Even though we might complain about the cold our winter landscapes are extremely beautiful and valuable. Wouldn’t it be great if we could focus on protecting and enjoying them at the same time?
Environmental care is a subject very dear to us at Volvo Cars. We make vehicles designed to withstand the challenges of the Nordic landscape. They were built to be strong, resilient and safe – to brave the winter’s cold, drive through snow and provide safe passage over icy and wet surfaces. But although these cars were made for an environment that can be unforgiving, our current focus is on respecting and protecting it. Even though the climate can be tough, it’s also beautiful and rewarding.
Over the last few decades, sustainability has become a way of life. We buy sustainable cars, sustainable clothing, sustainable food – and we can choose sustainable holidays. If travel lets us broaden our horizons, then sustainable travel is how we protect those horizons for the next generation. Exploring and enjoying the snow, cold and ice of a winter vacation is a privilege, and it’s one that we can and should protect.
Imagine how it feels to sit in a solidly-built old cabin at the edge of a Nordic forest, a blanket of silence over everything: looking forward to a day of activity but feeling safe, warm and comfortable as the snow falls. Now consider that today, it’s possible to enjoy this luxury while also making sure that your actions help preserve the same environment for the next generation. The way in which we travel is starting to change. But it’s something that we, as responsible holidaymakers, need to buy into. How can we start?
“Consumers are far more focused on sustainability, particularly young people.” Stuart Templar, Director of Sustainability at Volvo Cars.
No more jumpsuits
Cast your mind back to the 1980s. Back then, for many people, a luxurious holiday included polyester jumpsuits, big sunglasses, cruise ships and chilled Martinis. Today, however, our impressions are more along the lines of biodynamic wine and locally produced cheese in a secluded, beautiful resort. Our understanding of what makes a premium experience is getting closer to care and sustainability. And people are supporting this with their wallets – a recent Nielsen survey revealed that 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
Twenty years or so ago, our impression of eco-travel was a bit – well, corny. It might have involved home-made clothing and the smell of cooking lentils. But things have changed considerably since then. Have you ever seen a “LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS” sign on a beach? When the UN nominated 2017 as its year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, its #travelenjoyrespect campaign lifted this memorably simple message to a global level.
“Consumers are far more focused on sustainability, particularly young people.” says Stuart Templar, Director of Sustainability at Volvo Cars. “The inherent sustainability of products, as well as a company’s approach towards sustainability, are increasingly driving purchasing decisions. Here at Volvo Cars, we feel we’re well placed to meet these changing demands. We’re focused on reducing emissions, increasing the amount of sustainable material within our vehicles, and are committed to electrification. We strive to minimise our environmental impact across the company, which is why we’re aiming to have climate neutral manufacturing operations by 2025. For us, sustainability is not only the right thing to do, but makes sound commercial sense too.”
Setting up camp
Of course, good intentions are all very well, but it’s the end result that matters – particularly if you’re thinking about your well-deserved vacation. But if thinking about holidays and the “S-word” conjures up images in your mind of firepits and freezing tents, you’re about as far away from today’s options as it’s possible to be.
Take the Whitepod eco-hotel in Monthey, Switzerland. Built from scratch to a space-age pod design, it wears its eco-tourism credentials on its sleeve. The food, heating, design and transport are all designed to have as little impact on the snowy wilderness as possible. Pellet heaters provide the warmth in the futuristic pod cabins, while even your mandatory walk to the hotel, through a silent, snowy forest, gives you the chance to soak up some of the local beauty.
Booking a up by winter sports group Mountain Riders to let like-minded adventurers know whether or not their favourite spot was a good place to visit in every respect. Four French resorts – including Vallée de Chamonix – have already been awarded the green snowflake label.
Now, a few of these locations are priced outside of a normal holiday budget. You get what you pay for, of course, but sometimes you want a short winter break without paying for a private ski slope. The good news is that some of the more democratic travel resources have also put sustainability at the core of their business. For example, Tripadvisor have rolled out their GreenLeaders programme across Europe, covering the whole range of properties from B&B to luxury hotels. Search for “green hotels” and choose a location to see what’s available in the region.
Finding a place to stay sustainably is one thing. The clothing and gear you wear to protect you from the cold and rain is another. Fortunately, many of the outdoor wear manufacturers like Houdini put sustainability and cleanliness right at the heart of what they do. Fittingly for winter travel, many manufacturers use high-performance synthetic insulation in their jackets and trousers to replace down, or at least use fully traceable feathers that are a by-product of the food industry. (Programmes like Track My Down are good places to start finding out more about this.)
Then, you actually have to get from one place to another. There are options open to you when you’re trying to be more responsible. Search engines and tools like Momondo frequently highlight inspirational eco-friendly destinations and attractions. But it’s no longer enough for us to “choose our battles” – assuming that because your hotel recycles its waste, you don’t have to pay attention to any other aspect of cleaning up your trip. Fortunately, organisations like Sustainable Travel International are teaming up with travel operators to address both the means of travel and the overall perception of eco-tourism.
Volvo Cars is committed to making transport cleaner and safer. For example, we’re working towards getting a million electrified cars on the road by 2025, and have a vision that by 2020 no-one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo. And if people keep voting with their feet for better sustainable transport options, then green travel will rapidly become the norm. Until then, keep considering the cleanest options for your winter holiday, and you’ll be sure not to leave any dirty footprints of your own in the snow.