Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam – A city where responsible tourism comes naturally
Visiting Amsterdam is a breath of fresh air – a haven for eco-tourists! There’s a lot more to the beautiful and whimsical city of Amsterdam than freedom, coffee shops and world renowned museums. With a deeply ingrained eco-conscious attitude amongst Amsterdammers, the never ending bike-paths, the array of sustainable hotels and quirky vintage shops, together with a comprehensive green transport system, responsible tourism in Amsterdam makes it a city where responsible tourism comes naturally.
Ranked fifth as the most eco-friendly city in the world for workers following London, Frankfurt, Oslo and Cambridge in Massachusetts, Amsterdam boasts fascinating facts and sustainable eco-friendly activities as regards responsible tourism.
This article takes a look at what ‘responsible tourism’ means, and aims to give an overview of the 12 eco-friendly initiatives that comes naturally in the Dutch capital along with ways on how visitors can enjoy their visit whilst contributing to the green city.
What is Responsible tourism?
The widely accepted definition of Responsible Tourism (Cape Town Declaration) is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable. Responsible tourism comes in a variety of forms and includes:
1 | Maintenance of the world’s diversity by making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage;
2 | Opportunities for tourists to enjoy more meaningful experiences, connections with local people, and understanding of local culture, social and environmental issues.
One’s behaviour can be more or less responsible and what is responsible depends upon environment and culture.
Responsible tourism in Amsterdam
With these being said, Amsterdam takes its responsibilities seriously. Amsterdam leads the way on responsible tourism on many fronts. From a complete commitment to achieving Zero CO2 emission by 2050 to actively exploring ways to lead in creating an eco-friendly environment for Amsterdammers to live in, and making Amsterdam a better place for visitors – a city for everyone to enjoy.
Amsterdam’s commitment to Zero CO2 emission – An overview
With our planet on a ‘climate emergency‘ and in line with the European Parliament’s resolution passed in November 2019, Amsterdam is committed to tackling the global warming situation. The Dutch capital aims to be the first European city to achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2050. It has implemented a number of strategies focusing on sustainable mobility, in particular, eliminating CO2 emissions from public transportation.
A picture of the future Amsterdam is succinctly laid out in the city’s Roadmap to Climate Neutral in 2050, appended below. You could read the document in its entirety by clicking on the citation link.
By 2030, Amsterdam’s streets will be free of exhaust-emitting cars.Roadmap Amsterdam Climate Neutral Roadmap 2050
By around 2040, every home will have switched from natural gas to sustainable heating.
And by 2050, we will have ended our dependence on coal, gas and oil. We will instead
get all of our energy from the sun, wind, plants and the heat of the earth itself. For some,
this is future talk or even an alarming prospect; for others, it is already daily practice.
In any case, the transition to clean energy has begun and can no longer be stopped.
12 best initiatives where Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam comes naturally
With a clear roadmap aimed at climate neutral, Amsterdam has pioneered several initiatives on the tourism front in support to achieve their goal. Among these are the following 12 initiatives where responsible tourism comes naturally:
1 | A ‘green’ Airport
The first ‘taste’ of eco-friendliness awaits a visitor at Schiphol Airport. Schiphol Airport has been making the airport more sustainable each year for years. It takes a lot of energy to keep Schiphol running 24-hours a day and measures are continually adapted to ensure energy is used as efficiently as possible.
As from January 1, 2018, Schiphol Airport has been running on 100% wind power generated by local Dutch company, Eneco. The airport had also installed solar panels, with some on the airport’s roofs, parking areas and along the runways. This means energy saving wherever possible and using the cleanest possible electricity. Thus, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol runs solely on renewable energy generated in the Netherlands.
Along with these initiatives on renewable energy usage at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Dutch capital has so many cool things that contribute to the enjoyment of tourists as well as being one of the greenest and environmentally friendly cities in the world.
Recommended read: Cycling in Amsterdam – 19 Useful Tips
2 | Getting about Amsterdam by bike
The capital city of Netherlands boasts the never ending 500 kilometres of bike lanes, covering every corner and every canal of the city. Getting about Amsterdam on a two-wheeler is popular and a way of life for the Amsterdammers. As a visitor to the Dutch capital, you could get around Amsterdam by bike and keep your carbon footprint to the minimal as possible.
Bike rentals are dotted all over the city to encourage cycling. Hire one, and explore the main landmarks of the city or venture a little further along River Amstel onto the city’s outlaying cycle network to nearby quaint and picturesque villages.
The unmissable quaint 12th century village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is worth exploring and so is the picturesque Broek in Waterland, once a haven for the high-status city-dwellers.
The generous bike paths around the city means you can explore Amsterdam very quickly. While some paths have specialised traffic lights with illuminated green cycle sign to support safety of cyclists, just be aware of some daring cyclists who weave in and out of bike paths. Some even run red lights! Always wear a cycle-helmet even if most Amsterdammers don’t.
