We get asked the question all the time. How can we eco travel to Switzerland?
It’s no secret that traveling, while hugely important for our youth of today in terms of broadening their experiential awareness of other cultures, it is also immensely resource intensive. The amount of plastic consumed from a single travel is mind boggling. While doing research for this article, I had an airline professional write me that nearly all of the utensils and plastics that the airlines use for a flight are generally thrown out after the flight, regardless of whether they are used or not.
With recent requests from some of our readers, we decided to put together some of our favourite ideas about how to travel in the most eco friendly manner possible to Verbier, Switzerland or any where else.
Eco friendly travel tips.
If you have the time, taking a bus or train, or even sharing a ride is more eco friendly. The trains in Europe are wonderfully convenient, comfortable and a great way to see the different areas that you may travel through.
If you are concerned about your carbon footprint while flying from your destination, you can use carbon offsetting programs like this one. There are calculators that can determine your carbon footprint while flying, so that you can actually calculate the emissions used during your flight, and you can purchase credits to help offset that use. The proceeds from My Climate (Swiss based, yay!) go towards climate protection and carbon saving projects around the world. This helps offset the energy that you use to travel to Les Elfes camp, or in general so that you can travel knowing your did your part to help offset the energy consumed for your travel.
If you must fly, due to time constraints, try and book non stop flights as the landings and take-offs take the most fuel. If you can fly direct, the flying direct is the least damaging.
While flying, consider doing the following as the plastics involved while traveling are horrendous. Make sure you have an empty water bottle in your pack. Why? So you can make it through security at the gate, but you can fill up your water bottle inside the airport and not have to buy plastic water bottles. Or ask for your own water while you are flying, because then the stewardess will give you a single use plastic glass. If your flight is long, like you are coming from North/South America or Asia, you may go through many of these single use plastic cups. Keep in mind that each of these cups will take at least 100 years to decompose. At least. If you compound these on top of each other, that’s hundreds of years to decompose the plastics you consumed on a single flight.
In terms of plastic consumption, there used to be the three R’s, now there have actually been added three more.
Refuse, reduce, reuse/repair, recycle, replace/rebuy, reinvent/rethink.
These are actually all in order of importance as well, which is why refuse is listed as the most important. If you simply refuse the plastic item, it won’t be consumed by you. And one less piece of plastic consumed is actually a lot more than you think. Especially when you consider that each piece of plastic has a 70% chance of ending up in the ocean, even if you’re located in the middle of the European continent.
Reduce then goes without saying. If you must have a piece of plastic in your life, at least limit the amount of those items, and then reuse them as much as you can. That’s why later in this article we will be recommending some items that you can bring with you while you travel that will greatly cut down on your plastic use and consumption while you travel.
Recycling then goes without saying and I can tell you that Switzerland, where we live and operate our environmentally conscious International Spring/Summer/Winter camp for children and teens tries to recycle everything that we can. It helps that the municipality supports recycling and is making great efforts to improve this on a yearly basis.
The last two R’s are similar in concept, but basically Reuse or buy second hand when you can (it’s also a lot cheaper too), and repurpose items that you can’t recycle. If you can buy something on eBay then you should do it because you’re reusing or repurposing something that would be otherwise thrown out.
Bring wooden utensils while you travel. These are good ones from Amazon because they won’t set off metal detectors at the airport, and you won’t have to accept plastic utensils while traveling at the airport.
This kit has most of everything you need, and costs less than €20. You can consider bringing your own small cup as well. Just bring an eco travel friendly travel mug from home, that should be fine.
Something like this should work well.
Any destination you go to should also be considered. Ask the hotel, or resort you are traveling to if they have recycling programs, what eco friendly incentives they have going on, if they have any certifications verifying, or if they’re part of any organisations that support local initiatives or NGOs.
While at camp
The same is true about the food and the activities that thecamp (hotel or resort for that matter) does while you are staying. Is the food locally sourced? (At Les Elfes, nearly all food is local or Swiss). If not, do they make an active effort to source local ingredients? Are the activities that they recommend environmentally friendly? Do they disrupt the local flora and fauna (for example, going on an ATV tour through environmentally sensitive sand dunes would be a definite eco no-no).
Some things you can do while you leave your hotel, resort or camp room are; hang towels out to dry, turn off all the lights, close curtains especially in the summer to keep the room cool, and don’t use the hotel laundry services. The laundry services for hotels are notoriously wasteful. They don’t wash items together (so that your things won’t get mixed into other people’s items), and they wash towels every day, even if you’ve only used them to dry your hands once. You wouldn’t do this at home, so be sensible and request that the towels and room don’t be touched when you leave for the day. Usually, you can just take the do not disturb card from the hotel and just hang it on your door knob for the entire time that you stay at your hotel. This will save all of the work and cleansing resources used to needlessly clean your room on a daily basis.
When you must buy souvenirs to commemorate your trip, consider those that are handmade, and preferably that don’t have packaging. That goes for the food items as well. For example, buy fresh food like bread from the local bakery or meat from the butcher rather than processed items. That goes without saying, and you should do that at home as well. Buying new, means that the item is wrapped in plastic, and likely imported from away and has a much larger carbon footprint than a locally made and sourced item.
Respect the culture that you’re visiting. While this may seem obvious, you should hire local guides when touring the mountains, because not only do they likely know the area better you are also supporting the community that you are visiting.
Learn the local language!
Learning the local language before you come, and while you are staying is a great sign of respect for that culture. Even if you can’t become fluent before you arrive, the local communities will appreciate the added effort of trying to learn the local language. Our camp for example offers intensive language learning as part of the Spring, Summer and Winter programs. A huge benefit of sending your child to a camp like Les Elfes, Verbier is that not only will we be adhering to an eco friendly experience, your child will also be learning about the local Swiss cultures and learning and improving upon your French. You should at least know some of the more basic words like – Please, may I have, Thank you, You’re welcome. The more you know before you come, the easier it will be to retain and actually use the language during your stay.
These are a few of our best recommendations, but if you have any other questions, ideas or suggestions, we would definitely love to hear them.