The Swedish have introduced us to some great things: ABBA, Meatballs and the Billy bookcase. Last year it was ”Flygskam” (flight shame) that spread across the globe, and now it’s the 2020 buzzword “Tagskryt” (train bragging) which has just started to hit off.
Travelling by train is my favourite mode of transport – I took my first long distance train trip when I was 12 and have since done more rail journeys that I can count throughout Europe. I’ll keep some of my favourite train bragging stories for another time and focus on why you should consider taking the train.
GREEN WAY TO TRAVEL
Depending on the type of train and length of the journey, it’s one of the greenest ways to travel. We’re very lucky that trains in Europe have started using renewable energy: Dutch trains are powered by wind energy, some trains in Belgium run on solar power and German long distance trains are using green renewable energy.
One of my favourite things is that most stations are located in the city centre, so when you reach your destination you’re pretty much where you need to be, and there are no extra costs, time or stress for airport transfers.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Thanks to Europe’s wide-reaching rail network you can go off the beaten path and take the train to smaller and lesser known destinations.
THE EVER CHANGING SCENERY
For me it’s not just getting from A to B. No, it’s the journey and the ever-changing scenery that are a treat and give you a better insight in everyday life. But if we are talking about the destination, then thinking about how the train station is going to look like is something I can always look forward to: Antwerpen-Centraal Station in Belgium to St. Pancras Train Station in England and Trier in Germany are some of my favourites.
You can take more luggage with you! I usually travel with my small backpack, but I love to bring things back. Think wine, cheese and – my personal favourite: jars of peanut butter. Also…you are not giving your luggage away so there is almost no chance of losing it.
TRAIN ROUTES & DESTINATIONS
I feel like most people think they’re only limited to taking the train from London to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, but there are so many more destinations to consider. Some routes that I have been looking into are:
I was very excited to read that there is going to be a night train between Brussels and Vienna/Innsbruck from January 2020, which makes taking the train to East Europe so much more attractive. How about the below trip for Summer 2020? I’m thinking:
LONDON = BRUSSELS = VIENNA = LJUBLJANA = ZAGREB = BELGRADE = BUDAPEST = VIENNA = BRUSSELS = LONDON
Soak up some sun in the south of France, make one of the bigger towns your base and visit the smaller villages from there on. Throw in a French baguette and cheese for lunch, and I am sold.
LONDON = PARIS = AVIGNON = MONTPELLIER = PARIS = LONDON
The train in Switzerland must have the most gorgeous views in Europe! I’ve been wanting to see more of Switzerland for forever and the below itinerary has a high priority.
LONDON = PARIS = LYON = GENEVE = BERN = BASEL = ZURICH = INNSBRUCK = BRUSSELS = LONDON
The Mosel wine region is a destination that I really want to re-visit and – and try out all the Riesling. The best thing? It’s doable by train – even to some the wine tasting spots in the smaller towns
I’ve already written about my successes and failures with trying to be more green, eco and sustainable during my travels. Look, I know I won’t save the world by bringing my reusable cup, but the more people do it the sooner it becomes the norm. Thank God sustainable tourism is now one of the fastest-growing travel industry trends, and with more and more companies starting to realise that here are some of their 2020 resolutions. Keeping in mind that some things can be considered greenwashing, or just marketing spin, here’s my honest take on what they are promising!
EasyJet have just announced that they are going to offset the carbon emissions for all the fuel used for all their flights. They claim that the cost of flights won’t be impacted by ‘their’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but this is marketing after all, so I’m pretty sure the costs will be included some way or another. Though they are the first major airline to do this, a lot of operators have already been offering to offset carbon emissions on behalf of tourists for some time, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to the have impact some people might believe. What will have more impact and is way more meaningful, is their partnership with Airbus to develop hybrid/electric planes – how surreal is the idea of emission-free flying in our lifetime? I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Another thing I can get behind is their aim to reduce single use plastic with discounts for customers who bring their own reusable cup (here’s hoping alcohol’s included!). Considering they wouldn’t take my KeepCup on my last journey, this is VERY WELCOME!
