Think you need to compromise your eco-friendly values every time your family decides to explore the world? Not when you’re an eco-conscious traveler! Responsible travel has been a steadily growing segment of the overall travel sector since the Center for Responsible Travel — a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., and affiliated with Stanford University — began tracking travel trends five years ago. The benefits of being an eco-tourist are many. Not only do you get an amazing out-of-the box vacation for your family, you are also supporting responsible practices to protect our environment and creating economic opportunities for the local communities. When you’re traveling to areas of natural beauty domestically or abroad, consider these five ways to put the eco into tourism.
Responsible eco-travel starts with actually getting to your destination the most eco-friendly way possible. If you’re flying you may consider purchasing carbon offsets for a portion of flight emissions. If you’re driving, you’ll want to follow the U.S. Department of Energy’s guidelines for fuel efficiency. Here are a few of their tips: – Keep your car in shape – Plan and combine trips – Choose an efficient vehicle Check out FuelEconomy.gov for a complete list of ideas.
Choose your destination wisely. Typically, smaller family-owned resorts have a bigger commitment to the environment. Find out as much information up front about their green initiatives. Are they green certified by LEED or the Green Hotels Association? Do they practice limiting over-consumption of resources, food and supplies? Do they give potential guests guidelines for stay? Getting as much information up front will help guide your eco-destination choice.
Packing light is a no-brainer when you are an eco traveler; lighter baggage equals less fuel emissions, and saves you from spending money on those pesky additional baggage costs. Try to keep everything in one bag — think about multi-function clothing, and use bundle wrapping packing methods. It’s a good idea to also think ahead about ways in which you can lessen your impact once arriving at your destination. Consider adding rechargeable batteries, your own water bottle with a purifier (such as SteriPen) and biodegradable soap.
Live like a local
Once you have figured out where you going and how you are going to get there, you’ll want to be conscious of your habits and activities once you actually arrive. Learn the customs and enough of the language to be cordial with the locals. Dine at local restaurants and eat local produce. Use mass transit, rent bikes or walk to your daily destinations. Instead of mass-produced souvenirs, purchase from local artisans. All of these little gestures not only add up for the local economy but also will enrich your experience. Don’t forget that there could be cultural differences, so observe local customs, as well.
Traveling into pristine terrain is a gift. When visiting these natural areas consider using a local guide or tour company. Stay mindful of your impact on the environment by leaving no trace, not disturbing or feeding the wildlife, staying in designated areas and not taking anything such as rocks or flowers. When you incorporate mindfulness during travel, finding ways to become an eco tourist are limitless. What tips do you have? I’d love to hear them below! Resources: Wikipedia, Renewable Choice, Earth Times, Sacred Earth, treehugger.com, Responsible Travel.
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