It’s not a science-fiction plot anymore; the climate crisis has actually arrived at our doorstep. Good news is, if we act all together we can significantly reverse some of the adverse effects of climate change. You must have heard a lot about the importance of reducing carbon emission caused by transportation. By now, you may have already adapted some eco-conscious practises at home like watching your energy consumption or recycling. But how can you save our planet if you still get itchy feet to see different parts of the world?
Here, we have gathered you a number of simple tips that help you travel more sustainably in Greece. Go green and enjoy your next vacation!
Plan your vacation smartly
Considering a couple of environment-related factors before booking your accommodation could be an important first step when traveling. Even if you stay in a regular hotel, avoid all-inclusive holiday offers. These type of packages are closely linked to the increase of our ecological footprint size. Think about all the carbon emission caused by transportation! Having all that vast selection of exotic non-seasonal food items at the table must be pleasing to the eye, but we can really do without them. They account for an extreme amount of food waste which poses a huge burden for the environment.
Find alternatives to driving
Instead of renting a car, why don’t you explore the city on foot or on a bike? Not only will it make sightseeing more fun for families with children, it is also a great form of exercise! Electric scooters are also available to rent in virtually every part of Athens and in other bigger cities in Greece as well. While bicycles may not be the most recommended means of transportation on the busy roads in downtown, riding a bike on the pedestrian streets around Plaka and the Acropolis is perfectly safe. Athens has a fairly good public transport system therefore you will easily find your way around the city. Bear it in mind that an urban bus emits far less carbon dioxide equivalent (82g/km) compared to an average car or taxi (180-210g/km). Obviously, if you want to reach farther destinations like the Meteora, for instance, you inevitably have to take a car. In this case, the best you can do is to share the ride with others.
Always have a reusable shopping bag with you
Walking along the vibrant streets of Monastiraki, it is hard to resist not to buy any cute souvenirs from the myriad of local vendors. By the time you get back to your room, you have likely ended up with several bags as well as gift items wrapped in plastic. However, you should be aware of the fact that it can take up to 1,000 years for plastic bags to decompose. Even if they do break down eventually, they will turn into microplastics. These tiny particles further pollute the soil and our environment due to their toxic-absorbing properties. Nowadays, there is a vast selection of companies producing eco-friendly reusable bags. You can find them in simple convenient stores as well. They come in all colours and patterns, you just have to choose which one matches your daily mood. Carrying a home-made bag with a picture of sunny Santorini on it will also brighten up your day even after your vacations have long ended.
Carry your own water-bottle
If we take that an average person should drink minimum 2 litres of water on a hot summer day that’s at least 4 small bottles of mineral water a day. Imagine how much plastic you can save just by carrying your own bottle with you! Doesn’t it make you feel awesome knowing that with such a small act you can make a big impact on our planet? You can do a re-fill anywhere. Greek restaurants don’t make a fuss if you ask to visit the bathroom even if you are not a customer. You can also find many places that offer filtered water nowadays; with no charge. Tap water is perfectly safe in the capital and in other big cities. On the other hand, if you are visiting the islands or smaller towns it’s is better to ask about the water quality.
Unfortunately, this rule should apply to some locals as well. You may notice that in some parts of the city residents tend to take less care of the cleanliness of the streets. You can still make an example and others, hopefully, will follow your effort! If you stay in an Airbnb, you can also collect the rubbish selectively. You have to dispose paper and plastic in the blue waste container. When you visit the beach bring an extra in which you can collect all the rubbish. If you want to enjoy the natural beauty of the magnificent Greek beaches also during your next vacation, you have to take actions today! For expats who live in Greece, attending organised clean up days could be a good way to socialize and make new friends! You can gather with like-minded eco-conscious people and clean the beaches together.
Be environmentally savvy even indoors
Reducing your shower time, switching off the lights, and unplugging all the electronic equipment upon leaving your room come as a no-brainer by now. Depending on your accommodation, there are also other less obvious acts you can do. You can either take your own shower gel or ask to have your soap dispenser re-filled in order to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste. The aim is reducing the amount of bottled amenity use which also contributes to the nearly 300,000 tonne of waste hotels produce annually. Hang your towel on the racks after shower so the cleaning staff will understand you don’t request a replacement. The hotel can save a lot on water and on energy if the laundry load is reduced.
Support the local economy
Forget McDonald’s and other convenient fast food chains! Once you are in Greece, you must try the authentic dishes! Pick locally owned restaurants. Buy products from local vendors. You will always find some treasures that don’t exist in your home country. What’s the point of traveling to a foreign place anyway if you miss out on these unique opportunities? It is only a small change for you, but as a tourist you can indeed do a lot for the visited country’s economy. Supporting the local business over the familiar multinational companies will result in increased revenue for the country, income for the locals, job growth, improved infrastructure and so on. Schedule a fun morning trip to the Laiki agora (farmer’s market) and fill up your basket with seasonal delights: large black olives from Kalamata, sundried tomatoes, golden bottles of olive oil, juicy fruits and fresh veggies in all colours of the rainbow, and the list goes on. You feel like cooking? See our post on the easiest vegan Mediterranean recipes, you can prepare in 30 minutes!
Stay away from tourist attractions which involve the use of animals
The zoo and the circus are undoubtedly on the top of the list of popular entertainment program among families with small children. It may seem as a harmless fun for many, but consider all the sufferings these wild creatures have to endure on a daily basis. Remember when you were cheering Willy the killer whale to escape from the water park where he was ruthlessly exploited! There are millions off the movie screen just like him that are kept hostage miles away from their natural habitat. Apart from sea creatures, horses and other domestic animals should be also protected. Horse riding may seem like an innocent activity but the way owners treat their herd is often unethical. Wearing uncomfortable metal shoes, having kicked on the ribs to change their pace, and being forced to perform under all circumstances are not things any animal would enjoy. On the islands like Santorini, hundreds of donkeys are abused and forced to carry tourists and heavy loads against their wills. They have to work under the scorching Mediterranean sun and are even denied to drink water during the day. Supporting these cruel practises when you are in Greece will just further keep up the demand for them!
Cut down on paper
The paper industry significantly contributes to the worsening of the greenhouse effect. Paper production is largely responsible for deforestation, requires massive amount of energy and water, and also pollutes the air. Disposed paper takes up nearly 30% of our landfills’ capacity. You can fight against all that just by making simple actions! You can start taking small but impactful steps even before your arrival. How about not printing your boarding pass but using the electronic version on your phone? At the end of your stay, you can return the brochures and the city maps to the reception desk. The hotel staff will appreciate your move. If the leaflets are still in decent condition, the future guests can reuse them and thus the hotel can cut back on paper use. If you are staying in a fancier accommodation, you can also opt out of the free morning paper delivery. Once you get a bit more familiar with the city, you can find nice eco-friendly restaurants which use strictly recycled paper.
Avoid buying unnecessary gifts
You really don’t need another ‘I love Athens’ or ‘I love Rhodos’ cap from each place you visit. Your friends and relatives back at home can also do without that extra snow globe or a miniature Acropolis statue. Most of these (often kitsch) gifts will end up in the bin anyway after a couple of years. The saying is perfectly accurate here: collect memories not items! See one of our unforgettable trip idea to include in your memory book: One day sailing trip from Athens to Kea island.
Shopping for souvenirs can result in a huge amount of plastic and paper waste; think about all the bags and receipts. When you are in Athens or in larger towns, avoid the fur sellers by all means! Wearing fur is not chic anymore, especially since it costs the life of millions of innocent creatures. If you still want to keep up with the trends, dress yourself in colourful faux alternatives!
Written by our guest writer and content editor