Your Guide to Sustainable Travel in Milan – Visiting Italy

A Collection of Tips and Advice for Sustainable Travel in Milan

Put together by the team at Bounce

Are you someone who likes to travel often? There is no doubt that seeing the world is incredible, and who wouldn’t want to see how different places, communities and ecosystems work. Visiting different cities can be an amazing way to have new experiences, learn more about different cultures and meet interesting people. 

However, some eager travelers might not know about the effects that vacationing can have on the environment and that traveling far from home can be harmful to the planet. We all need to do our part to take care of our world, and there are lots of ways to make your vacation less harmful.

If you want to learn more about being sustainable when on vacation then you have come to the right place. Some cities are even putting in new policies in order to be environmentally friendly. For example, the charming city of Milan in Italy has recently decided to make new efforts when building infrastructures, like using materials from nearby areas, creating the lowest amount of emissions possible, plus reusing and recycling materials. 

Travelers can take inspiration from this city and maybe even see how it is done in person if you travel there. Traveling sustainably sometimes means packing more reusable things so your luggage could get heavy, but don’t worry as you can stow your suitcases in a luggage locker in Milan or wherever else you are visiting. Travel light and enjoy the sights!

sustainable Travel in Milan: tourists visiting an ancient building

Introduction to Sustainable Travel in Milan

Before you even get to your getaway destination you need to worry about traveling there. There are several ways to get somewhere new, either by land, air or sea, and each method has its own advantages and disadvantages for the environment. Sometimes you can’t control the way that you get somewhere, but you can always do your best to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible.

  • By land

If you are getting somewhere on land then chances are that you will be traveling by car, bus or train. Whenever possible, traveling by train is ideal and should be your first choice. Milan’s primary train station is called Garibaldi Train Station. You may end up there if you choose the train as your mode of travel. 

Cars can have a big impact on the environment so if you are driving to your vacation destination then there are certain things that you should do. First off, you should check if there are buses that can bring you to where you need to go. Buses are more environmentally friendly simply because they carry more people than cars can, and the carbon footprint will therefore be less in total. If you have no choice but to bring your own vehicle then you should try to bring as many people with you as possible. Carpooling will always be more sustainable than traveling alone.

Another way that you can help make your journey sustainable is to get your car checked and fixed before leaving. Some important points include making sure that your gas cap closes properly, that the engine is in top shape and that your tires are properly installed and well inflated. This will not only help reduce the number of fumes released into the atmosphere but will also be safer for you and can save you money. It’s a win-win!

If your car has any special features like Eco Mode or Cruise Control then you can definitely benefit from them. Not only will they make your gas last longer (which means a cheaper trip!) but are also contributing to a healthier planet. If you have the opportunity to drive an electric car then this is your best way to be sustainable on a road trip.

Lastly, you can help your drive go smoother and have less of an impact on the planet by planning your trip well. Take the time to find the best route and study it so you don’t make any wrong turns. Don’t stray from that path as much as possible and avoid making any unnecessary stops. Packing food in advance to eat on the go can help you keep driving for longer.

  • By air

Flying into Malpensa Airport on your holiday to Milan? Planes are actually significant contributors to CO2 emissions, and the effort of avoiding one flight can be as much as going gasoline-free for an entire year. This is why flying should be your last option when it comes to traveling. But sometimes it can’t be avoided, so here are some things that can help you to be as sustainable as possible.

Since even one flight can have such a huge impact on emissions, it is always best to take direct flights when possible. Getting to where you need to go in one single trip is always the best-case scenario for flying.

When choosing flights you might have a choice between different airlines. Some companies may be more environmentally friendly than others based on the type of fuel that they use. Do your research and choose the best possible airline available.

Other than flying the least amount possible and being conscientious of the efforts made by your airline, there is not much else that you can do. Consider packing your own snacks in reusable containers for the flight so you don’t produce any more waste from the snacks that they give out.

  • By sea

If you are vacationing somewhere near the sea and have the option of getting there by boat, then this is a great way to make your journey more sustainable. Similarly to cars, always opt for an electric boat as opposed to one that uses gas which not only contributes to emissions but can disturb the marine ecosystem. Sailboats use wind and solar energy and are the absolute best way to travel sustainably by sea.

If you have to travel using a motor boat make sure that you get it checked before going on a long trip and be cautious when filling up your tank. Avoiding oil and gas spills is essential since they are extremely harmful to aquatic life and birds and are also very difficult to clean up. You should also consider the type of engine that your boat uses, and try to go for a four-stroke engine versus a two-stroke one which uses and wastes much more fuel.

When traveling by boat for a long period of time you will need to consider certain things, like how to deal with human waste. You should not be throwing any sewage into the waters, but instead, get a Marine Sanitation Device that has a holding tank or can treat the sewage before releasing it. Composting toilets are also a fantastic option and can turn sewage into compost. 

Watch out for untreated wastes like soap or detergent from cleaning the boat or the use of any dishwashers, showers or sinks onboard. Instead of using products with chemicals you can try finding eco-friendly soaps, or do as much cleaning on shore as possible. Similarly, never throw any garbage or trash into the water but instead collect it all to be disposed of once you get back to land.

While you cannot travel to Milan by boat, you can take lake cruises on Lake Como, an hour away from the city. Of course, you’ll want to get there in a sustainable way and choose a tour company that has being earth-friendly in mind.

old buildings climbing green hilllsides by the water in Milan

Being Sustainable in a New City

It is best to stay as close to home as possible when you vacation but if you want to see the world, then traveling cannot be avoided! Enjoy your travels and reduce your impact on the planet as you explore somewhere new.

