Perhaps more so than any other people in the world, the Swiss have been sensitive to protecting their environment. In addition to the oldest and wildest national park of Europe, many newly opened regional nature parks are being set aside for future generations.
Believe it or not, Switzerland even has volunteer "mountain cleaners," who sweep the landscape looking for garbage that careless tourists have left behind.
The country is also looking to the future, and many hotels plan to follow the example set by the Hotel Europa in St. Moritz. At this establishment, the largest solar plant of any hotel in Switzerland was inaugurated. The solar energy collected on the hotel's roof feeds both the hot water and heating systems as well as the pool. Not only are high energy costs counteracted, so are carbon dioxide emissions.
City tourist offices are even issuing "greenie points." Take Zurich tourist officials, for example. They are recommending that visitors take the train from London via Paris instead of flying to Zurich. It is estimated that this travel by train will save 176 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per person for the 966km (600-mile) journey.
Eco-tourism is the buzzword of the day, and more and more Swiss environmentalists are talking about keeping their splendid alpine peaks pristine. They need the words of critic John Ruskin, who said, "Mountains are the beginning and end of all natural scenery."
Swiss ecologists must guard against the impact of unbridled ski-lift development and exhaust fumes from motorized traffic, especially transalpine trucking.
The Swiss also fear the spread of vacation apartments springing up like a tourist housing sprawl, such as around Pontresina. The sprawl also plagues such neighboring resorts as St. Moritz and other vacation centers in the Upper Engadine.
In Davos, one of the most famous of all ski resorts, visitors are urged not to drive cars into town, but take one of the fleet of buses moving skiers in winter or hikers in summer to the mountains.
For a true eco-friendly holiday, consider a stay on a Swiss farm, getting close to nature. Prices are lower than at most hotels, and you even have the option of working in the fields. For this type of holiday, check with the Schweizerischer Bauernverband (Swiss Farmers Association) at Laurstrasse 10, CH-5200 Brugg (tel. 056/462-25-1110), or Verein Ferien auf dem Bauernhof (Swiss Holiday Farms Association) at Reka, Neuengasse 15, 3000 Bern (tel. 031/329-66-99; www.bauernhof-ferien.ch).
You can find eco-friendly travel tips, statistics, and touring companies and associations -- listed by destination under "Your Travel Choice" -- at the TIES website, www.ecotourism.org. Also check out Conservation International (www.conservation.org) -- which, with National Geographic Traveler, annually presents World Legacy Awards to those travel tour operators, businesses, organizations, and places that have made a significant contribution to sustainable tourism. Ecotravel.com is part online magazine and part eco-directory that lets you search for touring companies in several categories (water based, land based, spiritually oriented, and so on).
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA; www.abta.com) acts as a focal point for the U.K. travel industry and is one of the leading groups spearheading responsible tourism.
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resources for Switzerland listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel. For a list of even more sustainable resources, as well as tips and explanations on how to travel greener, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
- Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices, and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
- In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
- In Canada, www.greenlivingonline.com offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably, including a travel and transport section and profiles of the best green shops and services in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.
- In Australia, the national body which sets guidelines and standards for eco-tourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Green Directory (www.thegreendirectory.com.au), Green Pages (www.thegreenpages.com.au), and EcoDirectory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
- Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodations ratings. The Hotel Association of Canada (www.hacgreenhotels.com) has a Green Key Eco-Rating Program, which audits the environmental performance of Canadian hotels, motels, and resorts.
- Sustain Lane (www.sustainlane.com) lists sustainable eating and drinking choices around the U.S.; also visit www.eatwellguide.org for tips on eating sustainably in the U.S. and Canada.
- For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdcs.org).
- Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org and www.idealist.org.