Ecotourism for Everyone: How to Stay Green While Traveling
Whether you’re traveling across the country or across the world, on business or holiday, you’ll be discovering new places, cultures, cuisines and traditions.
Travelers come back changed for the better, with an understanding of the world and environment around them. But travel, whether it’s domestic or international, has an environmental and social impact, too.
Today, ecotourism, or the practice of a more sustainable way of travel, is becoming more common and easier to do than ever. And don’t worry, you don’t have to get hippy-dippy to be an eco-tourist. With these 7 tips, we’ll help you bring ecotourism into all aspects of your travel.
Choose Your Transportation Wisely
We know you’ve gotta get to your destination somehow – unfortunately, air travel contributes to some of the highest carbon emissions. Do your research on airlines and choose ones that have invested in more efficient jets and made changes to their operations to reduce the amount of fuel used. And once you’ve made it to your destination, choose to rent vehicles that are fuel efficient, electric, or hybrid. (Using green transportation will save you money, too.) Once you hit the pavement to take in the sights, consider renting bikes or going on a walking tour – two of the best ways to take in the local culture.
We’ve all been there, sitting on a suitcase trying to zip it up before a trip. Overpacking is hard to avoid, but here are a few extra incentives to lighten your load. A smaller and lighter bag means airplanes use less fuel when they aren’t weighted down, and that’s good for the environment. You can also skip the checked-baggage line, baggage fees, and waiting for your bag at baggage claim when flying with carry-on luggage only. With fewer bags, you’ll be able to rent more compact, fuel efficient cars, too. Packing light also makes purchases more thoughtful. If you only have so much space, you’ll make sure you really love that souvenir before buying it.
Follow the Five Rs
When you’re traveling, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using one-use products out of convenience. Plastics like grocery bags, straws, cutlery, and water bottles are all one-time use purchases that end up as litter in oceans or in landfills, but they can easily be eliminated be refusing them and having reusable alternatives. When considering how you avoid one-time use products, start with the five Rs: Reuse, reduce, recycle, refuse, and rot.
Carry a reusable tote bag for groceries, shopping or take-out. Straws and cutlery are an easy thing to refuse and replace with reusable ones. Also, bring your own water bottle with you. Many airports are now equipped with fill stations. If you are going to a country where tap water might be questionable, purchase a filtration system or a water bottle with a built-in filter to ensure you stay hydrated and healthy. When there are plastics that are used, be sure to seek out a place to recycle them. In some cases, you can even compost your food scraps. Places like Whole Foods, for example, have compost for un-eaten food.
Take only Memories
Everybody likes a souvenir, but there are some that should not be taken or purchased. Refrain from collecting anything from the environment like shells or stones. These impact the ecosystem and beauty of the place. When you do want to make a purchase, make sure you are buying locally and fair-trade items. This supports the community directly and you bring home authentic merchandise. You can also donate your time or money to local organizations that align with your values. Contact the local travel board to find out which ones are operating near you.
Use Sustainable Companies
When planning a trip, you’re going to be researching the best places to stay, the sites to see, how to get around, where to eat, and anything else that might interest you on your adventure. Make it your goal to choose places that have taken action to be more sustainable. Use companies that partner with organizations that help support the space the business operates in. Choose restaurants that source their food from local farmers or serve only seasonal foods, cutting down on food transport. You can find hotels or bed and breakfasts that use eco-friendly products like LED lights, organic sheets, and low flow toilets and showerheads.
If you’re staying in a hotel, use your bath and hand towels several times before having them collected. You can hang the “do not disturb” sign on your door to prevent cleaning staff entering your room and using unnecessary cleaning products every day or stripping your bed down before it needs to be. Turn off lights and the TV, and turn down the air/heating whenever you’re out of the room. And if possible, don’t have your clothes cleaned at the hotel unless you have a full load.
Lower your Carbon Footprint – or at Least Offset It
Sometimes, there’s just no getting around contributing to carbon emissions. Driving, flying, turning on a light, or charging your phone are all things that affect your carbon footprint. The average footprint for people in the United States is 16.40 metric tons. Factor in things like travel for business or pleasure, and this increases significantly. But you can offset your carbon footprint by compensating for your emissions and funding equivalent carbon dioxide savings elsewhere. You can calculate your personal footprint here and find out about the different projects you can contribute to to offset your emissions.
Have you found some easy ways to travel and lessen your impact on the environment around you? Share your favorite eco travel tips with us on Facebook.
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