Traveling green doesn’t mean you have to sleep in a tent (unless you want to), volunteer to save the sea turtles (although it wouldn’t hurt), and forgo all indulgences (Definitely Not!).
Also you can get going to all sorts of eco-tourism attractions without shelling out big bucks for an eco-luxury hotel with organic cotton sheets. No matter what kind of trip you’re going on, there are plenty of affordable ways to reduce your environmental impact—and most of them will even enhance your travel experience.
10 Tips to Eco-Tourism
1. Consider Alternatives to Flying
Air travel is the fastest way to get to faraway lands. Unfortunately, it is also the single most environmentally harmful mode of transportation available to travelers. Airplane emissions are more detrimental to the ozone layer than those from ground transport, partly because the pollution simply occurs higher up in the atmosphere.
This isn’t a guilt trip about your upcoming trip to Asia. Air travel provides a remarkable opportunity—perhaps one we shouldn’t take for granted. One way to reduce your impact is to take longer, less frequent trips. Rather than jetting around the world in a whirlwind tour, why not stay in one place until you’re living like a local? You’ll use up less jet fuel and have a deeper experience.
2. Eat Local
You’ve heard the hype about local food. But it’s more than a trendy phrase being thrown around at hip new restaurants. It’s an approach that not only reduces pollution and carbon emissions (from transporting food long distances), but supports local economies as well. It can also mean the difference between having an authentic travel experience and feeling like an ignorant tourist.
Just because you are on a tropical island, don’t assume that all of the seafood and fruit you see on menus and shelves are from the immediate area. When in doubt, ask where the food came from. Having this simple conversation with your server could lead you to a dish made with the freshest, most delicious ingredients in town.
3. Drink Local
Don’t let the local food philosophy end with dinner. If you’re going out for drinks afterward, remember that all those bottles and their alluring contents came from somewhere. It’s best for the environment (and your quest for unique experiences!) if they come from a nearby microbrewery, distillery, or vineyard.
Like food, wine and beer can become a driving force in your trip. Head straight to a local brewery or winery, and you’ll often be able to take advantage of free samples and learn more about how the beverages are made. If you’re going on a tour of wine country, look into bicycle or walking tours: they’ll keep you safer and let you take in the scenery—and drinks—at a slower pace.
4. Hotel Conservation
Have you ever taken a longer shower, left the lights on, or cranked up the air conditioning in a hotel room? It’s all too easy to overindulge on energy and resources, especially when away from home. Staying in a hotel, you get that delightfully anonymous feeling that almost wipes away your accountability to anyone.
When you think about it, of course, responsible behavior matters just as much in a hotel as it does anyplace else. And when you’re a guest in a foreign land, respecting the local resources becomes especially important. Just keep that idea in mind, and you won’t be likely to use up water and electricity with such reckless abandon.
5. Get Moved in Public
It might not be the most luxurious way to get around, but a crowded bus or train can offer some of the best people-watching material on your trip. Plus, everything from buying tickets to finding a seat to knowing when to get off can become an adventure. And who knows what else you’ll discover: lively performances, underground art, fascinating technology, a new perspective on geography?
Learning a public transportation system, is the best way to understand a new city and almost always the cheapest way to get around. Besides, you’ll feel like a local when you triumphantly get off at the correct stop. The best part is, you’ll be saving energy by using the publicly shared system.
6. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Replace
The 3 R’s are in full-effect on trips. The habit of Recycling, Reducing, and Re-using is useful everywhere, not just your hometown.
Replace – Everything from the fish in the seas to the grain on the farms is being seriously depleted. As the human population grows, it’s imperative that we are able to sustain ourselves at a ‘micro-’ level. That means each and every one of us needs to put back what we take out.
7. Bring Home Meaningful Gifts
Rather than buying plastic key chains and t-shirts made in China (when you’re actually in Brazil), why not get some more meaningful souvenirs? Picking out special items at craft fairs, antiques markets, farmer’s markets, and other places that sell locally sourced products can add cultural depth to your trip. Knowing the story behind how something was made or where it came from makes it that much more interesting to bring home.
Even better, you could learn some of the basics directly from an artisan. By taking a lesson, you would be supporting an independent business owner, and at the same time, getting hands-on insight into the local culture.
8. Pack Light
Vehicles have to go through more fuel in order to carry heavier loads. By simply bringing less stuff, you can help make your trips on airplanes, public transportation, and cars more energy efficient. As an extra incentive, it will help you cut down on those luggage fees that airlines charge nowadays.
If you pack lighter, you will also be more inclined to walk or take public transportation to get around, rather than hailing a taxi every time you have to move your suitcase.
9. Don’t Eat Out Every Meal
Vacation is the perfect time to indulge in restaurant meals. A constant overpriced cost and overeating is never something you stand for at home. Besides, eating out usually generates more waste than home cooking does.
If you can, stay someplace with kitchen amenities for part of your trip, so you can take a break from restaurants. Not only will you save money, but tracking down ingredients at a neighborhood grocery store or market will also give you an insider’s perspective that you would never uncover while eating at touristy restaurants. Bon Apetit!
10. Stop the cell
The more you use personal devices, the more you’ll have to charge them, and the more you’ll have to worry about losing them. Asking a local for directions or dinner recommendations will be more stimulating than staring at some app on your phone. And playing cards with your fellow travelers will make for better memories than playing online word games with your friends back at home.
There are some worthwhile travel apps you may benefit from downloading before your trip, but keep your screen time to a minimum. Simply turning off your phone is the surest way to avoid wasting battery power and missing out on the real action.
From all of us at How Can I Help? We wish you safe and sustainable travels wherever your destination. Send pictures! Eco Fan Photos
If you enjoy this Green Yourself idea be sure to check out the full episode about this issue
Season 1 – Ep. 7 Explore SD
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