Choosing to take the train is already a win in terms of direct emissions, but when you know that Eurostar is pledging to plant a tree for every journey from January 2020, and will run its first ever plastic-free service from London to Paris at the start of the year, it’s a no brainer. I also like the idea that they’re going to donate blankets from their sleeper ski trains to the Red Cross in France, and to animal sanctuaries in London and Kent in the UK. Teruffic!
On local level, the public transport system in Luxembourg is set to become free for all from March 2020! This great idea is aimed at encouraging car users onto public transport, and through greater investment they’re also improving the quality and level of service, which is great for the people who work there, but it also means it will be more convenient for visitors to consider as a new long weekend destination. On top of this, the free service will hopefully get people exploring the country in the best way for the environment. I know I will.
I’m curious to see what certain destinations, like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan, are going to do about the ever-growing threat of ‘over tourism’. Netherlands’ idea has been to ditch Holland as their main advertising focus abroad, with a new angle targetting the whole country. A good example of this is when NL won the Eurovision in 2019, Amsterdam didn’t even put itself forward to host the next event. All this will hopefully open up the promotion of destinations across the country and possibly encourage new eco developments to boot.
So keep your eyes peeled for more travel eco-announcements and let’s hope they’re not all just talking the talk.
Soooo much buzz is happening around greener, more sustainable and eco friendlier travel this year. I could write another generic green travel tips post, but since there are over 1.7 million of those on Google and barely anyone talking about how they struggle to do any of them right I thought I’d share some insights on how I’ve handled it this year…spoiler alert: I failed, like a lot.
PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATIONS
Everyone preaches to choose alternative destinations over places that are suffering from overtourism and focus on places that prioritise sustainability. I didn’t. This year I went to Amsterdam and Barcelona among other destinations … two cities that are victims to over tourism. Me visiting my friends in Amsterdam, did not have the same effect as me visiting going to Barcelona for a quick city trip.
One of THE tips to decrease your carbon footprint is to avoid the plain and travel by train or even bus. I did a train trip from London to the Basque Country and I take the train within the UK. But the rest of my international trips this year were all flights because that was the easier choice. And I only set off my carbon emission for one of them, I can try to make it up a bit and mention that least they were all direct flights so that’s my footprint slightly reduced (ahem). At the destinations themselves I kept it to local transport to get around and didn’t use any cheeky Uber rides.
THINK ABOUT ACCOMMODATION
Booking eco-conscious accommodations hasn’t been a high priority. Sure, I stayed at a self-sufficient green camping site on Ameland, with friends or family in others’ places and hotels in New York and Bilbao. But I failed when it comes to Airbnb and booked a place in Barcelona that was solely there for tourists and therefore adding on to the making housing unaffordable issue for locals. My only excuse is that it’s more convenient when going with a group.
PLASTIC AND BYO
Refillable water bottle. Check! KeepCup? Check? Shopping bags? Check. Since it’s something I do at home it was a bit easier to do than some of the other things.
When I wrote my last post about greener travel fails I complained how I had to buy water bottles in Georgia because it was too hot, after that I bought an isolation bottle – the Dopper is my go to – and it works perfect. Thank God a lot of destinations now offer water fountains to refill your bottle. For one flight to Lanzarote I did buy a bottle, because I wasn’t sure I would have enough for the 4-hour flight. Also, on Lanzarote they recommended not to drink the tap water, so we bought a 5 litre bottle and used that to refill our own.
My KeepCup is everything! And I thought they were a thing all over the world as they are designed as per coffee shop sizes, but turns out in America they don’t do 8 OZ everywhere and I had to give in at a place because their small is European medium, so the barista didn’t know the measurements. I’m used to geting discount when bringing my own cup but that wasn’t a thing in New York either.
In Lanzarote and New York I got plastic bags, sometimes because my totebag wasn’t enough and sometimes because they pack it up your goods before you realise it. Some of those bags I’ve reused during my stay and some of them I’ve brought back to recycle.
I’m reading how everyone should find restaurants that use local ingredients and avoid foods that have to be flown or shipped in, but I found it more shocking how getting a plastic free lunch on the go is hard as everything is wrapped! The best chance is to sit down at a restaurant or go to a food market and hope they will put it in the lunch box that you brought.
