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Sustainable travel in North Rhine-Westphalia

The United Nations has declared 2017 the international year of sustainable tourism.

Autor: Julia Bauer

The United Nations has declared 2017 the international year of sustainable tourism. In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are various ways of taking time off to relax with a good conscience.

Sustainable short-term breaks

Climate-friendly in and through the Eifel region

In the Eifel region, visitors can arrange for their stay to be entirely climate-friendly. They are helped by a guest ticket which is valid for the incoming and return journey by bus and train, and for local public transport services, as well as accommodation offered by host guesthouses certified as being climate-friendly, who also take pride in using food produced locally and conforming to regional quality standards in their kitchens. The basic requirement that accommodation venues must fulfil in order to be certified is that they are authorised to bear the “Viabono!” environmental label, which itself proves that in the areas tested – (waste)water, waste, as well as energy and climate – they are at least 30 percent better than the average business operation calculated in each case. The use of seasonal and regional food also plays an important role for the certification process. Products of the Eifel regional brand, for example, guarantee short transport routes and support for regional businesses.

A CO2 calculator on the project’s website enables visitors to specifically calculate the emissions caused by their journey, and to compare the environmental friendliness of different modes of transport and places to stay.

Holiday park with sustainability certificate, Sauerland

The Sauerland region offers green holiday accommodation in an idyllic landscape. The first holiday park in Germany, the Landal GreenPark in Winterberg, was already awarded the Green Key sustainability certificate some time ago, which is otherwise usually presented to hotels. Green Key is an international certification programme for the tourism and leisure industry, which is supported in Germany by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Umwelterziehung, the German society for environmental education.

Essen is the green capital of Europe

An increasing number of cities in North Rhine-Westphalia are also taking steps to become more sustainable. Among them, Essen has been particularly prominent this year. The European Commission named the metropolitan city the “Green capital of Europe”, making it the first time that the title has been awarded to a city rooted in the coal and steel industries. The requirements for receiving the award are high environmental standards and ongoing ambitious goals for the further improvement of environmental protection and sustainable development.

Visitors can explore the greenest city in North Rhine-Westphalia and the third-greenest major city in Germany in a very climate-friendly way on foot, by bike, by boat or by bus and train. Thanks to a bicycle hire system, which is spread across the entire city, guests can also opt for pedal power any time, and use the well developed cycle paths and bicycle roads. Sightseeing by bike is also an option. 15 themed tours and routes take visitors past parks, churches, disused collieries and relaxing beer gardens. The Essen.Erfahren app offers navigation, maps and details on cycle routes, attractions and places to eat and drink. There are also a large number of tours on offer, which focus on particularly green sides of the city, as well as different accommodation packages.

Sustainable excursion and leisure tips

Eifel energy tour

On the Energietour Eifel, or Eifel energy tour, visitors specifically wanting to know about renewable energies in the region are given information about alternative forms of power generation. The route passes wind power, solar and biogas plants and a hydroelectric dam. The ten stations along the way offer not only interesting insights, but also great views. From the 60-meter high viewing platform at a wind farm near Aachen, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view right across to the Eifel region. In Heimbach, in the Eifel region, there is even a chance to see a German hydroelectric energy power generation pioneer in the form of an art nouveau power station.

Cycle and hiking stations, North Eifel

In the North Eifel, there are many places where cyclists and hikers can board a train if their legs can’t carry them any further. As part of a state-wide pilot project, the Euskirchen and Düren districts have turned 19 railway stations and stops into cycling and hiking stations, by adding info terminals, info pillars, benches for hikers, bike stands and air pumps. Simple, uniform marking and signage from the stations to existing cycle and hiking paths has also been introduced, allowing tours to start and finish at the station.

With muscle power and an electric motor through the Teutoburg Forest

Environmentally friendly travel options are also available in other regions of North Rhine-Westphalia – on land and on the water. Visitors to the Teutoburg Forest holiday region can reach their destination with muscle power and an electric motor. Attractions can be reached via rail handcar and an electric rickshaw, via hot air balloon and electric scooter, on boats on the Weser river and by horse and carriage. E-bikes, segways and museum trains can also be used. For the “Schau’ an! Wir sind mobil” (“Look! We’re mobile”) project, the Minden-Lübbecke and Herford districts and the city of Bielefeld have created and packaged a range of alternatives to the car.

Wuppertal tour with Twizy

In Wuppertal, visitors can go on motorised, yet environmentally-friendly tours of the city, thanks to the Twizy electric two-seater. A programmed navigation device in the car guides passengers to selected highlights in the city, including the Briller Viertel quarter dominated by buildings from the age of industrial expansion towards the end of the 19th century, as well as the former workers’ district, the Ölberg. At the old Mirke station, a venue for the cultural and creative sector, visitors can see the latest urban trends for themselves. A Roadbook provides detailed background information on the attractions along the way.

In a pedal houseboat along the Ruhr river

The pedal houseboats on the Ruhr are also an environmentally friendly form of transport. The boats owned by the “green fleet”, the Grüne Flotte Mülheim, which are also known as Escargots, or “snails”, can be rented out for day trips or multi-day tours. And a 4-stroke outboard motor is provided in case your legs wear out.

Festival for Design & Sustainability, Cologne

According to its own information, the “ökoRAUSCH Festival für Design & Nachhaltigkeit”, the festival for design & sustainability in Cologne, stands for well-conceived design which prioritises people, society and the environment. The festival will take place for the first time in 2017, in the Museum for Applied Arts Cologne (MAKK), and will open its doors from 12 to 21 May. The core element of the festival is an exhibition which focuses on high-quality, sustainable products, innovative design concepts and artistic attitudes with regard to sustainable development.

Holidays for everyone

One key basic principle of social sustainability is the opportunity for participation. An increasing number of day trip and leisure activities are being offered with barrier-free access in North Rhine-Westphalia. For example, the Eifel National Park has equipped its nature experience area, the “Wilder Kermeter”, with a 4.7 kilometre-long walking network, which is also easy to follow for people with wheelchairs and handbikes, as well as Zimmer frame users. The route takes visitors to sights such as the “Hirschley”, one of the most popular viewpoints in the National Park. The viewpoint is also equipped with a tactile model, enabling blind visitors to gain an impression of what can be seen there. Museums, restaurants, hotels and tourist information centres in NRW are also certified according to the “Travel for all” national certification system, and provide access to all visitors.

Green meetings

Bonn, the sustainable conference location

The “Sustainable Bonn” project is the first of its kind in NRW. Over 50 enterprises, including mainly hotels, but also companies in the catering, conference technology and transport areas, as well as museums, are already partners in the project in Bonn. In other words, they are developing their own sustainability strategy which they themselves are responsible for implementing, with intensive support from an external consultancy company. The commitment of the former German capital is no coincidence. As the only UN city in Germany, Bonn is home to 18 secretariats which are dedicated to global future themes such as climate protection, desertification, water management and soil and species protection. There are also over 150 international organisations based in the Bonn region which are active in these UN focal areas. As a result, a network has developed in recent years which has created synergy for leading international conferences focussing on sustainability, as well as the sustainable organisation of events.

Sustainable conferences in Münster

The Münster Marketing conference bureau supports organisers in making conferences as sustainable as possible, and in optimising the conferences with a view to climate protection and resource efficiency. Social sustainability also plays a role. Münster has joined the “Fairtrade towns” global campaign, where stakeholders from business, administration and civil society work towards achieving fairer global trade.

Sustainable locations in Cologne

The Cologne Convention Bureau also lists event locations and conference hotels on its website which offer sustainable packages.



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