Six tips for climate-friendly travel
Perhaps nowhere underscores the importance of protecting nature like Iceland.
While the island’s smattering of volcanos and glaciers make clear the overwhelming power of nature, much of the country’s most striking sites are also surprisingly delicate. If you drive your car off-road, for example, it could take years for this slow-growing landscape to recover. And the impacts of the climate crisis are already being acutely felt up north: the Atlantic puffin is now endangered, while an increase in rainfall pose a risk of landslide.
This means Icelanders are ambitious in their efforts to go green: the country aims to beand already produces 100% of its electricity with hydropower and geothermal energy.
offers an official certification called “ ”, issued only for environmentally-friendly businesses. Keep an eye out for their distinctive seal, which indicates the business operates in an ethical, environmentally sustainable way.
Electrify your travel
Many of Iceland’s buses are already electric, and in the capital, it’s easy to rent bicycles, electric bikes, or electric scooters. If you’re renting your own vehicle, most companies offer electric cars, and there’s a great networks of fast-charging points around Iceland and in the parking lots of many hotels - and while driving an electric car in other countries means you’re still charging with electricity created by fossil fuels, in Iceland, since all electricity is produced by renewables, it’s a truly green way to move.
Drink tap instead of bottled
Instead of creating plastic waste, enjoy some of the freshest, cleanest tapwater on earth. Water melted from glaciers filters slowly through lava rock over the course of hundreds of years, and springs from the tap pristine, so all visitors are encouraged to drink tap rather than buy bottled. Bring a reusable bottle around, and make sure to request tapwater rather than bottled water at restaurants.
Iceland is a fishing nation in the middle of the Atlantic - imported products by default carry a high carbon footprint. Sheep run wild and an impressive amount of vegetables are grown inside thermally heated greenhouses.
Keep in mind that not all local cuisine is eco-friendly cuisine. Foods now marketed to international tourists as exotic local delicacies - like puffin and whale meat - are borne out of a legacy of native Icelanders making the best of the spare resources available. In fact, the l of Icelanders report eating whale meat regularly, and the country plans to end commercial . Overall, they’re not a sustainable food choice, particularly puffin, which is now an endangered species. Aquaculture has become a large industry in Iceland over the years, but keep in mind that salmon farmed on land has less environmental impact than open-pen sea cages in fjords.now caught by Icelandic whalers goes not to locals, but to tourists -
Instead, check out some farm-to-table restaurants for truly sustainable eating - whether that’s a bowl of tomato soup inside the where they’re farmed, fresh cheese at a or brunch at a . If you’re really focused on eating sustainably, there are even an impressive number of excellent vegan restaurants in Icelandic cities.
Some brands are deliberately sustainable: make soaps from organic Icelandic herbs. works with several Icelandic retailers on turning plastic waste directly into new products, from flowerpots to furniture.has a Research and Development Centre that uses ingredients from geothermal fluids, along with cultivated algae, for many of its skincare and wellness products. And other brands like create their clothes from recycled materials, while
There are also several secondhand stores in Reykjavik, if you’re looking for a souvenir that’s both cheaper and more eco-friendly. You can also shop the famousfor pre-loved items, since reuse is one way to minimize your climate impact. And if you don’t feel like lugging your camping supplies back to your home country, consider donating it to a secondhand shop: it’ll reduce waste, and proceeds from many secondhand shops go to charitable causes.
Decarbonize your hotel
Thanks to the abundance of geothermal energy, hotels will, as a rule, run on renewables. But some accommodations will take it a step further still:sources organic linens and uses low-flow shower heads, while the was built with reclaimed wood and other recycled materials, with electric car charging ports in the parking area. And at Hótel Fljótshlíð, you can be part of the reforesting of Iceland: the hotel sits on a called Smaratun, and guests can take part in an initiative to plan native birch trees.
Respect the landscape
This one might sound basic, but litter in Iceland will stick out like a sore thumb. If you’re camping, absolutely remember to pack out your trash with you. And recycle where possible - Iceland was the first country in the world to adopt a nationwide recycling fee for disposable drink cans and bottles.
This also means respecting regulations and signs: they’re there to protect a fragile environment from the irreversible damage that can be caused by driving offroad, or treading down moss away from designated hiking trails.
There’s one more way to keep the landscape clean: make sure to wash off before you take a dip in any geothermal pools. These pools don’t use chemicals to stay clean, and this way you can avoid introducing oils, soaps, and sunscreen to these natural spring waters.