In June 2022 we from ChargeHorizons participated at the Wild Spaces from experimenta. In the preparation of this huge event, we conducted an interview about sustainable travel. In the following you find the English version of it:.
For many, vacation is the most wonderful time of the year. But the days off have a downside: traveling puts a strain on the environment. With her start-up Charge Horizons, Lilith Diringer wants to raise awareness of the ecological consequences without diminishing the desire to travel. At the Wild Spaces sustainability festival in Heilbronn, she takes us behind the scenes of the travel industry and gives tips for sustainable vacations. We spoke to her in advance.
What are the biggest unsustainable sins when traveling?
It really depends on the destination of the trip and the conditions in the local accommodation. Of course, transportation, especially flying, is harmful. However, many people forget that there are also a lot of practices which are linked to the accommodation which pollutes the environment. Water consumption is many times higher in vacation accommodations. Especially for short stays of one or two nights, bed linen and towels have to be cleaned every time. All-you-can-eat buffets are also a curse because a lot of edibles end up in the garbage can. One fifth of food waste actually derives from hotels and gastronomy. Moreover, social sustainability also needs to be respected:: employees in the travel industry are often kept on seasonal contracts, there are large disparities in salary structures, and there is rarely any attention paid to inclusion, such as accessibility.
Is it even possible to travel sustainably?
From a purely ecological perspective, it is difficult to reduce the negative environmental impact of travel to zero. However, one should not ignore the fact that travelling has also lasting positive impacts and can lead to a better understanding of different cultural and natural environments in the long term. So the topic is very complex. But anyone who pays attention to at least a few aspects during planning and traveling can make a positive contribution to preserving the environment.
With the app ChargeHolidays, you have launched a sustainable travel companion. How does the app help to reduce the ecological footprint on vacation and educate travelers about sustainable trips?
We bring transparency to the label jungle and make it easier for travelers to decide between different accommodations – based on their sustainability management. For this purpose, we have the “Sustainability Dream Catcher”, which shows how well an accommodation performs in different categories such as mobility or waste management. The traveler learns for himself or herself what to look out for during the vacation in order to be sustainable without losing the passion for travelling. In addition, a CO2 calculation as well as compensation is integrated. If you do not know yet where you want to travel, we also offer a fun recommendation tool with which you can find out what destination fits to your inner travel wishes. Consequently, we make travel decisions less stereotypical. Moreover, people owning or renting an e-car can check with us whether the accommodation offers charging facilities on site that also fit the plug type of their vehicle. Behind all of this is the goal of turning travelers into empowered decision-makers is prevailing. To sum it up: We make sustainable travel planning the most comfortable and adventurous way to travel so that everyone can easily opt for the more sustainable option with transparent information.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I have been very active in sustainability since 2014, including various positions at WWF and as a sustainability coach and educator at netzwerk n. Whenever I’ve traveled, I’ve asked at hotel receptions if the used paper was made from recycled materials, whether sustainable ink was used, or why there were so few vegan alternatives at the buffet. I saw so many negative as well as positive examples that I started doing more in-depth research. I could not believe that there were so many role models out their and still a majority of accommodation was not behaving environmental friendly. After numerous conversations with hotel establishments as well as other travelers, I was convinced that I wanted to help change things myself.
What would still have to happen for the topic of “green travel” to become established among the major tour operators as well?
Many travelers want to travel more sustainably, but they find it difficult to actually put this into practice. In order for this interest to reach the major tour operators, it must be possible for customers to communicate this need and have it fulfilled – at a relatively low additional cost. At the same time, stereotypes that still linger in many peoples’ minds must be broken down. The classic narrative that sustainable travel is synonymous with reduction and being bored is long outdated. We want sustainability to become hip, modern, and socially acceptable from the first thought of the trip to the long-term memory of it.
— Thank you a lot for the interview, Lilith. It was great having ChargeHorizons at WildSpaces 2022. —
Our CEO Lilith enjoys to share her experience in the sphere of sustainable travel. Giving interviews and visiting congresses always provides a great possibility to raise peoples’ awareness about sustainable aspects while traveling.