I had started exploring ways how to become more eco-friendly on vacation already many months before this summer. Yet Covid-19 and just the hassle of travelling with three little boys significantly shaped our holidays. After some days on vacation in Estonia, all I seemed to notice were the old comfort-based unsustainable habits creeping back. I felt eco-guilt sneaking in again. Yet despite the challenges, I did manage to explore ideas for eco-friendly vacation while traveling both in Estonia and in Iceland.

Relapsing into Planet-Unfriendly Behaviours

I have noticed that with many behaviour changes, vacation is the time when I take steps backwards and often cannot keep up with the routines that I have established at home. Green living was no exception. Similar to my Christmas holidays, for instance, I used also during summer vacation more one-time plastic when doing grocery shopping. My showers were longer, and when my environmentally friendly razor blade was confiscated at the airport, I gave in and bought a new Venus razor to shave.

It was time for some extra self-care! Instead of beating myself up, I had to accept the reality. I had to remember that such holiday relapses into my old comfort-based habits are most probably temporary. They are also understandable. While travelling I am already so far out of my comfort zone, and my unconscious wish to balance it with some additional comfort kind of makes sense. The acceptance grew easier when I instead focused on how to become more eco-friendly on vacation. What are the small positive steps that I can take on holidays, notwithstanding relapses?

Sustainable Holiday Reading

Both my husband and I decided to change our reading habits during the holidays. Instead of buying many new books and taking a pile of them with us, my husband chose to buy a Kindle e-reader. I decided to take advantage of the library from one passenger to another in the Tallinn airport, where one can borrow books for the whole trip for free.

how to become eco-friendly on vacation - borrow books to read

Although I also brought some new books with me to read, I am proud that I also trusted that some great books that I would enjoy would be available on the airport shelf! Including the books I had bought, I returned more books to this library than I had borrowed.

How to become more eco-friendly on vacation: greener transport

Our initial plan this summer was to travel by car to visit Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. In this way, we would have avoided taking plane at all. However, as my parents’ trip to visit us was cancelled due to COVID-19 this spring, we decided to fly to Estonia to stay with them. Otherwise, it would already have been one year since we last saw them. In a similar vein, our little second honeymoon that we were supposed to have in April when my parents were coming was cancelled. My husband and I thus decided to visit Iceland from Estonia while leaving our little ones with their grandparents.

I still hoped that perhaps we could rent an electric car in Estonia and/or Iceland. Yet we travelled a lot in both places and thus decided this time not to rent an electric one. It is on our radar as an option and hopefully will happen during our next holidays.

Another thing we considered was going with electric boat to do carbon-neutral silent whale-watching in Iceland. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 they had to cancel their trips this season, so this also did not happen 🙁

However, we did manage to use greener transport during this vacation. With my parents, we visited a little island in Estonia called Kihnu. During our three days there, we travelled around the island using rental bikes. And roamed around Pärnu with these vehicles:

eco-friendly sightseeing on vacation

Eco-Friendly Accommodation

I have to give credit to my husband who found a great green hotel called Eyja Guldsmeden for us in Reykjavik. I fell in love with this hotel, and our stay was unforgettable! The rich breakfast buffet was all organic and also had many vegan options.

how to become eco-friendly on vacation - breakfast in eco-hotel

The I Love Eco Essentials sustainable hair and body care products they use at this hotel, presented on one of the featured photo, are incredible. I decided to buy one of these to also use at home. And the room in the hotel is cute:

how to become eco-friendly on vacation - choose eco-hotels

And even their gym stands out as they use wood for gym equipment:

eco-friendly on vacation - wooden gym

The great news is that this sustainability-loving hotel does not exist only in Iceland. Guldsmeden hotels can also be found in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Berlin, Oslo, Bali, Côte d’Azur.

Also, in other accommodations in Estonia and Iceland, we tried to make more efforts to recycle and dispose of garbage correctly, turn off unnecessary lights, and use fewer towels.

Greener Holiday Activities

One can also practice sustainability when choosing holiday activities. So instead of snowmobiles or monster-truck rides, I tried horseback riding in Iceland.

how to become eco-friendly - horseback riding on vacation

No extra fuel used for leisure activities! In a similar vein, in Estonia, we tried kayaking and paddle boarding at the beach:

eco-friendly on vacation - kayaking

In Iceland we also wanted to try rafting, but again, COVID-19 changed our plans, as a group of at least four people is required for rafting these days. As a precautionary measure, currently one cannot be put into the same boat with strangers.

Eco-Friendly Swimwear

Our efforts as how to become more eco-friendly on vacation also consisted of looking at our gear. Thus, instead of buying the one-time swimming napkins for our little one, we decided to go for reusable swimming nappy this year and ordered this for Rick:

eco-friendly vacation - reusable swimming nappies

He liked his new swimming gear a lot!

A More Sustainable Approach to Food

Taking leftovers from restaurants at home is a standard habit in our family. Yet it is not something we usually do while on vacation. Often, there is no fridge or microwave to use, or one just wants to enjoy as many local specialties as possible when travelling. This time we decided to make an extra effort, and both in Estonia and Iceland, we took food from restaurants with us. In Iceland, there are microwaves available for use in the supermarkets, and we were also able to warm up food at our hotel.

We were also using our reusable water bottles and did not need to buy water in plastic.

Eco-Friendly Souvenirs

We love to buy little souvenirs to remember our nice trip and also to offer to family, neighbours, and friends. This year, we made an extra effort and tried to offer things to eat or souvenirs made from earth-friendly materials. For instance, instead of plastic, one can buy a ceramic magnet, one made from wood—or in case of Iceland, from volcanic stone! I thus think of something that is needed to be bought anyhow and look at materials used.

For example, we bought these handmade soaps from Kihnu island to offer to loved ones.

eco-friendly souvenirs

Offset Your Carbon Emissions!

First time we also used offsetting carbon emissions. As our flight to Estonia was with Lufthansa, we used Compensaid help. More precisely, thanks to our contribution, new trees have been planted in Nicaragua to compensate for our use of 1,41 t of CO2.

carbon offsetting certificate

What are the little steps that you have taken to make your vacations more earth-friendly?