Clean Travel Guide to Tirol
1. Keep an eye out for labels and certificates
These days lots of things claim to be „green“ and „sustainable“, but the reality doesn’t always live up to the hype. This is also true for holiday destinations. One way to be sure that a hotel or region really does take environmental protection seriously is by looking out for labels and certificates awarded by national and international bodies. For example, 76 of Tirol’s municipalities are members of the Austrian Climate Alliance, an initative committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting soil quality and promoting a sustainable way of life. The Alliance’s work is not limited to Austria but also other projects such as supporting indigenous tribes in Brazil. The first Tirolean municipality to join the Austrian Climate Alliance was Schwaz, which became a member way back in 1991. Since then the town council has won many prizes for environmental management and public transport. Keep your eye out for the „Österreichisches Umweltzeichen für Tourismus“ or the „European Ecolabel“, the official certificate of the EU, when booking your hotel. Restaurants serving organic food use a green chef’s hat as their symbol.
2. Give your car a holiday
For many people the humble automobile remains the number one form of transport. It is, after all, extremely practical. But why not give your car a holiday next time you head abroad? With a little planning it really isn’t hard to find greener alternatives. Trains and buses are much more environmentally friendly than cars and can go a long way to reducing your carbon footprint. In fact, many regions and attractions are far easier to access by public transport than you might imagine. The Zillertal Valley has a network of „hiking buses“ transporting visitors to and from the Spieljochbahn cable car as well as to the lifts at the Stummerberg and Gattererberg mountains. Tirol’s extensive railway network means it is often possible to take the train to a village and walk straight from the station up to one of the huts in the mountains. The railway station in Fieberbrunn near Kitzbühel, for example, is a great starting point for a walk to the Wildseeloderhaus. Check out our blog on environmentally-friendly hiking for more ideas. You can also get in touch with the Austrian Alpine Association, which has a brochure full of walks accessible on public transport. Last but certainly not least, Tirol’s nature parks have also put together a list of their best hikes accessible by bus, tram and train.
3. Leave nothing behind
Everything you take with you into the mountains should be brought back down into the valley and disposed of correctly. These days most people are aware of their role in keeping nature clean, but sadly there is still far too much rubbish lying around in the landscape. A common misconception is that is is okay to throw away biodegradable waste because it will rot and disappear. At altitudes such as those in the Tirolean Alps, however, it takes an awfully long time for even things like orange peel and banana skins to decompose. A tiny piece of chewing gum, for example, needs around five years to break down. Moreover, any form of litter – biodegradable or not – tends to encourage other people to do the same. We recommend taking a bag or a box with you on your hike where you can store all your peels, rubbish and other bits and pieces without getting your rucksack dirty.
Even biodegradable waste such as orange peel and banana skins should be taken back down into the valley. At high altitudes they a long time to rot.
4. Try a paddle instead of a plunge
Tirol is home not only to many mountains but also to many rivers. During the hot summer months these are a great place to cool off, but instead of plunging in head-first sometimes a quick paddle is enough. Be especially careful in wetland areas, which according to the Tirolean Society for the Protection of the Environment are an „important basis for water quality and overall functionality of rivers.“ Don’t leave any cigarette butts in or around the water – in freshwater it takes an incredible 15 years for them to break down. What’s more, a single cigarette butt can pollute 40-60 litres of groundwater, thereby inhibiting the growth of plants. Please also be aware that suncream can have a polluting effect on lakes and rivers.
A single cigarette butt can pollute 40-60 litres of groundwater.
5. Recycle your towels
Most hotels provide you with fresh towels if you leave them on the bathroom floor. Towels hung on the rail, on the other hand, are left by room service to be used again. A good way to reduce water wastage is to use towels more than once, even on holiday. Hotel laundries use vasts amounts of water to wash many tonnes of bed linen, towels, etc. each day. The busiest day of the week is swap-over day when old guests depart and new ones arrive. If you wish you can go one step further an inform recption that you do not want your room to be cleaned every day. It is a good way of saving energy – not least that of the hard-working cleaning staff. Oh, and by the way, feel free to take hotel toiletries home with you at the end of your stay. Shower gel, soap, etc. which have been opened by guests cannot be used again and are thrown away. Take them home and use them up!
6. Stay on the trails
Heading „off piste“ might feel like an adventure, but leaving the marked trails can have a negative effect on the local flora and fauna. Rare plants can easily be crushed under heavy walking boots. Animals are easily startled by approaching humans. Rock ptarmigans and black grouse, for example, are very sensitive birds. Disturbing them can drive them away from their young, who are left to starve. Excessive noise can be particularly harmful in winter, when many animals hibernate. If they are woken by loud noises or disturbances then they flee, using up precious energy needed to survive the winter in this harsh landscape. The Austrian Alpine Association and other environmental groups therefore urge hikers to stay on the marked trails, especially in forests. This also goes, of course, for mountain bikers. Farmers are rarely pleased to find tourists whizzing through their fields scaring their animals.
Heading „off piste“ may feel like an adventure, but leaving the marked trails can have a negative effect on the local flora and fauna.
7. Don’t play with fire
Camping is a good way to get back to nature, but there are a few basic rules you should respect. In Tirol it is illegal to pitch your tent anywhere but on an official campsite. Lighting fires is also not allowed. The law states that it is forbidden for „unauthorised persons“ to light fires or to behave in an reckless manner with objects likely to cause a fire, which includes throwing glowing cigarette butts onto the ground. The best thing is to stay at one of the region’s campsites, most of which also have BBQ areas with all the necessary equipment. Talking of BBQs, coal emits large amounts of carbon dioxide when it is burned, but you may be surprised to learn that there are more environmentally friendly alternatives. Avoid coal with large quantity of tropical wood. Instead, keep an eye out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and Bioland labels. You can also use other natural substances such as pine cones covered with paper and leftover wax.