When simple actions – such as recycling, conserving water, and turning off the lights when you leave a room – help in making a difference for our environment, there is no reason one’s eco-friendly ways need to “take a vacation” when an individual or family goes on vacation. As more Americans seek to incorporate environmentally-conscious practices into their travels the phrase ‘Take only pictures. Leave only footprints,’ certainly applies to eco-tourism and environmentally aware travel. The following are a few tips from fellow travelers that will help you incorporate eco-tourism into your future trip.
5 Eco-Tourism Tips:
- “Pack bio-degradable toiletries. The ground water you may be contaminating is not your own.” (L. Mobley, Florence, OR)
- “Reuse your water bottles while on vacation - wash them out and refill them. Also, ask hotels not to change towels and sheets while you are there. Let’s be honest, people do not use a new towel or change their sheets daily while at home.” (K. Beaudoin, Woonsocket, RI)
- “Remove all excess packaging on items you are packing as disposing of waste is difficult in remote places and developing countries. Do not buy products made from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artifacts. Also, use water sparingly - it’s very precious in many countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people.” (D. Michael, High Point, NC)
- “The easiest way to be sure that your hotel has ‘gone green’ is to check for LEED certification or Green Seal Certification. Participation in these programs is no longer limited to smaller boutique hotels. Some examples of hotel chains making the commitment to provide greener lodging include Starwood’s Element hotels, which have made a brand-wide commitment, and Marriott, which has promised to have 300 of their 3,300 properties LEED certified within five years. Your travel professional should be able to help you locate a ‘hotel with a conscience.’” (C. DiSaia, Woonsocket, RI)
- “Understand that a ‘green’ travel experience may not be a less expensive trip. Many ‘ecology aware’ experiences are also a bit of an adventure. In fact, you may pay more to sleep in a pup tent in the snow in Antarctica and carry your waste out with you. The eco lodge in Australia may not have pretty, individually packaged soaps and the towels and sheets may not be changed every day, but it offers incredible views. The eco lodge in Tikal had running water two hours a day and I leapt out of the pool when a jaguar came up to drink from that same pool. You are paying for a memorable and, at times, exclusive experience. You are not paying for room service and high priced amenities, though on occasion you may find they have that and more.” (M. West, Marysville, WA)
A complement to the concept of eco-tourism is the growing acknowledgement of environmentally aware travel or responsible travel as it is better known. Environmentally aware travel is about more authentic vacation experiences that enable you to get more out of your travels, and it gives more back to the destinations and local people you encounter. This can and often should go hand-in-hand with eco-tourism.
5 Tips for “Environmentally Aware Travel”:
- Ask your travel professional whether there are local conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and if/how you could help support them.
- Hire a local guide - you'll discover more about local culture and lives, and they will earn an income.
- To support the local economy, buy local products rather than imported goods; for example ask if there is a local cooperative that makes traditional gifts and mementos.
- Always avoid exploitation. A simple example is to ask permission when taking photographs of local people. Also, as travelers, we are perceived as rich. Be generous in a constructive way by promoting the local economy. Avoid and denounce exploitation of local people.
- Leave a good impression. A positive experience with locals will pave the way for those coming after you.
Editor's Note: Do you have a responsible travel tip? Share it with your fellow travelers in the comment section below.