more in balance. Porcelain talks about all the carbon emissions companies generate to make sure you can buy yourself another new phone or feast on a steak on your plate.

So behind this is a lot of hidden impact on our earth, something you can’t see with the naked eye. Every day we are all separating waste and showering less, this is very good, but it is dwarfed by the impact of the bigger things like buying stuff, eating meat and living.

what to do in goa

Porcelain has put this into a clear bar chart displayed in her book, in which the top five average per person most polluting and CO2 components are:

  1. Stuff
  2. Meat
  3. Living
  4. Car
  5. Plant-based food, fish & drink

And when you fly to Portugal once a year, then stands emissions for flying in 6th place. I see right away that those will be number one with me in terms of emissions. Confronting, but as I increasingly aware of my emissions, I want to do better with this. Before I going into this, what am I already doing at home to reduce my emissions and what can I do better?

Being more sustainable: Stuff

Fortunately, I already buy very little, but I could buy even less. And when I buy something, I increasingly buy second-hand. For example, I bought clothes through United Wardrobe and am in my element with my Kuyichi pants also through that website! In addition things like furniture I have almost exclusively secondhand. Just love to refurbish old furniture. For example, I acquired two chairs from a friend when I was a student. I completely sanded and painted these. The same goes for my dining table and cabinet. Although I have since sold it because I moved to Barcelona.

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Sustainable travel to Barcelona can also be done by train!

Some things were bought new like my bed and mattress (there are limits). But I even still used my parents’ old cutlery that they gave me when I moved into my room in 2002. I also use used plates and cutlery as much as possible for photos for the blog.

Wonderful to browse around second-hand shops for fun dinnerware. Some people get just a little mad at me sometimes: “do you have a new board again? I thought you were going to buy less stuff”? Ehh yes, but this is second hand I then say with a big smile 😊.

Another such thing is plastic. In the supermarket, I consciously choose fruits and vegetables without plastic, but it is difficult to live completely plastic-free, but I do my best. Every little bit helps.

Be more sustainable with: Electronics

In the year that I became a freelancer, now almost 2.5 years ago, I deliberately took my phone from my old employer and did not opt for a new phone. Was also doubting the Fairphone, but my contact (for my work at the time I was in regular contact with Fairphone ) told me that the most sustainable solution is to keep using what you already have. So for me it became clear: I took the Samsung Galaxy S6 over from work.

Fortunately, the phone still works, for over 3 years. The same goes for my laptop, will it break down? Then I prefer to go for used laptop. Depending on quality and warranty. In the end, a laptop is the most important thing for my work, though.

It is also good to treat your electronics well, make sure you do software updates on time so that your laptop does not become sluggish. Nothing is more irritating than a slow laptop. And do you want to get rid of old electronics like cell phones? Then check out initiative of Monkey Foundation, they can put your cell phone to good use!

Being more sustainable: Clothing

I even have garments from 10 years ago. Timeless and so I still wear them! I make conscious choices, for example, I now need a bag in which I can put my laptop, lunch, Dopper bottle and wallet. My current bag is broken, but still it feels like buying a new one. At such times, I choose a sustainable brand like Matt & Natt through Wolf & Storm. Rather spend a little more on something that feels good, than another cheaper bag from e.g. the Hennes.

Vegan bag Matt & Natt with interior made of recycled plastic

Still, I did have periods where I bought a lot of clothes, but so have really managed to curb my urge to buy. Also influenced by minimalist living. Although it could still be less I think. That closet is still bulging a bit. Although I heard the other day (from a man) that for a woman I don’t have many clothes. Then I secretly felt a little proud. And of course I buy clothes from time to time. Am not perfect either 😊.

Being more sustainable: meat & dairy industry

For years I lived as a flexitarian. Also during my studies I didn’t eat meat every day, but never completely stepped away from it. Found that step make difficult. So I totally understand why you don’t switch immediately to vegetarian or plant-based eating. I can only say that for me now it is very good feels that I have been eating completely vegan for almost 3 years and I wish that to everyone! I Have even lost over 6 pounds without any effort on my part! Small Side note, I exercised alongside this 2 times a week.

You can also make sushi very well vegan!

My journey from meat eater, flexitarian, vegetarian to vegan was and is a journey in which one door has closed but oh so many have opened! It feels very good to me to reduce my carbon impact by not eating animal products, although my first motivation is to prevent animal suffering. That this also reduces my emissions is fantastic!

>> Need inspiration for vegan recipes? Check out all the vegan recipes and get into the kitchen!

Being more sustainable: living situation

I never lived large. And I don’t have to. What I do want is a conveniently arranged house. My view about living large is: you have more space to fill up with stuff, junk and other things you don’t really need. Full house, full head. I don’t live large now either. Is tricky at times, especially when freelancing from home, but in the end it feels much better to me than a big house where I don’t use all the spaces on a daily basis. Here in Barcelona , I even live in a room. How sustainable do you want it to be 😉.

Besides, I don’t know about you, but I love not from cleaning. Bigger house means more cleaning. Bah! Sin of my time 😉. What we can still do is trash more often divorce, although I am now confused with whether it makes any sense at all to e.g. keeping plastic separate. While shopping, I prefer to grab a bell pepper that is not in the plastic. Or do I go to the market.

Green power is also something so debatable.

Many power suppliers buy the physical electricity for the lowest price on the power exchange and combine it with the cheapest green power certificates from abroad. The result may officially be called green power but we call it sham power: there is no incentive to produce more renewable energy in the Netherlands.(source: Wise Netherlands).

