While we may not be free to travel to many places right now, there is hope that restrictions will ease in 2021, if we all do our bit to help contain the spread of Covid-19. While we’re waiting for the world to open up, let’s keep dreaming and planning.
This guest post is by Anna Timbrook from Expert World Travel. Here Anna shares her insider knowledge of sustainable travel in Switzerland.
Travel has changed in so many ways throughout the years, but tourism in Switzerland is leading the pack in sustainability. This small European country is ranked first on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The Swiss are extremely proud and protective of their environment and, as visitors to the country, tourists are also expected to extend the same courtesy, respect, and care.
Unfortunately, the influx of crowds to many of Switzerland’s popular destinations do take a toll on the environment despite the country’s best efforts. The good news is there are several ways that visitors can still enjoy the beauty of Switzerland without causing more harm to the delicate balance of nature.
If you’re gearing up for an amazing Alpine adventure, here are seven ways to travel sustainably in Switzerland:
Choose sustainable accommodations
While many businesses in Switzerland are conscious about their environmental footprint, some hotels go above and beyond their call of duty. Upscale Schweizerhof Lenzerheide in the Swiss canton of Graubünden is known for sustainability practices while maintaining high customer satisfaction rates. They are committed to using resources in an environmental-friendly manner and prefer local producers that produce less carbon footprint. Budget-friendly Swiss Youth Hostels also operate on the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. Measures are built into their operations to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases.
Related: What is Sustainable Travel?
Plan with Switzerland Mobility
The natural beauty of Switzerland presents many opportunities for gentle tourism. Hiking, biking, swimming or canoeing are some activities that make for a great vacation without building up the negative impact on the environment. There are many hiking trails around the country, many of which are perfect for the whole family. Grindelwald is a popular hiking destination for its easy paths and breathtaking scenery. But to get a complete idea of everything you can do in the country, check out Switzerland Mobility – a platform that maps out non-motorized activities and paths around the country. Not only does this get you close to nature, it also gives you many options to enjoy the country without increasing your carbon footprint.
Go slow with your products
There are many kinds of souvenirs you can get to remind you of the wonderful time you had in Switzerland. You’ll find all kinds of knick knacks to take home with you, but many of these are mass produced. Instead of going mass-market, visit local shops and farms that create their own products. Items sourced locally require less energy consumption and are involved in substantially smaller supply chains, again resulting in less carbon footprint. Aside from the sustainability side, you also get to find something unique and authentic to remind you of your travels. And the beauty of a mountain and farm-filled country like Switzerland is that you can buy local farmers produce everywhere. Often at their doorstep while on a drive or hike. Just look for the signs!
Clean as you go
It goes without saying that littering is unacceptable in any kind of travel. Unfortunately, tourists tend to leave their marks wherever they go with bits and pieces of trash along the way. The Swiss government has several programs in place to keep their surroundings clean. They even have volunteer mountain cleaners who go looking for garbage that visitors have left behind.
However, it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure that everything is left as it was before you arrived – clean and natural. While Switzerland is innovative when it comes to making tourist adventures safe and modern, many of these spots are still kept and preserved in their natural state. This means no trash cans, establishments, or cleaners – just as it should be. The simplest reminder is pick up your trash and keep it till you get back to the city. Have a trash bag handy if you’re going for a picnic, or simply don’t bring anything that will just end up as trash on the trails.
Take public transportation
In a country with the most efficient transportation system, taking public transportation in Switzerland is a no-brainer. It’s tempting to go on road trips through picturesque views, but the same can be experienced in the many iconic train rides like the Glacier Express. All of which can be easily organised via the local train website SBB.
There are also several car-free towns in Switzerland that promote slow travel and gentle tourism. For ski resorts like Davos, there are also fleet buses available that move visitors to the mountains to reduce the need for private cars coming in. For those within Europe going into Switzerland, train rides are also less harmful than plane rides. Frommer’s estimates that a train ride to Zurich from London via Paris saves 176 kilograms of CO2 emissions compared to a flight.
Bring a water bottle
Tap water in Switzerland is safe for drinking, no matter where you get it. This means stay away from bottled water or any other single-use plastic containers and carry your own water bottle with you. If you don’t like the extra weight in your bag, opt for the collapsible cups that can lay flat in your bag.
Since access to drinking water is extremely easy in Switzerland, you don’t need to lug around a 1-liter tumbler. Just go to the nearest tap or water fountain, fill your cup, and hydrate without the extra trash. Some towns and cities, like Zurich, even have maps of where you can fill up with free water at the local fountains
Switzerland has some of the world’s most advanced research centers in the world, and many of them are open to the public. There are several botanical gardens and greenhouses around the country, some of them even long the shores of the largest lakes. Most of these gardens have science centers that help educate children and even adult visitors about the exhibits. However, there are also areas in the country where whole towns are being preserved.
A great place to start is the Entlebuch Biosphere Reserve, located at the foot of the Alps in Central Switzerland. Locals of Entlebuch voted to establish a UNESCO biosphere in 2000 as a response to the increasing tourism activity in the region. Today, it’s a model region for sustainable living, responsible business, and nature protection. While tourism is still an important industry in the town, locals and tourists alike are expected to follow certain guidelines that promote the health and sustainability of the entire town.
Related: Top tips on booking a green holiday
Travelling to Switzerland during coronavirus
Considering we are still in the midst of a pandemic, travelling to Switzerland for leisure is not advised at the moment. When borders open and we’re allowed to explore the world once again, please check travel restrictions and quarantine rules with your relevant embassy in Switzerland and on the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov.html website. Stay safe!
About the author: Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on Expert World Travel. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.