Sustainable travel in Switzerland: many stars were yesterday

Many mountains await you in Switzerland. But sustainable travel is also good there - not only because of the heavy public transport.

A mountain railway, behind it the Matterhorn

On the Gornergrat-Bahn, the trains feed the energy back into the grid on the descent Photo: Imago

I'm lucky in Zermatt. My room with a view of the Matterhorn is “the loveliest in the house”, as the young woman at reception assures me. The other rooms, whether with two, three or four beds, are as simple as a monk, extremely plain, not ennobled by a spectacular panorama.

the Swiss youth hostels are part of our travel program on sustainable approaches in Switzerland. A sustainability initiative by Switzerland Tourism, also a marketing campaign: Swisstainable. The label stands for the zeitgeist and sustainability initiatives in buildings ranging from youth hostels to luxury hotels. Ten journalists from all over the world were invited to this trip.

“The Swiss Youth Hostels are bringing a breath of fresh air to their culinary offerings. The new 'Yoummi' line lays the foundation for a new gastronomic future. Balanced and varied, sustainable and affordable,” according to a presentation by the Swiss Youth Hostels. Three-course menus in vegan, vegetarian or meat versions and always gluten- or lactose-free. And – one should not despise this in Switzerland – affordable. In fact, the youth hostels in the very expensive Switzerland are an alternative for the small purse. Anyone can stay there. And there are also single or double rooms.

The Union Swiss youth hostels is a member of the umbrella organization Hostelling International. There are over 51 establishments (including 6 franchise establishments) with 6,116 beds. Some accommodation offers special rooms, a great location or extra services. Some are located in historical buildings, are conveniently located for excursions or offer great panoramas or even wellness offers. The following applies to everyone: Breakfast is included, membership in the association is compulsory. Day memberships are available for the equivalent of 6.47 euros, and there are also annual tickets.

Swiss youth hostels Information, bookings and prices for the Swiss houses

Swiss Travel Pass Travelers can explore Switzerland by train, bus and boat for three, four, eight or 15 days. A seat reservation and/or a surcharge is required on the premium panorama trains Glacier Express, Bernina Express, Gotthard Panorama Express and in the Postbus Palm Express. The Swiss Travel Pass also allows free use of public transport in more than 90 Swiss cities and a 50 percent discount on most mountain railways.

Whether in Sankt Moritz, Scuol, Basel or Interlaken - youth hostels emphasize their sustainability. The youth hostel Scuol, which was built in 2007 and served as a sustainability example for other youth hostels, received the Hans E. Moppert Prize for sustainability in alpine tourism. Basel Youth Hostel received an award for good buildings in the cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft.

The prices vary depending on the day and season, for example in August 2022 adults pay the equivalent of a good 43 euros for a bed in a six-bed room and a little more than 116 euros for a single room. Double rooms then cost between 126 and 177 euros.

Authentic and natural

Many stars was yesterday. Today it has to be authentic, unique, natural. Luxury hotels like that Cervo Mountain Resort, a five-star hotel in Zermatt with a playful hippie touch in the furnishings, the colors and the design, advertise with it. Luxury and sustainability approaches are no longer a contradiction in terms.

“Being at home in a mountain region like Zermatt requires a close exchange with nature. The CERVO is dedicated to a type of travel that is close to nature, authentic and conscious. Sustainability is the central factor on which all decisions are based. Big and small,” says the full-bodied brochure.

Cervo is a founding member of Responsible Hotels of Switzerland. Sustainability is the new facet in the luxury goods segment. A quality feature and easier to implement there. From the technical side, ecological commitment is associated with high initial costs. In the luxury segment, larger budgets allow for more costly measures: drastic CO2-Savings, self-sufficient energy production, regional materials. More and more luxury hostels are discovering their green conscience and green certificates. Of course, the Cervo Hotel cooks with regional products wherever possible, wants to be a meeting point for the locals and presents itself as hippiesk, playfully idealistic with the old VW bus in front of the entrance.