I didn’t know people cut back on the weight they might be adding to the car or plane and only pack the essential items. True, my packing was kept to a minimal and I even kept it to hand luggage only for my 6-day trip to New York. But if I’m being honest, this was not necessarily for green reasons. No way am I paying that rip-off fee to check in a suitcase, I’m Dutch after all, so I rather re-wear.
While we are on the clothes topic I also read a report from Bernardos saying that Brits were expected to purchase over 50 million (million!) outfits that will only be worn once, just over the Summer! I’m the opposite and tend to pack my standard holiday abroad items for almost all of my trips.
I haven’t found a low waste toothpaste that has fluoride, I also don’t have a bamboo brush anymore because it just doesn’t work for me. I have found recyclable brushes for my electric toothbrush. They are on my list to buy for when I have gone through the plastic ones I bought in bulk. I use solid shampoo and soap bars, so that’s a little win. Though the shampoo bars have been a hit and miss so far, they usually work in the beginning but the dry my hair out so I go back and forth between that and bottles.
I only seem to do the things that will save me money or things I already do when I’m home. But when it comes to travel I don’t know yet if I’m a green, eco or sustainable traveller and that might be the main issue for me. For 2020 I’m going to read beyond the usual travel tips and educate myself on how what I do affects the local environment, the economy amd the people, and based on that make my ways and tips more practical. And who knows I might become the leave-nothing-but-footprints and take-nothing-but-pictures kind of person.
Sharing My Ethical Struggles with Anyone Who’ll Listen | Top: Ethically Made Jeans: Second-hand Sandals: Greenish
You’ve seen the ethical/sustainable fashion documentaries, you’ve read the facts and finally decided you’re done with fast fashion, but there’s still a few questions on your mind. I know, because I’ve been there, so here’s my quick guide to delving into the world of slow, ethical and sustainable fashion.
Sustainable? Ethical? Fair trade? I don’t know where to start…
You have to prioritise what you stand for. Do you want the clothes to be made under fair working conditions, from sustainable materials or all vegan? All three is possible too, no judging here. You set your borders dependable on where you are in life and what you can accomplish.
It’s a time-consuming, not convenient or shops don’t offer next day delivery.
Every change takes time, you’ll try, fail and learn but it’s really not as hard as you think. Even ASOS has green brands on their site – you just need to know which ones they are. To start with there’s Faithfull for boho style dresses and skirts, Matt & Nat for bags and even Monki jeans use 100% organic cotton so if that’s one of your priorities there you go. Zalando is one step ahead and has actually tagged their sustainable clothes. But you’ll need to do some research as they’ve tagged 100% ethical brands like ArmedAngels, Underprotection and Patagonia and slightly less green brands like Mango and GAP who are on there because they’ve done some kind of greenwashing (little ethical steps mainly used for marketing purposes).
I want to, but it’s too expensive.
Maybe it was a few years ago, but these days there are enough affordable brands out there. It’s not supposed to be super cheap, fast fashion has warped our values. With ethical and fast fashion you have to keep in mind that you’re paying for workers’ wages and for resources to be sustainable.
The Fine Art Of Slow Fashion | Jacket: Really Old Dress: Pre-loved & Altered Shoes: No excuse
Do I need to throw out my wardrobe?
Of course not, it’s about making things last. I’m wearing out my basics and replacing them with ethical versions as I go. And yes, some of the new items may cost a bit more but I’m hoping they’ll last longer. I also prioritise choosing for UK brands as I think it’s important that items don’t come from far away. I love what Everlane in the US is doing and have ordered from them, but now I stick to UK and Europe-based brands first.
What brands are the best?
Here’s my experience with some of the UK’s affordable sustainable and ethical brands:
People Tree – sustainable fashion brand you’ll see top every list as they are pioneers and offer everything from shirts to dresses and basic tops.
Lara Intimates – comparable to cheap ASOS lingerie, £20 for panties and £48 for a bra can be a bit more pricey, but if you keep in mind that it’s all produced in London using deadstock (leftover) fabric in an all female factory you can justify it. Go Lara!
