HOW TO TRAVEL BETTER
Lilith Diringer travels a lot: in the name of sustainability. She can easily find and book eco-friendly accommodation right on her online portal ChargeHolidays.
Karlsruhe, Berlin, Kiel, Moscow, Brandenburg, Münster – Lilith Diringer, 23, was invited as a student to numerous competitions. The outstanding young man participated, for example, in the Biology Olympiad, in the Jugend forscht or in the International Physics Tournament 2023 .
Always living out of a suitcase, Lilith visited many hotels and youth hostels. Also as an agent of change for WWF, a kind of ambassador for climate protection, knew how to annoy the cheeky young woman. It was not unusual for her to ask in hotel kitchens where the vegetables in the dishes came from. And in many comments she complained about unnecessary plastic shampoo bottles. Yes, she fundamentally questioned whether travel was inherently harmful to the environment. Should she give it up? Should everyone else stop traveling too? But Diringer, who later studied “International Relations” in Dresden and gained much experience abroad, including as an English teacher in China and as a development worker in Burkina Faso, knew: traveling is not only harmful, it also educates. and promotes interculturality. international exchange and understanding.
But wouldn’t there be ways to travel in a way that is less harmful to the environment? How could green pioneers meet and share experiences within the hospitality industry? And wouldn’t it be fairer to travelers if they knew before arriving how sustainable their accommodation will be?
These questions did not leave Diringer alone. While she was still studying, this 19-year-old spent hours researching certificates, sustainability and CSR criteria in the hotel sector. She sent countless emails to hotels and conducted online surveys with family, acquaintances, and the startup network. She constantly encountered a problem: traveling accounts for eight percent of total CO2 emissions. And although more than 80 percent of respondents want to travel more sustainably, one percent of accommodations are certified “sustainable”0  and there are more than 150 different certificates with a wide variety of criteria.
Diringer kept receiving responses to his emails that “green” travel was too complicated, too time-consuming, and almost impossible to implement. Many travelers and hoteliers do not understand which certificate says what. Many were left disoriented. Only a few dared to distinguish between greenwashing and honest environmental commitment. On the other side are hoteliers and owners: they see customers’ growing awareness of ecological issues, but they don’t know what they could improve. Additionally, they often don’t know how to credibly communicate their commitment.
For Diringer, the simple solution was online booking platforms. After all, they are market makers and bring buyers and suppliers together. However, there is not a large selection of booking platforms; monopolists dominate the market. Hoteliers, as Diringer discovered through his research, are not happy about this. Non-transparent algorithms evaluate and classify hotels. Furthermore, the different intermediation commissions that hotel operators pay to the reservation portal generate inequalities. Diringer realized that something new was needed!
It’s time for your own business adventure! What would happen if you turned the booking process into an interactive educational experience? Couldn’t we create an eco-friendly booking platform where everyone can find and book accommodation easily and at the same time in an educational way?
I couldn’t trust the eco-friendly certificates. Most of them did not know any shade of gray: either the accommodation was “green” or it was not. Anyone interested in details such as whether and which e-loading options are available, whether the salad is regional and organic, or how employees are treated, all of this needs to be thoroughly researched.
Therefore, better information and a more detailed analysis of the details is necessary. Therefore, hotels that want to participate in the platform would have to fill out a detailed questionnaire.
Diringer called his portal ChargeHolidays , which is about charging double. Travelers should not only recharge their batteries, but also give something back to nature. For a contemporary “user experience”, the portal should present information in a more accessible, clear and interesting way. Using recommendations from the World Sustainable Tourism Council, he designed a spider diagram: the ChargeHolidays Sustainability Dreamcatcher. Each point on the diagram represents a different sustainability area of the accommodation. This way you will be able to know at a glance whether the accommodation obtains three out of ten points in waste management or nine out of ten points in mobility.
ChargeHolidays users can not only filter the sustainability topics that are most important to them, but also calculate their own carbon footprint , contribute to sustainable projects (e.g. through social rebates via partner Payactive) and share their sustainable behavior with friends and acquaintances. “I want to use gamification to motivate even the most lethargic people to tackle the previously annoying task of planning trips. One of my visions for Charge Holidays is to establish sustainability as the new normal in travel,” explains Diringer.
Diringer’s new company not only had to be sustainable, but also a company with its heart in the right place: “It was important to me from the beginning to be true to my values and integrate them into the corporate form.” she says. After a few online meetings with socially oriented founders, Diringer quickly made the decision: she was able to create the largest and most lasting added value with her idea as part of the purpose network. Together with the Purpose Foundation , she managed to anchor her values in the statutes of her startup. Profits must remain in the company as investments; Entrepreneurs manage their companies themselves and work for the common good.
“For me, building the startup was like a roller coaster: you have to know who to call to get through the lows and regain momentum for the next cycle,” he explains.
ChargeHolidays is now available as a website and as an app for Android and Apple . “And there is still much to do. We have many ideas, very little time and very few resources,” summarizes the young agent of change. But today he has already achieved one thing: Diringer inspires others at festivals and conferences, not only to travel more sustainably in the future, but also to find a solution to the problems of our time with his own business.