If I lived predominantly in the Netherlands, I would like to switch to real sustainably generated electricity. And come on, that should be possible right with all this wind in the Netherlands? My good intention then is to at least choose through an energy comparison

Making transportation more sustainable: Car

Daily sustainable travel in the country where you live also makes a difference. After all, I myself do not have a car and basically do everything by train. Even to clients located far away from Rotterdam. So for over a year I commuted back and forth between Rotterdam and Culemborg to my client Fairtrade Original. As of 2018, NS is now also sort of carbon neutral! Of course I do occasionally sit in the car, but that can be counted on no more than 3 hands per year. And that involves family visits in particular.

Well, I calculated my 2018 CO2 emissions from 2017 because of course I was curious what my environmental impact is. Because well, of course, there is a big pink elephant in this whole story sitting nicely in my story waiting for something to be said about her (or him)….flies.

Ok, good news: I am well below the NL average, but very sustainable I am not yet. This is mainly due to flying. Oohhh shit! I knew that flying is not good, but I am so gék about exploring the world. So well, sustainable travel, is that actually possible?

By the way, would you like to calculate your own environmental impact? Go to the site of Linda van Zaailingen, she has very good blogs about sustainability and also about calculating your own environmental impact.

So how can you travel more sustainably?

For a long time I thought about this. What can I do about this? How can I reduce my impact in terms of flying and not completely deprive myself of what I get so much energy and power from? Because for me, traveling allows me to place things better and put things into perspective because I have seen what it can also be like in other countries. And that we have it very good here in Holland and Spain in general. I don’t want to travel much less, but I can travel differently. Choosing to live in Barcelona also makes me feel less need for long distant trips at the moment. Living there is already such a great adventure en sich! But besides that, these are things I will do more often from now on:

sustainable travel

1.Booking direct flights. In fact, takeoff and descent costs a lot of emissions. Most everything during a flight. This often means a higher ticket price, but that’s part of the deal and can be taken into account. This is not true for all destinations. If you want to go to Central America, it’s trickier.

2.Flying with an airline with a well-maintained fleet.

3. Staying in one place longer, so not short weekends away 6 times a year. But rather once or twice a year a little longer away. Especially for destinations for which you cannot find direct flights AND which are outside Europe, slow travel and staying away longer is a good option. Think about wintering for two months or taking a long trip. But now that I live in Barcelona, I feel that need less.

4. Compensate by supporting initiatives such as Plant a tree. I didn’t actually do this yet. Shame on me. As of now, it does!

5. Taking the train more often. In 2018, I went to Berlin by train for the first time, whereas before that I always went by plane. The train was a nice experience, much more relaxing because you don’t have check-in stress and much more peaceful because you don’t have to wait in an airport. Amersfoort station is something else anyway 😉 . Last May, I even went to Barcelona by train. One-way ticket cost? 110 euros. Wondering how to buy train tickets? Then read this blog.

6. In-country often opt for public transportation. I always did this anyway, like this train trip in Kenya, but now even more consciously.

Besides what I can do myself, there are also a lot of things that the government and industry itself can do: such as start taxing tickets. It is actually ridiculous that for sometimes as much as 25 euros (yes, I have a had once!) can fly back and forth to Budapest. While a train ticket to Berlin is €120. By the way, this can be done cheaper, you have to just book at least 3 months in advance 😉. But I’m more of the last minutes, so well…tricky.

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Sustainable travel by train

Sometimes spotty airfare prices create unfair competition with more sustainable travel options. It is SO hard then to resist the temptation not to book that one cheap ticket for city break. With the advent of low cost airlines that make it possible for a quick weekend trip to Porto or go to Rome, ensure that since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, the number of people with destinations within the EU grew by as much as 174 percent (to 48.3 million in 2017).

by train to barcelona

All in all,CO2 emissions increased 40 percent between 1997 and 2017. (source: Vrij Nederland)

Apart from not having to take a weekend trip within Europe 4 times a year, the government, I think, has an important job in this to enforce better regulation of airline ticket prices. A kind of disincentive policy. But what I think is a better solution is for train travel to become cheaper. Popular destinations such as: Berlin, London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Milan and Prague should just be reachable with a direct or at most 1x transfer. At an affordable price.

In which affordable is more important to me than travel time. I’m fine with 12 hours on the road, as I’m no longer going away for weekends, but for longer periods of time, provided it’s price-competitive with air travel. May be quite a bit more expensive. But when a one-way ticket by train is 250 euros and by plane is 75 euros then for me the ratio is really off. Óor make flying a lot more expensive, can also be done, but I think when airfare becomes a little more expensive and train ticket a little cheaper, we are already a lot better on our way. Are you considering taking the train sometime soon? Discover my experience traveling to Barcelona by train.

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Result of my sustainable traveler’s dilemma

What has this self-analysis brought me? First, that I feel empowered in my choice to eat vegan . I don’t contribute to animal suffering and it also ensures that it reduces my CO2 emissions a lot. In addition, I buy less stuff and when I do buy something it is often second hand and I like it too!

Traveling is something I want to keep doing. Although I am going to do this more consciously. Sustainable travel, in other words. Things like booking direct flights, instead of that cheap flight with three transfers is now a thing of the past. Taking weekend trips less often and opting for trains more often when a destination allows. And compensate for my flights. And maybe someday go on an overland bike ride 😊 although biking is not really my hobby. We will see!

Are you working on living more sustainably? And if so, how do you approach it? I am curious and would love to hear your experiences!