Traveling the world with an eco-friendly mindset and an eco-conscious awareness is, thankfully, a huge growing trend. Worldwide people are understanding the significance of the environmental crisis and taking action in all areas of their lives to make less of an environmental impact on the world. And this includes traveling.
Definition of Eco-Travel
Let’s first understand the meaning of “eco-travel”. Verdemode, an online ecotourism and responsible travel guide shares this definition:
“Eco travel encompasses all the variants of ecotourism and green travel. So whether it’s responsible travel, sustainable tourism, ethical tourism or culturally aware travel, they all fall under the same umbrella of eco travel. In essence, anyone who prefers to travel the green way is an eco traveller.”
Eco-travel is a fast rising star in the travel industry as a growing number of people are opting for green hotels and experiences when they travel.
- 73% of travelers prefer an eco-sustainable hotel rather than a traditional one.
- Booking.com, a deal friendly travel booking site, says the eco-travel sector is growing all over the world.
Definition of Ecotourism
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people.” To fully understand the term you need to figure out what responsible travel is, and so it seems the definitions can be interchangeable.
TIES says, “Ecotourism is about connecting conservation, communities and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in responsible tourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize impact
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
- Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental and social climate.”
Another authority on ecotourism, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, describes it as, “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.” Their principles are much the same as the International Ecotourism Society:
- Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior
- Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
- Support for local conservation efforts
- Sustainable benefits to local communities
- Local participation in decision-making
- Educational components for both the traveler and local communities
- Top 12 Eco-friendly Travel Companies– as reported by Pebble a guide to stylish sustainable living.
- Top 5 Eco-travel Destinations in 2021– as shared by Skyscanner, leading the way in sustainable travel information.
- Top Climate Positive Journeys– as posted by Earthtones, which offers tailor made and expert designed eco-travel experiences.
It’s All About NO Plastic
One of the main points of green tourism is going plastic-free. As Ecobnb, a community of sustainable tourism, reports, one in five travelers considers the idea of sustainable travel to be the reduction of plastic use, and half of them use reusable bottles for the trip.
- It is noted that most of the accommodations that avoid single-use plastic seem to be very important for travelers.
The New York Times also shared the same important points as well as ways to reduce plastic use during travel times.
- Pack a reusable water bottle when you travel.
- Consider insulated bottles which can maintain a drink’s temperature for hours.
- To filter out impurities, a bottle that can purify water, such as the Lifestraw Go or GRAYL is ideal (these bottles can also help to reduce the likelihood of getting a stomach bug when abroad).
Other reusable and environmentally friendly items for travel include:
- Cloth napkins– avoids the use of paper napkins and means less trash every time you eat.
- Cutlery-reusable cutlery saves one-time use plastic from ending up in the trash.
- Reusable straw– consider bringing your own stainless steel or collapsible straw.
- Sanitary products– consider a reusable silicone sanitary cup over disposable tampons, applicators and pads, which often contain plastic and other synthetic materials that can harm the environment.
- Small container– for snacks helps reduce plastic consumption. GoToob items from humangear, a San Francisco-based company makes a number of travel-friendly products.
- Sunscreen– bring sunscreens that do NOT contain oxybenzone, which is toxic to algae that live within corals.
- Soap– biodegradable soap such as Dr. Bronner’s is a nice all-in-one option that can be used to wash your body, hair, dishes and clothing.
- Toothbrush and toiletries– bamboo or biodegradable toothbrush, and bring soaps, shampoos and conditioners in refillable bottles.
- Tote bag– a cloth bag for extra souvenirs, a day out or shopping reduces the use of plastic bags along the way.
The New York TImes also shared a number of other ways we can all be more sustainable as we travel; these actions include where to go, what to pack, and how to get there.
Close to Home
- Find local adventures to do in your area.
- Walk neighborhoods in your city.
- Visit museums in your city.
- Short day trips to nature destinations close to your home.
