We all need to pay closer attention to our sustainable travel practices, but the good news is that there are plenty of inspirational models to follow.
If you’re looking for urban destinations that champion or inspire sustainable living, we’ve compiled a list of standout spots. When you book, make sure to look for the Travel Sustainable badge so you know you’ll be staying in a place that takes sustainability seriously.
Copenhagen, Denmark: a pedal ahead
Copenhagen's pedal towards carbon-neutrality
It’s difficult to pinpoint the best city to cycle in, but it’s probably located in Northern Europe. Amsterdam and Utrecht have been battling for supremacy for decades, one-upping each other with major cycling infrastructure initiatives. But Copenhagen may have pulled ahead in the race where everybody ultimately wins. The Danish capital recently secured a place as a starting point for the Tour de France, and has already made progress on its pledge to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. Added to this, Copenhagen’s traffic-calmed streets, separate, marked cycle lanes, cycling superhighways and affordable, easily accessible rental bikes.
You’ll have no problem finding a Travel Sustainable property here, like the highly rated CityHub Copenhagen. This unique spot is a hip hotel and hostel rolled into one, with comfortable communal areas and private, modern sleeping pods.
San Francisco, USA: where recycling is an art
San Francisco's recycling efforts
San Francisco is one of the greenest cities in the US, with 80% of its waste being diverted from landfills. Recycling is mandatory here, instituting a pay-as-you-throw model for non-recyclable waste and banning plastic bags. It all started 30 years ago when initiatives encouraged artists in residence to reuse discarded trash. The results positively litter the sculpture garden at the Recology main recycling centre.
You won’t find any disposable plastic bottles of shampoo at the Argonaut Hotel, which also recycles its kitchen grease into biofuel and compost, helping divert as much as 74% of its waste from landfill. But you will find stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a wealth of things to do including a walking tour of Fisherman’s Wharf, which starts a mere block away.
Sydney, Australia: cover the world in greenery
Sydney's urban greening programs
Sydney is currently implementing a strategy that involves planting hundreds of new trees every year and dramatically increasing the amount of greenery that covers roofs and walls, all of which can help mitigate rising temperatures.
One standout place to stay in Sydney is the fun-to-say Ovolo Woolloomooloo. This boutique hotel is known for both its lofty interiors and an authentic focus on sustainability. While you’re visiting, be sure to explore the harbour, either on foot or perhaps with a glass of wine in hand on a sunset harbour cruise.
Chiang Mai, Thailand: a vegan paradise
Chiang Mai's vegan options
If you’re a vegan traveller, Chiang Mai has the most vegan restaurants per capita in the world. It also participates in a yearly regional vegetarian festival from late September to October. While in Chiang Mai, consider one of the many local temple day tours or book a sightseeing night tour by tuk-tuk and grab a few tasty treats at a night market.
When it comes to places to stay, the budget-minded are rewarded with excellent options like Gategaa Village, which offers both weekly and monthly rates – plus free bicycles to get around on.
Hong Kong: efficient and affordable transport
Hong Kong's efficient public transport
Public transport accounts for around 90% of all daily journeys in Hong Kong – the highest rate of any city in the world. When you consider that it’s also one of the globe’s most densely populated cities and that less than a fifth of residents own a car, it’s easy to see why public transport there needs to be so efficient.
While transport is relatively inexpensive in Hong Kong, accommodation may be a bit pricier. That said, you can get a lot of luxury for your money at places like Hotel ICON. This elegant glass cathedral incorporates an abundance of greenery in its vertical garden, with over 8,000 plants of 71 different species. Take a dip in the rooftop heated pool and gaze out at the harbour while you decide what to do next. When you’re ready, hop on the hotel’s shuttle bus. It’s electric, of course.
Strasbourg, France: France’s food revolution envoy to the EU
France’s food revolution
France has been tackling food waste as a nation for some time. It is now illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food and there are laws requiring this to be donated to charities instead. Strasbourg, which is also the seat of the European Parliament, is furthering France’s efforts with a zero-waste initiative and experimental programmes, such as one that collects biodegradable waste entirely by bicycle.
When you visit, you’ll have a lot of eco-friendly accommodation choices like the centrally located Hotel voco Strasbourg, which goes by the nickname ‘The Garden’ (on account of its tropical plants and living walls). When you’re done eating all the organic snacks in your minibar, relax in the spa or hop on a Alsace winery tour to sample the spicy white wines of the surrounding region.