However, if you are not confident to explore Amsterdam by bike independently, then perhaps joining a guided bike tour of Amsterdam is best. You will be led by an experienced tour guide and your fellow cyclists may not be as daring as Amsterdammers are!
3 | Explore Amsterdam on foot
4 | Canals, boat cruises and paddleboats | Responsible tourism in Amsterdam
There is one bridge in the central canal belt that offers visitors the beautiful sight of fifteen bridges across its canals. This particular spot is viewed from the corner of Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht and best seen from the water level on a boat. Day time views are lovely but it is a spectacular sight in the evening/night when the bridges are lit up.
The are a number of sustainable ways to experience Amsterdam from the waters. You could do a canal cruise in one of the 200 electric boats offering canal tours, hire a kayak or a pedal boat (pedalos, water bikes). If you elect to hire a kayak or a boat, you can explore the city by waters at your own pace.
You could hire a pedal boat using your I Amsterdam City Card but you need to book a time-slot for your activity. Ensure that your City Card is valid at the time of your activity.
5 | A comprehensive Green Transport system
Public transport in Amsterdam is already highly sustainable. Trains, buses, trams, metros and ferries make up the city’s comprehensive public transport network that transport lots of people at the same time. Use of public transport is much encouraged and this is evident from the frequent and timely services as well as the generous bicycle storage at stations. All electric passenger trains have been powered using green energy since 2017 and it is mandatory for all new buses to use renewable energy.
The public transport system in Amsterdam is easy to navigate although the ticketing system can be confusing. A comprehensive guide is available on the best tickets to purchase to navigate around the city, and a regional pass if venturing out to the surrounding areas of Amsterdam.
The I Amsterdam City Card is an all encompassing pass of great value as it includes public transportation operated by GVB in Amsterdam city only, along with free access to attractions. Take a look at what it includes and does not include before purchasing one to suit the duration of your visit.
6 | Extensive Green spaces in Amsterdam
Amsterdam city is not all urban. It is surrounded by an abundance of lush and open green spaces – parks, gardens and a forest!
Amsterdam’s parks and gardens are beautiful, has its own charm and interesting history. These green spaces are all located within a stone’s throw of the city centre and offer a great space to relax, unwind with lots of activities for kids.
Walk to the east of the city to De Plantage in the Jewish Quarter, a district where history, nature and culture intertwine or take a short ride to Vondelpark to experience all genres of music. Whichever green spaces you decide to visit, Amsterdam Bos, should firmly top your ‘to visit’ list for timeless experience.
7 | Amsterdam’s Green places to eat
Green eating is quite a buzz in Amsterdam and you can easily find restaurants and cafés offering organic products. Walk along De Negen Straatjes (the Nine Little Streets) and the Jordaan district where cafes are aplenty serving organic food. Head to the farmers market at Noordermarkt Square to shop for some fresh, locally grown produce if you are planning a picnic in the park.
For a unique experience, head to De Kas, a prime example of Amsterdam’s sustainability culture. A high-end restaurant located inside of a former greenhouse, built in 1926. With vast magnificent windows and airy high ceilings, De Kas spoil their clients with ingredients tendered and cared for from their very own vegetable garden, with no-fuss Mediterranean cuisines that often changes to the seasons harvest.
De Kas, Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3 1097 DE Amsterdam | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
For a traditional Dutch street-food experience, Natuurlijk Smullen serves up organic meat-based snacks such as chicken nuggets and frikandel. Vegetarian alternatives to traditional burgers are also available along with Dutch fries topped with a selection of tasty, organic sauces.
Natuurlijk Smullen, Jan van Galenstraat 78, 1056 CD Amsterdam
Noorderlicht Cafe is a simplistically beautiful dining destination housed inside a two-storey greenhouse with a large riverside terrace. The cafe hosts regular musical and cultural events which are often free of charge. It’s menu offers plenty of organic based dishes with a lean towards vegetarian and vegan dietary needs. This cultural and sustainable cafe is located on the NDSM yard along River IJ.
Noorderlicht Cafe, NDSM plein 102
1033 WB Amsterdam
8 | Meat-free restaurants in Amsterdam city
The Amsterdam restaurant scene these days certainly seems a world away from its once popular Brockwurst on mash potatoes smothered with rich gravy! Plant-based dining is the trendy option now with so many eateries popping up across the city.
Mr & Mrs Watson in Oost, Amsterdam is a “plant based food bar for vegan food lovers and cheese addicts”. Although there are some options on all vegan menu, the Watson Cheese Platter, featuring cashew fondue is the one to go for.
Besides enjoying the best comfort food, you would also be contributing towards Mr & Mrs Watson’s commitment to give back – a tree is planted for every dish they serve.
Mr & Mrs Watson, Linnaeuskade 3H, Amsterdam.
