7 eco-friendly tip when traveling in Switzerland
The environment is always on my mind and often causes me much anguish. On one hand I want to show my kids the world by traveling, and on the other hand I want them to have a world they can show their kids. Since the travel industry is known for having a massive carbon footprint, is it possible still explore but lessen the environmental impact?
I’ve adapted these 7 tips to help ease my conscience:
1. Travel by train
It is entirely possible to explore Switzerland by train without the need for a vehicle. The extensive Swiss public transport network is safe, clean, and convenient and not only will you be saving another car on the road, you will also not have to worry about your GPS scolding you for going the wrong way, navigating narrow winding roads, finding a carpark, or triggering a speed camera. Instead of having to concentrate on the roads, sit back and enjoy the picture postcard views outside of your train window. If you’ll be doing a fair amount of train travel it is worth looking into getting a pass that will reduce your overall costs. Check that out here. PS: Kids will love the intercity trains with their playgrounds right inside the train carriage!
The Swiss are model citizens when it comes to recycling, so join in with the locals and recycle. After all, the Swiss pay a steep fee per bag to dispose of their rubbish, and that greatly encourages recycling. You will find recycling stations at supermarkets and in most villages (which are called Ökihofs on the German side of the country). You’ll even find waste bins in the train stations divided into sections so that you can separate PET bottles and paper from general rubbish. What can you recycle? Think plastic bottles, glass, paper, cardboard and tins. If you are staying in a hotel, keep your recyclables to the side of the bin to make it easier for housekeeping to recycle for you.
3. Eat local and seasonal products.
Eating local and seasonal produce is a small way we can help the environment at home, but also when we travel. Switzerland’s produce is of excellent quality and if you stick to local, seasonal produce at the supermarket or farmers market, it’s also reasonably priced. Switzerland is known for being an expensive country, and restaurants are no exception. So if you are looking to save a significant amount of francs on your next visit, consider staying in accommodation where you can cook for yourself and shop at local farmers markets for your meals. More and more resturants across the country are sourcing local as well, including the Our Mountain Resturants of Andermatt who even note the meals on their menus that are made purely from local ingredients.
4. Bring your own water bottle
Swiss water is not only safe to drink but many would say that it’s the best tasting water, too. There is absolutely no need to buy bottled water. Bring your own reusable water bottle from home and refill as you travel. You can even refill from many public fountains across the country (did you know that Zurich alone has over 1200 fountains? Read about that here). Before filling up, just make sure there isn’t a sign saying “Kein Trinkwasser” which translates as “not drinking water”. If you want to avoid plastic bottles in restaurants ask for Hahnewasser or tap water. It was especially encouraging to see the company OurMountain Foods in the ski resort of Andermatt foregoing plastic bottles for gratis still and sparkling local water in their restaurants.
Once you get to your destination, it’s time to forget about the Uber and the bus tour and explore on foot - so don’t forget good walking shoes. Switzerland is a walking country, and its cities are designed for walking. Therefore, if you are out to discover the back streets of Zurich or the mountains, your feet are your best tour guide. Find walking tours in big cities like Zurich (you might want to check out this tour at no charge, just a gratuity if you’re pleased) or follow the well signposted hiking paths throughout the entire country. Just look for the yellow signs which will give you an estimate of how long it will take to walk to the next destination. Kids not too keen on walking? Consider bringing a scooter along for them.
6. Bring your own shopping bags.
When grocery shopping in Switzerland you are required to either bring your own shopping bags, or buy one of the bags available at the checkout. So if you want to avoid having to pay for a bag, bring a reusable one from home with you. Or, buy one here and take it home as a nice Swiss souvenir (the bags here often have unique prints on them) I keep a small reusable roll up bag (like this one) in my bag at all times, and keep more robust shopping bags in my car ready for grocery shopping. I also bring reusable bags with me when we travel to avoid having to buy plastic bags.
7. Don’t litter
Switzerland is one of the cleanest countries I have ever experienced which makes it not only nice to live in, but also to visit. So help keep its picture postcard scenes beautiful for the present and future generations, and don’t litter. There are bins everywhere, even in the trains, but if you can’t find one don’t drop it on the ground - if you do, you risk paying a steep fine if caught. If you are in a self-catered accommodation, remember the Swiss use pre-paid bags to dispose of their rubbish. If these pre-paid bags have not been made available to you by your accommodation you must buy a roll at the local supermarket or post office that you can use to dispose of your trash in a designated dumpster. Remember to sort your recyclables!