Thought– my go-to place for the softest basics. From socks to tights and tops all made from cotton, bamboo, and hemp.
Green on Green Action | Top: Ethically made Skirt: Vintage Shoes: Really old.
What about on trend items?
While you can purchase the latest trends with sustainable and ethical brands, this might hurt your bank balance as each season adds up. Why not opt for second hand, vintage or preloved? You could argue this is the best option in terms of waste, as the items are already in circulation. High street charity shops are your best bet for this option and thanks to Marie Kondo they should be full to bursting at the moment. Or if you prefer online, try DePop, eBay and Etsy. At the time of writing there are over 8000 results on eBay for slip dresses, all between £0.99 and £12. Also, most of them look like they’re original 90s garments, making them more unique and less likely for you to turn up at party with the same dress as your bestie. I do have some issues with second hand shops – but I’ll save that for another post.
It’s not making a difference
Don’t you dare! According to a recent study by Thredup, 56 million women bought second-hand products in 2018 compared to 44 million in 2017. That’s an increase of 12 million new second-hand shoppers! Now this is US data but we’re all copy the US, so I’m sure it’s the same (Western) world round.
A few months ago my Twitter and Instagram exploded as everyone who saw Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets started questioning the clothing hanging in their closet or even clothes they wanted to buy. Though a few bits of the documentary are questionable (if BBC is looking for a fact checker: hiiii) I am happy it has opened some eyes and led to new conversations.
I do feel guilty about being so easy with booking a flight, buying a chilled plastic bottle of water or just being a basic white girl in certain countries so at home I try to compensate as much as possible and one of those ways is by buying clothes that are ideally produced in ethical environments and as sustainable as possible. Now I am probably in the top 10 least fashionable people and I’ve never seen myself as a shopaholic, but I do love beautifully crafted garments and I want to make ethical choices so I’ve started educating myself on this topic as much as possible and minimalised fast fashion buys. I think I’ve done a good job as only 5/19 clothing items I bought this year are not from ethically produced/sustainable brands or not second hand/vintage (pat on the shoulder)
Fast Fashion Documentaries To Watch
You’ve seen Fashion’s Dirty Secrets and then you probably saw The True Cost on Netflix. But what’s next? If one of your 2019 resolutions is buying less or going for the green road then I can highly recommend the below documentaries.
Full Episode Fashion Documentary – Sweatshop
It was after seeing this Norwegian documentary that I decided to try to buy my clothes as ethically and sustainably produced as possible. This film shows the lives of sweatshop workers in Cambodia through the eyes of three Norwegians students and whose perspective is forever altered after a few days of living, working, and speaking with fellow human beings who spend most of their lives working long hours up to 7 days a week for only a few pounds a day in sweatshops.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
On Netflix, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj has devoted an episode to fast fashion and how our desire to look good is taking an environmental toll, as well as how brands are greenwashing us with labels like H&M Conscious and Zara Join Life. It goes through a lot of stats in 30 minutes, but all in form of jokes and infographics, so more likely to hit our brains quicker and stay there
Marketplace: How donated clothes are sorted and reused
What happens to clothes which charity shops can’t sell? Or to the clothes you donate? It’s a common misconception that old clothes donated are sent to developing countries as good will. No, instead they get sold to those countries, where they end up on the markets or landfill … because they are low quality and hard to sell. This insightful documentary guides you through what happens to donated clothes that Canada sells to Kenya.
The Price of Free
In-between all the Christmas movies I watched The Price Of Free and cried my eyes out as it’s just heartbreaking to see how cruel the world is if you are born on the wrong continent. The documentary follows Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s journey to liberate every child slave in factories. Though this is not only limited to fashion factories it’s a must watch.
And to close off with one with a bit different tone. This 13-minute documentary gives a much-needed look into what happens when people in the West throw their clothes away and the Indian recyclers turn the huge bales of clothes into yarns. The garment recyclers don’t understand where so many, practically unworn clothes come from? Is it water shortage in the West? Or is it because we don’t like washing our clothes?
Is this a topic you’re passionate about? Do you have any favourite documentaries on the subject?
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