Europe is full of great cities. Legendary capitals with their iconic landmarks, like the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, or the Plaza Mayor. Capitals of Culture, bringing us together through art, through music, through poetry, through dance. Green cities, leading the way to a net zero future. Living cities, full of energy and with a million stories to tell.
As travel restrictions ease, we feel the call of the city. From a welcome return to a favourite restaurant to the thrill of visiting somewhere new. Looking forward to a day at the museum, an evening at the theatre or a night out with friends.
No matter if you are there for sport, culture, cuisine, or a conference, you want to make the most of your city trip. You can probably also name a few things you don't want: traffic jams, air pollution, noise and litter.
The good news is that city breaks do not necessarily lead to negative environmental impacts. Choosing EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation is a simple way of contributing to the sustainable recovery and feeling good about where you are staying.
Hotels that have earned this label are helping the environment in three key ways. Firstly, they are limiting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by offering sustainable transport options. Secondly, they are helping to tackle climate change through energy savings. Thirdly, they are taking steps to reduce plastic and other waste generated by city tourism.
Limiting air pollution
Tourism can increase the air pollution burden in cities. Road transport and aviation generate PM 2.5 – a type of fine particle pollution – as well as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone. These pollutants contribute to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year.
Like inhabitants, tourists are not immune from the negative effects of breathing in polluted air. Exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including strokes, lung cancers, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. In addition, air pollution damages the very landmarks that make cities worth visiting in the first place.
EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation is taking small – but vital – steps to limit negative impacts from tourist transport, including special agreements with transport companies, access to electric vehicles, and active travel options such as bicycles. Some hotels carrying the label use non-fossil fuel vehicles for site maintenance. Others are committed to local, seasonal produce that tastes great and generates fewer food miles, so less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
That is important because tourist accommodation accounts for around 1% of global GHG emissions, with tourism-related transport contributing nearly 4% to total global emissions.
Breaking the link between climate change and extreme weather
Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme events such as flash floods and extended heatwaves. The consequences of these events are strongly felt, particularly in cities Urban drainage systems can be overwhelmed by heavy rain, while impermeable concrete or asphalt surfaces like roads and car parks 'seal' the soil and stop water from draining away, aggravating flooding.
Heatwaves can be fatal, and the danger is greater for people in cities. A phenomenon known as the 'urban heat island' effect makes built-up areas significantly hotter than the surrounding countryside.
Cities in southern Europe are most exposed to these risks, but hot days and tropical nights are projected to increase in western, central and eastern Europe, where people and towns are less accustomed to heat.
While it is possible for some of us to turn up the air conditioning during a heatwave, this cooling solution leads to an increase in GHG emissions over a prolonged period, making more extreme heat more likely.
A simple way to reduce the impact of flooding and heatwaves and preserve the beauty of our cities is to go green and choose EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation. It guarantees that your lodging is using much less energy than standard accommodation, in fact up to 50% less. These savings are achieved through investments in energy efficient appliances and lighting, a commitment to using renewables, and less wasteful air conditioning, refrigeration and heating systems.
When we are on a city break, we sometimes forget good habits like reducing, recycling and reusing waste. Cities that attract large numbers of visitors face additional challenges in managing and preventing waste from tourism. Scientists have calculated that every visitor leaves an average of 2kg of waste behind for each overnight stay.
If you choose EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation you can rest assured that unnecessary single-use products like disposable toiletries and cutlery won't be used. These hotels make it simple to sort and recycle your plastics and their circular economy mindset keeps tasty, nourishing food on the table while food waste stays off the menu.
What is the EU Ecolabel for tourist accommodation?
Recognised across Europe and around the world, the EU Ecolabel is awarded to products and services that meet high environmental standards throughout their life cycle. For tourist accommodation that means complying with a set of strict environmental performance criteria in a range of areas, from waste reduction to water consumption to tackling climate change. Every hotel awarded this label for environmental excellence meets 22 mandatory criteria and selected optional others. In addition, these green investments can actually make for an even better experience for guests. All of which means that you can look forward to your holiday in total confidence.
Finding EU Ecolabel tourist accommodation is easy. More than 450 hotels are using the label to improve their environmental performance. The EU Ecolabel Tourist Accommodation website lists all the qualifying businesses by country, with convenient links to the hotels and campsites' own web pages. For more information, go to: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/index_en.htm