Are you ready to change?

September 27, 2017

By Emmanuelle Maire
Head of Unit, Sustainable Production, Products & Consumption, DG Environment, The European Commission


IMAGE: DG Environment

We all know the feeling. That bubbling anticipation, as a time of total relaxation stretches out before you. Your holidays! It might be a sunny beach, a mountain high or a busy city – we all need to get away now and then.


But as concern about the environment constantly grows, what does it mean to switch off? When we want to get away from it all, should we leave our good habits behind as well?


All too often, tourists tread a little too heavily. UN Environment tells us that they produce 4.8 million tonnes of waste every year . Much of the plastic in our seas can be traced to regions with high levels of coastal tourism. Plastics make up 85% of this marine litter , and if things don’t change fast, by 2050 there’ll be more plastics than fish in our oceans . Some popular destinations are vulnerable areas with high biodiversity and sensitive habitats . And to cap it all, tourism accounts for almost 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that figure will continue to rise as the world market for tourism (currently 1.3 billion people) continues to grow .


But who wants to stay at home? Why not find a better way of travelling instead? What if more than 1 billion people around the world suddenly decided to make a difference? Because we can choose. We can travel sustainably, we can travel off-season and we can reduce our impact on the local environment. We can also start by choosing eco-labelled tourist accommodation.





IMAGE: DG Environment

With the EU Ecolabel, it’s easy to find tourist accommodation that is energy-efficient, saves water and reduces waste. Hotels and campsites with the EU Ecolabel support the EU Plastics Strategy and global plastic initiatives, because the criteria for tourist accommodation prohibit the use of single-use plastic items like disposable toiletries, cutlery and single-dose packages for nonperishable food.


The label also encourages eco-designed packaging such as large volume, refillable soap and shampoo dispensers. That allows venues to reduce waste from single-use toiletries, gives guests better control of how much they need, and it reduces the frequency of staff replenishments.







IMAGE: DG Environment

But plastics are only the beginning. Countries and regions worldwide are now aiming for climate neutrality, a target Europe is determined to reach by 2050 . Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are a priority for the EU Ecolabel.


To earn the label, a venue must be highly energy-efficient. Energy-efficient water heaters, air conditioners and air-based heat pumps are regular features. The temperature in rooms and common areas is regulated through automatic switches, and green energy from renewables like wind, solar and biomass is preferred. And it doesn’t stop with energy efficiency – these venues also choose eco-friendly transport for procuring goods and prioritise local and seasonal food products. Many of them also offer green means of travel, like bikes and electric vehicles.


An example of carbon footprint reduction is a EU Ecolabel chain of hostels that provided employees with workwear made of recycled materials and plastic bottles. To fight plastic waste, they encourage guests to use drinking water from the taps in reusable water bottles. This is great news in a world where one million plastic bottles are still bought every minute , and the average European gets through 80 plastic water bottles every year .


Fighting plastic pollution and climate change with potentially 1 billion other tourists – now that could really turn tourism on its head. With EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation, I’m #readytochange.


Are you?








To find EU Ecolabel tourist accommodations:



For general information about the EU Ecolabel:



For companies interested in applying for the EU Ecolabel:






EU Ecolabel

Promoting Europe’s transition to a circular economy

Sustainable fashion and the EU Ecolabel

The transition from fast fashion to sustainable fashion

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