Zermatt has been an energy city since 2016, so it has committed itself to a sustainable energy policy. The place is pleasantly car-free. The electric vehicles in the village do not have a combustion engine, do not emit any exhaust gases, are produced on site as unique specimens and have become the epitome of village mobility. Thanks to the abundance of water, the village can supply itself 100 percent with pure spring water. In addition, more than 80 percent of the electricity comes from hydropower, with the e-buses it is even 100 percent. There are also solar energy installations in various places, including the Zermatt cable cars and the Monte Rosa hut.

Photovoltaics at the stations

The mountain railways also advertise sustainability. Quantitatively, the mountain railways are being expanded more and more. More and more visitors can be transported to the Matterhorn. In terms of quality, they rely on sustainable technical innovation. In the Gornergrat Bahn the trains feed the energy back into the grid on the descent, which means that energy for two trains traveling up the mountain is obtained from three trains traveling down the valley.

The construction of the new 3-S-Bahn Matterhorn Glacier Ride II, which enables the year-round connection between Cervinia in Italy and Zermatt, does not require any masts at all, the drive of the cable car requires little maintenance and does not require any gear oil. Another photovoltaic system is being built on the façade of the new mountain station. Technically at the forefront and energy-saving, business is being boosted up high.

But Switzerland really is unbeatable in one respect: You don't need a car to get around here. The country is well developed. It has an ingenious train system. Public transport in Switzerland has one of the densest networks in the world. The train is the most important means of transport. There is more than 5,300 kilometers of railway network in Switzerland. There are also buses, trams, mountain railways and passenger ships, with which almost every corner of Switzerland can be easily reached. And in the furthest corner after a hike, the Postbus is guaranteed to be waiting.

We're going with that Glacier Express from car-free Zermatt to Chur. It is the slowest express train in the world and is regularly hailed as the world's most beautiful railway in glossy magazines. And yes, it is worth crossing the receding glaciers and lonely valleys on the luxury train.

Incidentally, according to statistics, the punctuality of the Swiss railways is 92.6 percent, the connection punctuality is even 99.1 percent. A good environmental conscience is also included in rail transport in Switzerland: SBB, the largest railway company in the country, generates 90 percent of the electricity for its trains from hydroelectric power. By 2025, traction current should come entirely from renewable sources.

Climate fund for Davos 2030

is the end of our journey davos. “In 2030, Davos wants to become the first climate-neutral holiday resort in Switzerland. Guests and companies together feed the 'myclimate climate fund Davos', which supports local climate projects,” says Petra Ruinatscha-Fausch from Davos Tourism. The initiative is run by the destination organisation, the community and the myclimate foundation. Tourism companies, event organizers and trade are taking part in the initiative. And of course this is known all over the world Davos Congress Center, where world business leaders gather every March. Consideration of local suppliers, environmentally friendly waste disposal, solar power, no air conditioning because cooling is with outside air - the congress center has been certified as climate-neutral by Myclimate since June 2020.

The Davos sustainability initiative is financed by the tourism and commercial providers as well as their guests and customers with voluntary contributions. If a guest decides to spend the night or shop in a climate-neutral manner, he or she voluntarily pays an additional contribution. The company then pays the same amount into the fund. 50 percent of the funds collected in this way are invested in climate protection projects in Graubünden, Switzerland and worldwide. 35 percent go to measures with which the participating companies make their operations more sustainable and 15 percent flow into the new "myclimate climate fund Davos".

He funds local projects that CO2-Reduce emissions. "This climate fund is based on the principles of the 'Cause We Care' program of the 'myclimate' foundation, but not only enables tourism service providers to participate, but also indirect service providers such as trade and commerce," says Petra Ruinatscha-Fausch. Climate protection is particularly important for the Alpine economy. "Nature is the basis of our tourism."

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