  • Choose a sustainable destination

Some cities, like Milan, are doing more than others when it comes to the fight against climate change, and if your destination is flexible then they should be your first choice. Sustainable urban development and even a new zero-emission hotel are ways that Milan is doing its part. 

Traveling to places that need support, like cities recovering from a disaster, can help by contributing to their economy and also be better for the planet. Try to stay in one destination for as long as possible and avoid flying into a city for just a few nights.

  • When possible, go by foot

When discovering a new city, do your best to walk or bike around instead of using a taxi, bus or train. If this isn’t an option then public transportation is your next best bet. If using a car is unavoidable try carpooling with friends or use a car sharing app to connect with locals going the same way. 

Hitchhiking also works, but be careful getting into cars with strangers. The ultimate way to get around is on foot, and backpacking across a country is one of the best and most environmentally friendly ways to travel! Milan has much to see when walking, such as the Piazza del Duomo, a popular gathering spot for tourists and locals of Milan.

  • Avoid big tourist attractions

Although the main sights of a city are often what attracts tourists, they are not always the best for the environment. Instead, try giving back to the citizens by participating in local attractions and helping out small businesses. There are some sites that can connect you with local citizens as tour guides which are great ways to get to know the city and its people.

  • Eat locally

When it comes to food, you should do your best to avoid big chain restaurants or fast food. Instead, try visiting markets and buying fresh produce from the city to make your own meals or order from small local restaurants. 

Vegan, vegetarian and organic produce or meats from real farmers as opposed to factory farms are also terrific. This not only helps the environment but the local citizens of the city as well, and you will find that this food tastes better than processed goods anyway!

  • Avoid waste and pick up after yourself

When you get the opportunity to visit a beautiful new city you will want to leave it the same or even cleaner than when you found it. You should avoid buying single-use items, like water bottles, and bring your own reusable ones instead. Don’t buy unnecessary items or tacky souvenirs that will be thrown away. Lastly, always recycle wastes that have to be thrown away whenever possible.

  • Shop sustainably

If you are planning to do some retail therapy on your vacation, there are certain things to keep in mind. Opt for more expensive but better quality clothing and avoid fast fashion. If possible, shop from sustainable and ethical brands to support companies that are doing their part for the environment. Visiting thrift shops and buying things second hand can also help give items a new life and keep them out of landfills!

What to Pack for Sustainable Travel

Now that you know how to travel sustainably in a city, it is time to pack your bags. If you want to do what is best for the environment you should try to be a minimalist and pack only what is necessary. Listed below are some things that can help you to be more sustainable on your trip.

  • Be strategic with clothing

When it comes to what to wear, you won’t want to pack too much. Try to plan your outfits to work with the least amount of clothes as possible, and bring pieces that can be reused and worn in multiple combinations. This also saves more room in your bag.

  • Eco-friendly sunscreen and lotions

The products that you use can impact the environment way more than you might think. Sunscreen, for example, greatly damages aquatic ecosystems thanks to chemicals like oxybenzone and should be avoided. When you go swimming some of the lotion can come off and go into the water leaving chemicals behind. Opt for an eco-friendly sunscreen instead.

  • Natural soaps and shampoo bars

Just like the sunscreen mentioned above, soaps and shampoos can also have chemicals that will harm the environment when used. Try to go for natural and organic options, and instead of bottled products try to use bars that use less packaging.

  • Reusable water bottles, containers, utensils, straws and bags

Those single-use water bottles are very bad for the environment and are big contributors to the waste in landfills. Bringing your own reusable water bottle and containers that you can fill with organic snacks or meals is much better than buying food with wrappers. 

The same goes for metal utensils and straws which are more sustainable than the plastic alternatives. When waste is unavoidable, always recycle. As well, you should bring your own reusable bags for shopping and avoid taking plastic bags. Bonus points if your reusable items are made from recycled materials, hemp or organic cotton!

  • Use eco-friendly technology

As time goes on we begin to think of new ways to do things and technology has evolved a lot in just the past decade. Try using reusable energy as much as possible, like solar powered battery packs to charge your phone or other devices. Rechargeable batteries are the next best thing as one battery can often be used up to 500 times. 

If you need a flashlight, try bringing one that can be powered by motion, like a shake-and-shine, as opposed to battery powered ones. Using a Kindle or electronic book reader as well as your cell phone for maps is much better for the environment than paper alternatives as well.

Modern skyscrapers with green balconies in Milan

Traveling the World Without Waste

Every day more trash is added to our landfills, more pollutants into our waters and more toxic emissions into our atmosphere. The travel industry is very harmful to the environment, and some studies suspect that it contributes to at least eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our atmosphere and environment are already damaged due to human interference, and we need to do something to help the situation soon. 

Thankfully most people are becoming aware of our impact and we are consistently putting effort into sustainable living. Eliminating all waste is a very hard thing to do, especially if you are visiting somewhere new. Although avoiding all waste is impossible, there are so many ways that you can contribute to reducing your carbon footprint and the damage that we do to our planet. 

First off, try to travel in the most sustainable way possible. This means moving around by foot, by boat or by train, and vehicles or airplanes using gasoline or fuel should be your last choice. Where you choose to travel is also important, and once you arrive at your destination you can lower your impact on the environment by eating locally and supporting small businesses. Pack sustainably by bringing reusable items, natural products and clothing that you can use more than once.

You will soon realize that living sustainably is often more affordable in the long run and also healthier for you. Most importantly, reducing your waste will be better for our environment and the other creatures living on it, so keep these tips in mind so you can have an amazing vacation and feel confident that you are doing your best to protect our planet at the same time.


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