Dine in style at Restaurant Vermeer, the creative culinary lab of 1* Michelin Chef Chris Naylor who experiments on the daily fresh produce brought to him by the local farmers. Beetroot, and white asparagus feature liberally on his menu. A prettily laid out plate of robust, pure, and clean flavours awaits anyone on an evening of high-end fine dining.
Restaurant Vermeer | Prins Hendrikkade 59-72, 1021 AD Amsterdam
Recommended read – Best places to eat stroopwafels in Amsterdam
9 | Amsterdam’s initiative on food surplus | Responsible tourism in Amsterdam
With 1.3 billion tonnes of food wastage per year across the world, Amsterdam is no stranger to food surplus. Food waste has a high impact on the environment and Instock Restaurant in Amsterdam rescues food from being wasted. They collect food from growers/farmers, fishmongers, packaging companies and producers. Instock then runs a final quality check and prepares them for restaurants and caterers. These ingredients are turned into culinary delights for breakfast, lunch and dinner by their creative chefs. Instock is open seven days a week, serving-up anything from a cup of coffee to a four-course-meal.
Restaurant Instock | Czaar Peterstraat 21, Amsterdam.
Visit Persijn, on the ground floor of QO hotel for a hearty brunch. Fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs are sourced daily from their rooftop greenhouse and features in their innovative dishes of salads with blossoms and wholesome vegetable soups. Hence, with their ‘farm-to-table’ creative approach, there’s hardly any food wastage.
Persijn | Amstelvlietstraat 4, Amsterdam
10 | Amsterdam Eco-hotels | Responsible tourism in Amsterdam
Stylish, and sustainable accommodations with energy efficient amenities, organic towels, and recycled furniture are all part of the Dutch capital’s initiatives on responsible tourism in Amsterdam. Some of the environmentally-friendly accommodations throw in bike rental as part of their service as well.
Stay at the cozy eco-conscious hotel around the corner from Vondelpark. Conscious Hotel Vondelpark has 81 rooms and is completely sustainable – from furniture to green roof! Food is 100% organic and the building is powered by renewable energy.
For budget hostels that combines conscious living with simplicity, look no further than Ecomama although it may not be for everyone. Ecomama is designed with sustainability and “just enough” of the basic amenities while being committed to re-purposing everything it can.
Alternatively, grab yourself one of the following last minute best deals:
11 | Sustainable shopping in Amsterdam
Shopping in Amsterdam takes you to a whole new level! From excellent luxury shops, designer outlets, unique boutiques, and sustainable stores, the city is a shopper’s dream come true. However, more and more people are adopting a sustainable lifestyle and this is showcased in their eco-friendly fashion choices.
In Amsterdam, there are so many choices and varieties if you choose to shop green. De Negen Straatjes is a famous shopping district and you will find most of the shops here are vintage stores.
Episode is a popular store and pioneers a serious concept as a sustainable alternative to fast fashion. They take clothing that is donated to charity, washed them in their warehouse, repair if necessary and distribute to the vintage stores.
Episode, Waterlooplein 1, 1011 NV Amsterdam
LENA Fashion library is another interesting concept where it allows you to shop differently. You could borrow vintage styles to suit and you could return them at the end of the borrowed time.
Lena Library, Westerstraat 174h
1015 MP Amsterdam
12 | Alternative to traditional tourism – Explore Amsterdam with a difference
Amsterdam is a popular touristic city and it may present problems of sustainability. The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam suggests alternative ways for tourists to explore the city with a difference.
Among its suggestions are ways to explore the streets, the street markets, gardens, flea markets and spaces away from the usual tourist trails. You are also invited to plant vegetables, participate in cookery classes and have fun wedding ceremonies with the locals.
The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam, @IAmsterdam Store, De Ruijterkade 28 A t/m D (Behind Amsterdam CS), 1012 AA Amsterdam
A final note on responsible tourism in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is green to its very core! This is evident from the many initiatives highlighted above, which by no means is an exhaustive list. The city’s affinity with cycling, the array of pleasant green spaces, green eating, sustainable shopping and low waste dining are all reflective of a city that is so much more than the whimsical city of freedom, coffee shops and museums that Amsterdam is often associated with. The laid-back and progressive values of green culture showcases the Dutch capital as a natural ‘living’ hub of sustainability combined with social consciousness. Amsterdam really is a great green city to visit in Europe, a city where responsible tourism is taken seriously and comes naturally.
What do you think?
Was this article helpful to you in your search on sustainability and responsible tourism in relation to Amsterdam? Is there an initiative that should have made the list on this article but did not? If so, share your thoughts in comments below, we would love to hear from you.
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Have a splendid time in Amsterdam 🙂
Quick facts on Amsterdam, Netherlands
City: Capital of Netherlands
Mayor: Femke Halsema (since 2018)
Elevation: -2m (-7ft) – Dam Square
Nearest Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
Train Station: Amsterdam Centraal Station
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Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam – 12 eco-friendly Initiatives that comes naturally first published at timelesstravelsteps.com