Pristine beaches, sparkling lakes and unspoiled forests are just the way nature intended, but with over a billion on tourists travelling internationally this year alone, the planet needs some committed consideration. It’s important to preserve the landscapes, wildlife and flora that we’ve been blessed with and in pursuit of earning the title ‘eco travel saint’; we’ve compiled a few tips and pointers. Feel free to add your tips in the comments section too;
- Do your research and choose a place that has already gone green and is already doing what they can to protect their wild life and natural resources. Giving business to these places will give other places the incentive to change their ways and let the company know why they haven’t received your business. One popular tourist destination recently missed out on an international travel award because they did not have a responsible way of clearing up and recycling plastic trash. This had a positive effect, as they changed their ways.
- Once you are at your destination treat the place with the same respect you have for your home town. It is a small world that is filling up fast and we can no longer afford to think that any spot of the earth is insignificant. Follow the same eco guidelines as you do at home – reduce, reuse and recycle. This may seem like a ridiculous effort, as in some places when you look around you see that the locals and the government are not doing their share, but every little bit counts and responsible tourism is the only way to keep a place sustainable.
- Supporting the local economy leaves a smaller carbon feet print than using the facilities and products of international brands. Shop at the farmer’s market and support products made locally. Take care when buying souvenirs to make sure you are not supporting illegal hunting and poaching. Try to eat out at restaurants run by the locals using local produce instead of international food chains. As much as possible use public transportation or rent a bike to get around. If you have to rent a car choose a small car over a large gas guzzling vehicle.
- Stretch the life out of your clothes; do they need to be washed after every time you wear them? In tropical climates the answer is almost always yes (although one on holiday I saw a woman wear the same biking for 7 days straight – I hope she washed it!) and washing out the bare necessities yourself and air drying them is a much greener option. For example, tell housekeeping that you will use your towels and bed sheets a few days longer.
- Take only what you need, the lighter the plane, car or bus you are traveling in, the less carbon emission it produces.
- Water bottles account for a large amount of trash. Taking a reusable water bottle with you and having it refilled in the restaurants you eat in, goes a long way to reduce your carbon foot print. Many countries are now making available filter water stations to give a trustworthy and easy way of refilling.
- Take a picture instead of a sapling, flower, rock, coral or shell. As tempting as it is to bring something home you are only hurting the local landscape and ecosystem. Imagine if every single person that visited the Maldives took home a fish; there would be no reason to go scuba diving. In most cases whatever it is you take home will not survive in the new environment. You will always have the picture. And it’s worth bearing in mind that transporting flora, fauna and even some foodstuffs into your country is illegal.
- Do not litter at any cost. This may seem obvious, but you would be astonished at the amount of trash that is collected after the tourists leave at some of the most popular beaches. Sadly, in many places, the revenue that goes into collecting and clearing trash, affects the budget to improve facilities and infrastructure. Trash is also dangerous to wildlife and not pleasant to be around. If you leave something, the next person has to look at it.
World Tourism Day 2012 will focus on sustainable travel issues this year which will inspire and encourage all travellers and raise awareness.
- Traveling to your destination as direct as possible reduces your carbon footprint, as taking off and landing takes huge amounts of fuel. For executive travelers, fly commercial instead of chartering your own plane. When possible do a leg of the trip by road, you will be able to see and find out more about the place.
- Most people think that being an eco-travel saint means traveling to a remote island or camping in a forest, but there is a lot you can do to make even a city break or weekend away much more earth friendly and environmentally conscious. Stay at a hotel that is certified to be green, responsibly choosing what transportation you use, where you eat and shop, disposing your garbage properly, reusing your water bottle and minimizing laundry all help Mother Nature age gracefully.
By Julie Bowman