Seven best practices to travel sustainably in France
By carefully deliberating over your needs, your mode of travel and your consumption while travelling, you can considerably reduce the overall ecological impact of your travels. Good news: France is a country in transition to become an eco-friendly hotspot! All over the country, you can choose sustainable options, and thus travel responsibly while fulfilling your dream trips.
© Restaurant Thierry Schwartz — Alsatian melon and mustard seeds.
France’s reputation in the domain of gastronomy is well established and extends beyond its famous restaurants. From sandwiches munched on the go to savouring delicious fruits, there are plenty of ways in which one can enjoy local and seasonal produce. The French calendar for seasonal produce can be found here. The country teems with small scale producers and even in the big cities, the “locavore” trend ” is booming. Make it a habit to shop in the numerous stores carrying goods from local producers that punctuate the landscape of the country, or visit local markets: almost every village in France has its own. To know market days, consult the market days site . And, when you are in the market, keep an eye out for the producers’ stands rather than those of retailers; the tell-tale sign is a smaller, yet even tastier, offering. If you visit the supermarkets, look out for the AB (or Eurofeuille) certification. Biocohérence, Nature & Progrès and Demeter are the most exemplary certifications found on French shelves, sold in organic stores.
Choose the right season
© Marina / Adobe Stock — The Bormes-les-Mimosas village.
Exploring the French Riviera is a wonderful experience year-round. But, visiting it in autumn, when the light is golden and the beaches unfold their kilometres upon kilometres of sand just for you is truly unforgettable! And why not come in winter, when the mimosa flowers burst into little yellow suns on the hills? In the fall, don't miss the foliage of the French forests from Morvan to Brocéliande, from Compiègne to the Vercors mountains, all of which transform into fiery reds and oranges. Come late October, you may hear deer bellowing if you listen carefully. In spring, on the summit of the Alps, hikers will find their Shangri-la when the sun is as bright as the fresh morning air. Have you ever thought of visiting Corsica in winter? The light is incomparable, the sun always warm and the sea tinged with silver. Magical!
Discover secret treasures
© JP Delagarde/CMN — The château de Talcy, in the Loire Valley
Château de Talcy
Beyond the regular touristic hotspots that are known all through the world, take a detour towards unknown destinations. You’ll come across some unrivaled locations. Are you familiar with Chambord? Discover the lesser-known castles of the Loire Valley! Are you a fan of the Dordogne? Explore Creuse! Already visited Bordeaux? Spend a day in Bergerac! France has so many of these rich treasures, and every region in France is worth a visit.
Opt for environmental certifications
When planning your holidays in France, some certifications can help you choose more sustainable/responsible products than others. For seaside resorts, opt for the Pavilion Bleu, which rewards resorts that have implemented a sustainable tourism policy. For an alpine holiday, keep an eye out for the Flocon Vert which validates social, cultural and environmental commitments, specifically related to resource management. For choosing your accommodation, look out for the logos of (La Clef Verte) , Ecogîte (a Gîtes de France certification), Gîte Panda (another Gîtes de France certification, in partnership with the WWF, World Wildlife Fund), or Hôtels au Naturel.
Choose your accommodation carefully
© The sound of water — Ecolodge on the water.
Going above and beyond branded establishments, it's easy to find a property that respects nature. Take a look at their website: those who have a virtuous sustainability approach will be sure to showcase it there. Pay attention to electricity consumption, water supply, local products: all these details will direct you to environmental-friendly accommodation. And, don’t forget that it is also your own attitude that will make your stay a sustainable one: reduce your waste and limit the usage of the air-conditioning or heating.
Take your time getting around
© rochagneux / Adobe Stock — A train along the Massif de l'Esterel.
Within France, the railway network is particularly convenient and well-developed. Between the TGV (high-speed train) that connects major cities and the TER (regional express train) that connects smaller stations, you will easily find a route that suits you. To consult the timetable, visit the website of the national railway company SNCF. If you are on a budget, opt for the bus. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Organized carpooling has become very popular in France and allows you to share your ride and also meet locals. The most used website in France is BlaBlaCar. France lends itself to a diverse array of experiences: by bike, on foot, on horseback, on a donkey or by boat, there is something for everyone!
Support those who protect nature
© Blogtrip / Adobe Stock — Natural regional park of Chartreuse.
In France, much of the land is protected. Different levels and authorities of protection exist: National Parks 11 in all , including seven in metropolitan France), Natural Reserves (more than 300), and Regional Natural Parks. In each, you'll find a Park House or a Reserve House, where guides will enthusiastically share the natural wealth of the area with you. Most of the outings are free, and all are enthralling. Often, you can buy postcards, sometimes books or souvenirs: feel good about splurging, as this money is used to finance nature protection projects. In France, associations are also doing great work and you can find them easily: to get information on the local fauna and flora, to organize outings, visit the Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux.
© ursule / Adobe Stock — All set to holiday with a backpack and water bottle.
Responsible travel starts at home! A heavy suitcase means a heavier plane or car, which will consume more fuel. Also avoid using polluting cosmetic products, especially shower gels and shampoos, which will end up in the French groundwater. If you’ve forgotten to pack something, there are many French cosmetic brands that are that are environment-friendly. Don't forget a few essentials that will allow you to respect nature once you arrive at your destination: a water bottle, so you don't have to buy a plastic one; possibly a small thermos, for coffee addicts; a pocket ashtray for smokers; cutlery, a napkin and a "lunch box" to avoid disposable packaging; one or two "tote bags" to avoid plastic bags. Everywhere in France, the zero waste culture movement is gaining more and more traction.
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