- Experts nominated Palau as a pioneer in sustainability, requiring visitors pledge to protect the natural and cultural heritage before entering.
- In 2016 its capital, Ljubljana, was voted Europe’s greenest city by the European Union, thanks to its public transport, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and commitment to protecting green areas and saving waste water.
More Popular Destinations
- Visit during outside peak months, say experts.
- Stay longer.
- Choose accredited accommodation (using a site such as bookdifferent.com, which ensures claims to sustainability are checked by third parties),
- Find local activities that give back to residents, instead of the most popular activities, which can also often be tourist traps.
Share Your Support
Another way to spend your hard-earned dollars is to travel to destinations rebuilding after a disaster.
- Puerto Rico, for example, has developed a robust tourism sector since weathering a devastating hurricane in 2017. The island, which also faces sea level rise, was picked as The Times’ No. 1 destination in 2019, in part because it represents many fragile places around the world.
- Use an eco-friendly booking site for accommodation. Sites like bookdifferent.com calculate your carbon footprint per night based on your selection and include eco-friendly ratings.
- Choose accommodation that injects money back into the local economy.
- Consider using a sustainable travel agent. Companies like Lokal can take out some of the legwork by organizing trips and activities for you that take environmental and social impact into consideration.
- Look for a system of verification; this will help you determine if a business is simply greenwashing, or has met standards set by sustainability councils.
- Seek out local experiences: homestays, local guides, and programs that give back to communities are also good ways to ensure your money is injected back into the local economy.
Transport is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants. Considering how you get to your destination and around it can help you leave a lighter footprint.
Planes expend a significant amount of fuel just reaching altitude and descending, so the shorter the distance you fly, the less efficient.
- This is worth considering when traveling shorter distances you could reach by other means.
Cruise ships can be even more polluting than flying and are overall not a great eco-way to travel.
- According to one 2017 study, even the most efficient cruise ships emit between three to four times more carbon dioxide per passenger per kilometer than commercial flights. Ships also usually burn the lowest-quality and most polluting kind of fuel.
- Large cruise ships can dominate a skyline, crowd a city, and even cause large waves that some say have contributed to the erosion of the islands.
By most accounts, trains as a form of travel emit the lowest levels of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants, whether they are electric or diesel-powered.
- Plus the benefit of slow travel- take in the landscape and arrive at your destination ready to explore.
When it comes to cars, remember that the greater the number of passengers, the lower the carbon footprint per mile for each person (and their luggage and animals).
- When driving long distances, sites like blablacar.com, or carpoolworld.com can help you find people to share the ride — and the driving.
Offset Your Journey
An eco-green travel action to take is to offset your journey by buying credits that go toward a project that either avoids the emissions of greenhouse gases, or helps sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- There are a number of offset registries that check and rate programs, such as the Climate Action Reserve.
Once you’re at the destination, choose the most environmentally friendly way to enjoy the city.
- Biking or walking tours.
- If you’re on the water, sail instead of taking a power-engined boat.
- Car rentals- choose electric, or the smallest vehicle that fits your family’s needs.
- Take public transit where possible (also a great way to meet local people).
- Try carsharing, which can save money and emissions.
- Consider activities that combine experience with environmental benefits, such as beach clean-ups.
Eco-travel essentially means to travel responsibly. Our goal as environmentally responsible citizens of the world is to do no damage to our travel destinations and, if possible, leave the location better than we found it. Eco-travel focuses on adventure travel that improves and preserves the surrounding environment while enhancing the well-being of the local community. Eco-traveling can also offer individuals a more authentic adventure experience with opportunities to make lasting connections with the local people. Sustainability and humanitarian actions are important to eco-travelers. Make sure each aspect of your trip is eco-friendly, from packing, to traveling choices, to destination, to your use of products, food consumption, and recreation activities in your vacation spot of choice. Overall, enjoy your eco-aware trip!
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