TRAVEL

Staycation for the mind, soul and planet

October 21, 2020  

By Paola Migliorini
Deputy Head of Unit, Sustainable Production, Products & Consumption, DG Environment

IMAGE: DG Environment

We’ve had a tough year. A spring with a world in shock when a new reality hit us, changing our way of life profoundly. An autumn with re-emerged anxiety and uncertainty. A virus affecting us all, in one way or the other. Families, countries, businesses.

 

One of the sectors affected the most is tourism – one of Europe’s most important economic sectors. Did you know that it provides us with 27 million jobs and 10% of the EU’s GDP? The losses due to the Covid-19 crisis are dramatic. The European Commission has estimated that the sector will lose half of their income this year.

 

That is why in May this year, the Commission launched a guidance on how to safely resume travel and reboot Europe's tourism in 2020 and beyond. The EU will support Europe's tourism sector by ensuring liquidity via EU funding and saving jobs with financial relief from EU programmes.

 

Last, but not least, the recovery of the tourism sector will be a sustainable one. Because as the crisis has shown us, we need to take care of our planet, so it can take care of us too.

 

But even in these troubled times – and perhaps now more than ever – sometimes we need to take a break. While travelling far might be difficult at the moment, staying just where we are could give us the peace and serenity that we need. Taking a break to see the unexplored gems of our region, to curl up in a cosy hotel – or when spring arrives – stay at a scenic campsite to be close to nature.

 

 

IMAGE: DG Environment

Like that we can take care of our region while on our vacation, supporting local communities and businesses, and at the same time doing our planet a favour.  Because all too often, tourists tread a little too heavily. UN Environment programme tells us that tourists produce 4.8 million tonnes of waste every year1. Much of the plastic in our seas can be traced to regions with high levels of coastal tourism. Some popular destinations are vulnerable areas with high biodiversity and sensitive habitats2. And to cap it all, tourism accounts for almost 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions3.

 

So can we reconcile our love for travel with love for the planet? A first step to take is to choose a more sustainable option. Imagine a tourist accommodation could save nearly 300,000 kilowatts of electricity, 20,000 m3 of water and 200,000 kg of waste over 7 years. This is what happened when a campsite in France was awarded with the EU Ecolabel4, saving in addition nearly EUR 350,000. With the EU Ecolabel, it’s easy to find tourist accommodation which applies circular economy principles to save energy, waste and reduce plastics.

 

The circular approach also extends to saving water. And that's such a precious resource in many tourist resorts and on holiday islands. These forward-thinking accommodation providers have introduced small changes that make a big difference. Like installing more efficient taps, toilets and showers, recycling rainwater and reusing towels.

 

Countries and regions worldwide are now aiming for climate neutrality, a target Europe is determined to reach by 20505. Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are a priority for the EU Ecolabel.

 

 

IMAGE: DG Environment

To earn the label, a venue must be highly energy-efficient. EU Ecolabel accommodation saves up to 50% more energy by using more efficient light bulbs and appliances. 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.

 

Some even go further. One EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation has decreased its carbon footprint and its impact on the environment, by providing 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 personalized reusable water bottles. This is great news in a world where one million plastic bottles are still bought every minute6, and the average European gets through 80 plastic water bottles every year7.

 

So let’s look forward to our staycation, putting our mind at rest and our soul at peace. Because when we take care of our planet, it can take care of us.

 

 

 

 

To find EU Ecolabel tourist accommodations:

 

 

For general information about the EU Ecolabel:

 

 

For companies interested in applying for the EU Ecolabel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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