> Hillwalk Tours Blog > Hillwalk Guides > 11 Tips For Sustainable Travel & Hiking
POSTED BY January 11, 2021

We have 11 tips for sustainable hiking and travel. Because if you love nature, you have to protect it. The concept of sustainability not only challenges our everyday lifestyle and consumption, it also inspires greener travel.

1. Take your time

Find out about sustainable travel providers, regional food and local outdoor activities. This can take time, but it also means that you can then look forward to your upcoming trip even more.

After all, the Internet now makes it so much easier to find out about recommended companies, initiatives, restaurants and producers.

West Highland Way
Walking The West Highland Way, Scotland

2. Environmentally friendly travel

Exploring another place is the quintessence of travel. And this presents sustainable thinkers with their first challenge. In terms of the ecological footprint, cars and planes are not recommended, but they shorten the journey time considerably and also make islands more accessible.

Making the journey to your destination by bike, on foot or on the train are the most sustainable solutions. Public transport options in general, such as buses and trains, carry large numbers of passengers and are therefore more efficient. Anyone who flies can also consider offsetting the resulting CO2. Online calculators, such as those from Atmosfair, indicate the exact amount and suggest a corresponding donation for climate protection projects.

3. Sleep better – stay overnight sustainably

Where you put down your tired head makes a big difference in sustainable travel. Booking overnight stays with local providers means that the profits go to the people in your travel destination, and not hotel chains and large investors.

Airbnb is also increasingly being criticized for displacing tenants from city districts and for driving up rents. Find out whether you are actually a guest at someone’s home or whether an entire apartment is available. Short-term profit shouldn’t compete with long-term tenancies and living spaces for the local people.

Day 5 began with a delightful breakfast with Nathalie and Annemie, two fellow Hillwalk Tours clients
Staying in a local Bed & Breakfast

4. Buy regionally and unpackaged

Visit local weekly markets and support (organic) farmers. This will often allow you to enjoy delicacies that are not available near your home.

It is always worth having a lunch box with you so that you can avoid using plastic packaging. This will also allow you to take some tasty local snacks with you into nature.

In restaurants that follow the slow food philosophy , you will get to know the culinary peculiarities of your travel destination.

Leave no trace

“Leave no trace” is the motto of everyone who is committed to environmental protection in the outdoor area in English-speaking countries. The aim is to burden nature as little as possible through the presence of people. Not leaving any traces of you having been there. 

It is important to protect nature wherever we can but especially in allocated areas of environmental importance such as moors or bog land. To be able to enter these “untouched” areas on marked walking or hiking paths is a great gift. It should help us understand one thing: we are part of nature and it should be our common goal to protect it.

Some principles of “Leave no trace” are:

5. Leave nothing

Everything you bring with you has to come back with you. This goes without saying in the case of plastic packaging. But it also applies to rotting matter like dog poop and banana peels. In many countries, tropical fruits are not part of the regional flora and their peels could affect the ecological balance there.

6. Respect residents

Respect the flora and fauna. You are her guest.

Watching wild animals is definitely one of the highlights of outdoor experiences. Keep your distance and take binoculars with you if necessary. Do not touch or feed animals, especially young animals. This triggers massive changes in animal behavior.

Find out about the breeding seasons of birds and avoid climbing near nests.

Leave dogs at home or keep them on a leash.

In protected areas, you should not break off any parts of a plant.

West Highland Way
Deer on the West Highland Way

7. Avoid campfires if possible

Only light campfires if this is expressly permitted, preferably in an allocated area. Keep the fire small and distribute the cold ashes the next morning.

Cook on small gas stoves.

8. Keep water clean

Humans and their digestive processes are also natural, but human faeces can seriously pollute water and endanger animals. Your “outdoor toilet” should be at least 60 meters away from water. Bury feces at least 6 inches deep, preferably under a stone.

Hiking Dingle Way
Slea Head, Dingle Way, Ireland

9. Enjoy the silence

Music, noises, and even loud voices can frighten shy wildlife and cause stress. Use your stay in national parks and natural landscapes to enjoy the silence, to mute your mobile phone and to relax from everyday life.

Everyone benefits from it.

10. Expand your knowledge

Take the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of nature, its history and inhabitants through information boards or guided tours. Many national parks offer various seasonal tours with the responsible ranger. Visitor centers are also a worthwhile destination, especially in bad weather.

A greater understanding of the wonders of nature and complex ecological relationships help to understand how worthy of protection they are. And that their continued existence is in our own interest.

Sycamore Gap along Hadrian's Wall
Sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall Path

11. Discover new things

Some hiking areas fall victim to their own popularity. Too many outdoor friends are tripping on the beaten path at the same time. Erosion, noise and crowds do not make the stay more pleasant for people and the environment.

One option is to visit famous places and hiking trails in the off-season. Another one to avoid the hype and explore lesser known travel destinations. Even near your home, there is still a lot to discover in all probability.

Three sustainable hiking regions

If you are interested in sustainable hiking regions, we have three excellent suggestions for you.

1. Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Ireland

The Sheep’s Head Peninsula lies in the very south-west of Ireland. This region was awarded a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN for short) by the EU in 2009 and thus recognized for the promotion of sustainable tourism. In this area, Sheep’s Head excels due to the protection of wild animals, the beautiful coastal landscape and many local producers. The 93 km long Sheep’s Head Way runs around the entire peninsula and not only allows visitors to explore the area close to nature, but also to experience some of the special attractions, such as rare birds, up close.

Sheep's Head Way
Sheep’s Head Way

2. Pembrokeshire, Wales

” Wales has done a fantastic job in terms of sustainable development and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is set to become one of the most scenic walking trails in Europe .”

That was the opinion of one of the judges from National Geographic, who voted Pembrokeshire the second most sustainable coastal region in the world  for tourism. The marine region and its inhabitants enjoy special protection in this part of Wales, as the entire coastline in Pembrokeshire has been declared a national park. Hikers can get to know this breathtaking area on the approximately 300 km long Pembrokeshire Coast Path, enjoy regional food and marvel at sandstone cliffs and other unique geological formations.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Pembrokeshire Coast Path

3. The Burren, Ireland

In late 2020, The Burren EcoTourism Network in County Clare won a prestigious travel award from Lonely Planet being named “Best Tourism Project” in the Lonely Planet “Best in Tourism” list for 2021.

The network sees more than 60 local businesses coming together to promote sustainable tourism at the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.

The initiative promotes slow tourism, local engagement and sustainability – with each business signing up to a ‘Code of Sustainable Practice’ that encourages reductions in waste output, water consumption and energy usage.

The Burren Way is a 98km long hiking route that runs along the Wild Atlantic Way coast passing the Cliffs of Moher before then turning inland into the heart of The Burren.

Hiking The Burren Way
The Burren Way, Co. Clare

We hope that you enjoyed this guide to sustainable travel and hiking. If there are any other tips that you think we should add, just let us know.