Travel light: be environmentally-friendly – without skimping on luxury and style

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No matter where we go – Paris, Lyon, Marseille, or somewhere further out into the French wilderness – we love the thrill of stepping across a secret line and discovering what it’s like to live like a local.

MyFrenchLife™ members are always planning our next trip: as soon as one sejour ends, the next one begins to take shape. We’re very conscious that there’s a world out there waiting to be uncovered, and we won’t stop until we discover it!

But our sensibilities reach further than that: we understand that the world we live in needs to be cared for as much as discovered. As a visitor, it’s important to support the communities that welcome us, and care for the environment we experience.

As the accessibility of travel increases, we’re sure to be doing le jet set more often, which means we’ll need to take even more care to travel light. Et non, we’re not talking about vos baggages…

Alors, Francophiles, how does one travel with a conscience? First: it’s about knowing where we leave the biggest impact – but also how you can easily make that impact a positive one. We picked three huge but simple areas we can all make a difference: getting around, getting there and choosing accommodation.

On y va – let’s take a closer look…

1. Getting around in France responsibly

The problem: It’s the most obvious place to start when speaking of environmental sustainability, but the truth is that our lazy sides often prevail when it comes to getting around.

How many of us have neglected taking the train to and from the airport in favour of a taxi? Or slinked down into the metro when we could easily have walked? The simple matter being conscious of how you’re choosing to get around in a city can make a big difference.

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Where we can make a difference: Paris is not bereft of options when it comes to eco inner-city travel. And it all begins with a train or bus ride from the airport: public transport is the ultimate green machine. But once you’re in la villa lumière, it’s simple to go one step further and forgo le metro and buses altogether.

MyFrenchLife™ - environmentally-friendly - parisParis is very accessible by bike – it’s the perfect size to be a cycling city. And of course, Parisians have managed to embrace cycling without putting a hair out of place. As MyFrenchLife™ correspondent Sahara Wilson explains, “the Velib’ system is so hugely successful that Parisians of any age, profession or socio-economic status use the bikes while managing to look incredibly stylish, bien sûr.”

If you’d rather get around in a little more luxury, then the autolib scheme is one to try. Our Paris correspondent and liaison Jacqueline raves about these zippy little electric cars. As she notes, “You cannot walk in Paris and miss them. They are everywhere.”

If you’re not in Paris, many other cities around France have their own cycle and electric car share schemes. And given that many of these cities are perfectly compact, it wouldn’t even be a stretch to walk most of the time! But perhaps you’re a little further out – pas de soucis, look for a house-sitting option in a rural area that comes complete with bicycle, or is walking distance from the town centre.

2. Being conscious of our travel carbon footprint

The problem: Of course, it’s important to think even bigger than just riding a bicycle around a city. A quick trip to the online carbon footprint calculator for travel shows that a trip from Melbourne to Paris (return) generates 6.27 tonnes of carbon flying economy. Up that to business class and we’re looking at 18.17t.

While most of the world isn’t so far from Paris as Melbourne, even a business class flight from New York to Paris is 6.31t. And for those of us who were under the impression that train was the most environmentally-friendly way to travel, a Eurostar from London to Paris is still responsible for 12kg of carbon.

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Where we can make a difference: There are many options for offsetting carbon. These include schemes that allow you to donate money to initiatives driving positive environmental change: many airlines offer passengers the option to do so when they buy a ticket.

While you might be reluctant to part with a chunk of your travel savings, it’s important to have a bigger picture view – but to also be savvy. Savvy travellers only spend their money where it will have an impact. For instance, if you were to choose house-sitting for your accommodation, you could donate even a small percentage of the money you saved back into neutralising the carbon footprint you created to get there. Now that’s savvy travelling.

3. Environmentally-friendly accommodation in France

The problem: Accommodation is an oft-overlooked but hugely important part of sustainable travel.

As this study from Airbnb shows, even the most environmentally-sustainable hotels had a much larger impact on the environment than a selection of regular Airbnb houses.

Hotels are powered around-the-clock and constantly climate-controlled – but they’re a less sustainable choice from more than just an environmental point of view. Why? It’s simple: where are you most likely to find hotels? Answer: where all the other hotels are. So while you’ll be stimulating one part of that economy, you might not be spending your money where it’s most-needed…

“Treat another person’s home like it’s the most prestigious eco-retreat you’ve ever visited.”

The solution: Staying in someone else’s house appears to have the most positive impact on the environment and community than any other mode of accommodation.

It’s even better if you can swap homes, or inhabit someone else’s while they’re away. You are trading value for accommodation: you provide a service (looking after a house, pets, garden or all of the above) in lieu of the usual cost of accommodation.

So, house-sitting and home exchange are even ‘lighter’ choices than Airbnb. And of course, if we’re really committed to travelling light, we’ll be sure to treat the house we’re staying in as the most prestigious eco-retreat we’ve ever visited. This means things like turning off taps properly, not leaving appliances or lights on unnecessarily, and using recycling facilities.

MyFrenchLife™ - travel environmentally-friendly - france nomador

As we’ve already explored, travelling light isn’t only about environmental sustainability: it’s also about looking out for local communities. This blog post from house-sitting platform Nomador highlights how more and more house-sitters are making the decision to discover rural areas – places that would appreciate your spending much more that the tourist traps in big cities.

The lifestyle house-sitting in rural areas promotes is more focused on environmental and local sustainability, from buying local produce to living a more active, outdoor lifestyle. By travelling to the fringes, you’re injecting cash into a community that deserves it. Oh, and if you’re lucky, you might have a horse, donkey or goat to keep you company. Now that’s real French country life if ever we saw it…

What do you do to travel environmentally-friendly? Share your tips and tricks with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Proud partner of Nomador.
By Published On: Oct 17, 20141 Comment

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

DISCOVER FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever YOU ARE! We're here to help you experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with - Both this global community and magazine are perfect for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever YOU ARE! Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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One Comment

  1. Ellen Burns Oct 20, 2014 at 9:32 AM - Reply

    I’m so happy to witness the rise of ‘eco-tourism’! I studied this in Uni in a travel writing unit, it makes me really happy to see people acknowledging the impact that travel has on the environment and the places they visit.

    House sharing is a fantastic concept, I especially like the way it has an effect on where you visit. Instead of choosing big cities or relying on guide books, choosing the perfect house share means you get out to communities and places you might not have otherwise visited. 🙂

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