We usually write currency-related travel articles, such as What is the best way to pay for things while abroad? and Safety Tips For Carrying Cash While On Vacation . For this article, we want to talk about a different kind of green when travelling.
As people become more and more environmentally and socially conscious, new trends such as ecotourism and sustainable travel have become popular.
Ecotourism is a type of vacation focused on conservation and education of a particular destination. Sustainable travel is focused on reducing the negative environmental and cultural impacts of tourism on local communities and maximizing positive social and economic gain. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on sustainable tourism.
Here is a list of 10 things you can do to help have a positive impact on the community you are visiting:
1. Bring a reusable water bottle. This is especially important when travelling to places that aren’t equipped with a recycling program. In places where tap water is untreated like Mexico or Thailand, it can still come in handy. Many hotels and resorts provide filtered water to fill up your bottle and there are also several water purification methods available on the market for travellers.
2. Bring a reusable shopping bag. If you plan to grocery shop or do any other kind of shopping, you can avoid using plastic bags by bringing your own reusable canvas bag. Not only are they better for the environment, but they are also more durable.
3. Buy locally made products. When buying souvenirs, purchase from a local artisan’s shop. Not only will you get an authentic, hand-crafted keepsake, but you will support the community and environment by buying locally. Plastic souvenirs made abroad and sold in tourist shops are not sustainable and do little to support the local community.
4. Be careful what you purchase and consume. Don’t support poachers by buying anything made from endangered animals. You might not even be able to get it past customs anyway. That also goes for what you eat, even if it’s legal and on the menu.
5. Avoid disturbing the natural environment. It may seem innocent enough to take a few sea shells, but it’s best not to take found objects. Not only will others not be able to enjoy them, but you could be upsetting a creature’s natural environment. A pretty shell to you could be a hermit crab’s next home!
6. Honor local customs. Do a little research before you go to learn about the local culture so that you can dress and behave appropriately in order to avoid offending anyone. Learning a few simple words such as “hello” and “thank you” will also go a long way in showing respect to the people whose country you are visiting.
7. Reduce your carbon footprint. Walking around is a great way to explore a city. Many cities also offer you the opportunity to rent bikes to get around town. See what public transit options are available as well. If you must rent a car, choose an electric or hybrid vehicle, or at the very least, look for something fuel efficient.
8. Avoid tours that promise hands-on encounters with animals. The animals could have been illegally captured and transported, and even abused. Instead, support the local wildlife conservation organization or wildlife rescue center.
9. Don’t give money to child beggars. That also goes for gifts such as pens and candy. It may seem like a kind-hearted thing to do, and difficult to resist, but it does more harm than good. Instead, you can give back by supporting local schools or community initiatives rather than fostering an industry of organized begging. Some of those children are forced into begging instead of going to school.
10. Choose socially and environmentally sustainable accommodations. Stay at a hotel or lodge that employs locals at a fair wage, is powered by renewable energy and is energy efficient, and works with the community on development initiatives. You can also do your part by turning off the lights when you leave your room, taking shorter showers, reusing your towels and bed linens and using the heating or air conditioning mindfully.
Tourism has the ability to positively or negatively impact a community. Think about your actions and the effect it has on the well-being of the people and place you are visiting and leave it the same or better than when you found it. Happy sustainable travels!