How Sustainable Were My Travels in 2023?

I consider myself an environmentally conscious person – I recycle, don’t buy fast fashion and limit food waste. Yet when it comes to travelling, my desire to explore destinations can sometimes override my eco-sensibilities.

I tell myself that supporting local cultures and economies balances out the plane ride emissions and gallons of fuel burned getting there. But does it really? Here is my annual analysis of how “green” my wanderlust actually is.

Birthday In Paris

Taking the Eurostar train to Paris from London was a good sustainable choice. And staying at a small, non-chain hotel in a local neighborhood rather than a big brand chain aligned with my green travel goals. In addition to that, I only walked and used the metro and ate at small/local places while exploring various museums. Pas Mal!
Overall Sustainability: 4/5

Long Weekend In New York City

Opting to fly to New York definitely canceled out some of my eco-friendly travel credits. But I did stay in someone’s apartment … so that allowed me to avoid chain hotels. I used public transport and walked a lot to the museums and other attractions, but the overall emissions from this air-mile-heavy trip were still pretty significant.
Overall Sustainability: 1/5

Weekend In Dublin

Despite the carbon footprint of my flight to Dublin, I got around mostly on foot to explore the city’s landmarks, museums, and parks. And I made it a priority to eat at small restaurants serving local cuisine and local produce. However, the flight alone means this trip didn’t end up as sustainable as it could have been if I had taken the train and boat from London.
Overall Sustainability: 2/5

Cabin In The Meadow

Staying at an Unplugged cabin, where I voluntarily locked away my devices, gave me a chance to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. While it had electricity and running water, I stepped back from constant stimuli and embraced simple pleasures for a few days. No screens or internet allowed me to focus on walks around the area, gazing at the stars, and generally slowing down. I travelled there by train, cooked my own meals, and explored the area on foot. The trip left me feeling grounded, present, and more attuned to the offline world.
Overall Sustainability: 5/5

Japan Roundtrip

Returning to Japan has been on my bucket list for a while and I finally made the trip this year. I was able to take trains around between cities once I arrived. And I stayed in a mix of local chains and traditional hotels and ate at local places. However, the flight over with two stops generated a huge carbon footprint and I did give my money to Disney when visiting both the Disney parks. So while parts of this trip were eco-friendly, I have to admit the plane rides overshadowed that.
Overall Sustainability: 1/5

Stopover In Copenhagen

On returning from Japan, I stopped for a day to visit Denmark. I stayed at a small hotel and explored the city by foot and public transport. But again, the transcontinental flights cancel out much of my efforts here.
Overall Sustainability: 2/5

Road Trip To Bosnia

To wrap up my year of travels, I took a road trip to visit my family in Bosnia. Not flying was an obvious plus. Additionally, we opted for smaller non-chain hotels along the way to support local businesses and we mainly ate at family-run restaurants – which honestly are most places in my area.
Overall Sustainability: 3/5

After trying to be more sustainable with my travel choices for the past few years, I felt like I took a step backwards when it came to green travel in 2023. While parts of certain trips were eco-conscious, long flights for overseas destinations were my biggest failure.

My goals for next year are to stay closer to home for trips when possible and consider more train transport. Although I have to make the most of train travel to NL as Eurostar will not be going to Amsterdam directly for six months from June 2024.

I also have a transatlantic trip planned for a wedding at the end of the year, but I’m going to combine it with a longer round trip to sort of justify it.

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