Top Ten Guide to Eco Friendly Travel in Cities

by Harriet Willis /
Harriet Willis's picture
Jan 14, 2013 / 0 comments

Travelling can sometimes be an easy way to add to your carbon footprint.  Whilst ‘on the road,’ especially in cities, it can be incredibly tempting to hop in a taxi, or drive round the corner.  Instead, you could consider doing a number of affordable and simple ways to be more green and do your bit for the environment, whilst still being able to travel freely and seeing everything you would like to.


10.  Walk, cycle, or sail.  Cities actually have plenty of footpaths and hidden routes, only accessible by foot.  Amsterdam is notoriously famous for its narrow roads, used merely for bicycles.  I discovered that it’s so much quicker to park your car and have a walk around.  So much more can be seen- who wants to sit in a stuffy car all day?


Discovering small streets whilst walking around Islington, London.

Discovering small streets whilst walking around Islington, London.


London and Amsterdam have places around each corner where you can rent a bicycle.  During your time in London, look for the blue bikes and remember: the first half hour is completely free.

Just about every major city that I have explored, there has been a river offering boat trips.  Personally, this is my favourite because it is environmentally friendly and you can sit back and relax while discovering parts of the city you are travelling in.


Enjoy a river trip, Amsterdam

Enjoy a river trip.


9.  Chances are that you shall be staying in a hotel on your trip.  The amount of unnecessary washing that is produced in hotels across the globe is phenomenal.  Signs and posters have been located around plenty of hotels encouraging people to only leave out towels that are actually in need of a wash, as apposed to ones that “don’t feel fluffy enough” or “need a quick wash before it’s used.”  The usual story really.


8.  Throughout the globe there are now ‘recycled’ museums/attractions that you can visit, usually for free or a small donation.  Recently, I visited one in Amsterdam located next to the “Eye Film Museum” in the Overhoeks neighbourhood, which was of a very high standard. 


7.  Speaking of museums, whenever I used to wander around one, my bags increased in weight by a considerable amount after I’d picked up all the paper leaflets, guides and maps, summarizing what each section was about.

Gradually, every time I visited a museum I decided to cut down on the amount of paper I was taking (which would just end up in a bin later on) and simply take a photo of and information I needed or wanted to remember especially.  Sometimes if the museum doesn’t allow photography, I easily write it down in a note pad, which saves on paper as it is only necessary to note down the parts you need. 

I also take photographs of underground maps because when you are in a rush between trains I find it so much easier to press a few buttons on a camera as opposed to fiddling around with flimsy pieces of paper.


French Metro map, courtesy of flickr creative commons:

French Metro map, courtesy of flickr creative commons:


6.  Particularly in Paris or London, shopping will most likely be on the agenda.  So, instead of carrying around handfuls of plastic bags, invest in a good quality backpack that holds around 20 litres.  In my opinion, Jansport ones are possibly one of the best since they last for years and are fairly fashionable.


5.  It’s fundamental - pack light!  Most trips begin with the aim to travel lightly, and end up possibly achieving the opposite.  When you don’t take as much with you and you are travelling by plane, the less the plane shall weigh.  This means that less carbon emission shall be given off into the environment.

One of the best ways to pack sensibly is to carry fewer books.  I find that downloading them onto an e-reader or an Apple device can be much less hassle.  If you have neither of these, I recommend you stop off at a small café where you can pick up a couple of second hand books for under £1.  I admit, these are a little tricky to find, so do some research before your trip.


4. Indulge in the local cuisine.  You’re maybe in a completely new culture, so why not try some of the local cuisine?  French cities have great markets where you can try and buy a delicious range of fresh and local olives, cheeses and breads.  Combined, these are all a gorgeous lunch that can either be eaten in a picnic area or whilst walking around the city.  By doing this, you are avoiding all of the miles the food will have had to travel. 


French markets are great places for lunches

French markets are great places for lunches


3.  Turn off all unnecessary power at home.  Once you’ve gone there’s no point in putting your computer on ‘standby.’  Turn it off at the wall and unplug to avoid damaging the environment and also a high electricity bill.


2.  Lower the temperature.  In most cases, the hotel you are staying in shall only be used at night time so during the day it is unnecessary to have your room at a high temperature throughout the day.  Why not turn it down one or two degrees?  Every bit helps!


1.  ‘There’s an app for that.’  Just like the Apple slogan, there’s probably going to be an app as an alternative for that paper leaflet/map you’ve just picked up.  Recently, when I visited London I found it useful to whip out my iPod and take a look at the tube map app that I downloaded for free, called “Tube Map.”  Also, there is an Android alternative called “London Underground Free.”  This avoids taking one from the tube station and then throwing it away after a few hours.

As well as this, there are always hundreds of people crowding around the big tube maps, or a big queue to get the maps.  By downloading the app you can skip the queues and be quicker to get to your destination!


There are so many ways to cut down on your carbon footprint.  I think that it’s important to ‘do your bit’ for the planet, even it’s something small.





Harriet Willis is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


Photos courtesy and copyright Harriet Willis, except where noted.