Global trends indicate that an increasing number of travellers want to engage in local conservation and activities that promote sustainability. These more conscious travellers are opting for urban treehouses and island homestays, volunteering at animal sanctuaries and visiting eco-initiatives that support local communities whilst obtaining extra insight into the country that they visit.
With climate change affecting all of us, tourists are becoming more aware of their own carbon footprints, but also the economic and social influence they may have on the destinations that they visit. In summary, if you leave the air-conditioner on when you leave the room, aren’t carrying a reusable water bottle and think that interacting with wild animals is acceptable, you’re not being a responsible traveller.
Here are some ways to help you be a better traveller:
Choose Greener Accommodation
Be selective in your choice of accommodation. Look to family-run businesses with a strong eco feel, or sustainable tourism endorsement, which ensures that environmental, economic and social values are being upheld. Get to the core of responsible tourism by eating locally sourced food, in turn supporting resident farmers and creating job opportunities for the community, while getting a real taste of the homegrown cuisine.
When it comes to eating, sleeping and buying souvenirs, choosing where you spend your money can have a massive impact on the community. By having meals at small restaurants, staying in a family-run guest house or purchasing a trinket from a street vendor, you are helping to inject money directly into the local economy. Besides creating a more authentic travel experience for yourself, you are also helping someone create a better life for the communities that are so generously hosting you.
Choose an Eco-Friendly Tour
Seek experiences that have meaning and create memories, from cultural and heritage experiences that speak of the traditions and history of a place to adventure activities or travel with a purpose, where tourists can contribute to a greater cause or even get involved in local conservation efforts. Research what is available in your chosen destination and remember the old adage – take only photographs, leave only footprints.
Respect the Local Culture
One of the greatest rewards of travel is learning about different cultures and religions. The world and its people are diverse and fascinating, and it is an astonishing feeling to be privileged enough to experience it. Keep in mind how important it is to show respect to those local customs and traditions. Many countries are more conservative with their dress sense and wearing shorts and sleeveless tops may be inappropriate. Take the time to learn a bit of the local language even if it is just to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’.
Go Plastic Free
Tireless efforts by environmentalists have greatly increased awareness of plastic’s negative impact on the ocean, and the planet and many tourism bodies have pledged to take action, aiming to end the use of plastic straws, plastic water bottles and single-use plastic. Carry a shopping bag and your own reusable water bottle, don’t use disposable toiletries, carry a cloth napkin or two. Don’t buy unnecessary cheap plastic souvenirs, opt for the real thing made locally and ideally with a story that inspires telling.
Be respectful and aware of your surroundings, be they urban or wilderness. Be gracious to all who host and serve you. Say thank you. Be present. Think about what you post on social media. Remember that you are a guest, and that travel is a privilege.
Activities that are low on carbon, big on nature
Choose low carbon activities such as kayaking, cycling, horse riding, walking and swimming that allow you to get closer to nature. Ask about local conservation or social projects that you could visit – do not support visits to orphanages. Research day trips that contribute to protected areas and help restore habitats. Avoid excursions that involve wild or captive animals.
Support the local economy – and local environment – with every purchasing decision. Choose ethnically diverse, local gift shops, artisan sellers and markets; all a great way to meet different people and ensure your money directly benefits. Buy less of the products that are not always nature-friendly: beef, leather, soy, timber, rubber, palm oil, cocoa, pulp/paper and plastic. Avoid products made from endangered species, shells or coral. And don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag and water bottle
Be an activist
Write to your travel company with feedback, including suggestions for reducing environmental impacts and do leave a review. Ask yourself if your holiday benefited local communities, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation? If yes, you’re doing things right. For serious issues regarding human rights abuses or wildlife exploitation, you may want to contact relevant charity organisations or the Ministry of Tourism in that country. Use social media to speak out too.
Tourism has the potential to do much good. It can benefit local people and places, leading to much richer experiences for travellers; but we all have a part to play. As well as benefitting communities, we must reduce our carbon and increase the positive impact we have on nature as we travel.
** For more information look to: https://www.responsibletravel.com/
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