Tourism has been one of the great factors contributing to environmental impact, but not only that. Unfortunately, the planet’s ecosystems are not the only ones affected, tourism contributing to cultural and social damage over the years, in areas with long ancestral social traditions.
CO2 emissions, littering, harming the coral reefs, supporting unlawful wildlife tours, are just some examples that serve as evidence of the damage. Thankfully, sustainable travel tips are only a few clicks away, and every responsible tourist has choices. Here is what you should keep in mind:
One of the main sources of air pollution is our transportation. Most means of transportation release carbon emissions in the atmosphere, so always consider which one is your best option. Shared vehicles, such as busses, shared cars, or trains, contribute in a smaller amount than individual vehicles with 1-2 people inside.
Consider sharing your car or taxi with other people that have the same destination. If you travel by plane, use direct flights if possible. Many airlines have joined the carbon offset program by IATA, which tries to minimize the number of carbon emissions by an aircraft.
While exploring a tourist destination it’s best to do it on foot or by bike when possible. Taking things slow will also give you the possibility to really take in the places you visit.
If you travel a lot by car, there’s a green alternative to traditional diesel fuel. The renewable biofuel is made of sustainable biological components. It’s a bit more expensive than traditional diesel fuel and states such as Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri are the leading producers of biofuel in the USA.
More and more hotels are finding ways to be sustainable by implementing strategies to conserve energy and water. Some owners invested in solar panels to power their buildings. Dropping the water pressure for faucets and showers might be frustrating at first, but it helps conserve water.
Remember the little plastic bottles of shampoo and lotion in the hotel rooms? That is slowly changing, as hotels are choosing to work with companies that use minimal packaging for their products, such as recycled cardboard and biodegradable wrap.
Supporting these establishments is essential for their business continuation, so next time you want to book a hotel, look in the area to see if there are any that offer sustainable accommodations.
Protect the wildlife
It’s needless to say that disposing of wrappers, bottles, and other waste must be done responsibly. If you wonder about how to be more sustainable, there are some other ways in which you can protect the wildlife. The big number of tourists on the beach contribute to the damage to the coral reefs and ocean life by using sunscreen. Consider switching to an ocean-friendly alternative, such as Reef Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+.
Tourists who plan on traveling to countries where elephant tours are a popular tourist activity, should only support those wildlife organizations who don’t treat animals like props to generate income. This is valid for attractions where people are promised to swim with confined dolphins, or pet and feed elephants, as interactions with strangers can cause them a great level of stress. Consider visiting reservations and observe the animals from afar, in their natural habitat, without disturbing them.
There are also many eco-friendly products that will give you ways to be sustainable.
Sustainable tourism is not just about environmental impact, but also about protecting the culture and historic heritage of the destinations we visit. Recent cries for help from different countries show an alarming number of cases of popular tourist destination on the verge of collapse.
For example, part of the “love lock” bridge in Paris collapsed after tourists put over a million locks on it. The Spanish Steps in Rome has been vandalized, and the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland was severely damaged after tourists flocked in, following its appearance in Game of Thrones.
Protecting the traditions, the natural and historic artifacts of other countries, is essential in aiding the conservation efforts of the authorities.
Avoid touching old structures or sitting on them. You should protect the natural formations in the same manner, as they are extremely delicate.
Sustainable culture also refers to conserving the local day-to-day life, by immersing in the existing traditions, language, and beliefs, without trying to influence it in any way. This is especially important when visiting remote villages that don’t get any western influence.
You might be surprised to find out that only 5% of the money you spend during a vacation benefits the local community. Local food markets, antique stores, boutiques, and craft shops that focus on genuine souvenirs, are all part of the tourism sector that needs to be sustained in order to protect its heritage.
Instead of eating at a restaurant, try cooking your own meals by using local produce, and choose small local owned stores and markets over malls. Also, try looking into family-owned accommodation establishments, or those who support the community by sharing a part of the profits.
Keep in mind that sustainability starts at home, and when visiting a new place is important to leave it looking better than when you arrived, even if that means only picking up a bottle and disposing of it in a recycling bin.
You might think just one person’s conservation effort is not important, but it absolutely is! Healing our planet is done one person at a time.