The Dutch live in a tiny country that’s so heavily populated they need to recover land from the sea, and they take protection of their environment very seriously. More than 60 percent of household waste is sorted, collected, and recycled. As a visitor, you are expected to play your part in this process and not toss stuff without checking if it’s recyclable or reusable.
Generating power from the wind—an age-old Dutch skill—is growing apace. In 2012 Holland had 2,000 wind turbines on land and 96 offshore, producing 6 percent of its electricity from this renewable resource, a figure that’s due to rise to 14 percent by 2020.
Obviously air travel has a profound effect on our environment, and for this reason the Dutch airline KLM is seeking new ways to cut emissions, such as offering ways for its passengers to fly CO2-neutral. The initiative is called CO2ZERO, and money made is reinvested by KLM straight into selected sustainability projects. Cities in Belgium and The Netherlands all have excellent integrated public transportation systems; using them helps reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Even if you rent a car for getting around, most main car-rental firms now offer green options, from renting a low-emissions car to making a payment to a CO2-offset program.
All those bicycles you see in Amsterdam take cars off the street. Anyone who’s not riding a bike is likely to be walking or getting around by tram, and visitors are encouraged to do likewise. There are many places where you can rent bikes, and public transportation is easy to use and efficient .
Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region, including Bruges, comes close to sharing the Dutch commitment to getting around by bike, but in hilly, traffic-choked Brussels, the bike is a less-enticing mode of transportation. There’s no need to drive, though, as the tram and Métro systems work well.
Many Dutch and Belgian hotels have signed up for becoming more energy efficient in all areas of operation, conserving water, decreasing the amount of unsorted waste, and more. Visit eco-friendly champions Green Key (www.green-key.org) to see what you can do to help, and check hotel reviews throughout this book for details on specific sustainable properties, in particular the Conscious Hotel Vondelpark and Court Garden Den Haag, who both are ahead of the pack in leading the way into the future of green tourism.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.