The idea of “ecotourism” has become an increasingly hot subject within the travel and tourism industries. Tourism has exploded over the last few decades as travel to distant locales has become progressively easier, but it has not been without a cost. The International Civil Aviation Organization reports that the number of yearly international air passengers has more than quadrupled since 1972.
Collectively, we’ve become a more educated civilization because of the innovations in travel—we’ve also left a harmful carbon footprint that cannot be erased.
If you want to see the world but leave as little of an environmental impact in your wake as possible, here is a look at what you can do to become an Eco-tourist.
Pack a Lighter Bag
Not only will packing a smaller, lighter bag require you to carry fewer disposable items, it will increase the fuel efficiency of any plane on which you travel. Anything you can do to decrease the impact of transatlantic flight is the first step in the right direction.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is not fly at all. There are plenty of ways to capitalize on inexpensive means of travel that can be an adventure all on their own. Consider renting a fuel-efficient vehicle and taking a road trip.
However you get to your destination, once you do arrive, ditch the gas-guzzlers and explore other ways to get around. The Dig reminds travelers that biking or walking can be an adventure, while also saving a notable amount of money.
You can minimize your impact by reducing your use of important resources. Take shorter showers, use refillable water containers instead of disposable ones, and recycle everything possible. If you are staying in a hotel, reuse your towels to reduce laundry cycles. Also, hang the “Do Not Disturb” card on the door throughout your stay to reduce the number of housekeeping cleanings that occur, thus reducing the amount of chemicals, water, and energy used on your behalf.
Respect the Locale and the Locals
Ecotourism is about more than just reducing your carbon impact—it’s about reducing your overall negative impact on the places you visit.
Respect the customs and practices of areas you visit and treat the locals with dignity. Consider staying with local families when you travel abroad. Not only will this give you a more intimate look into everyday life in the places you visit, it also decreases the demand for sprawling resorts that eat away local resources and leave an architectural black spot in many historic locations.
Give, Don’t Take
The more that you travel, the more you learn not to take things for granted, particularly when your travels take you to developing countries. Spend less time choosing souvenirs and instead consider bringing along educational materials to share with the locals. Shop locally to support the residents instead of making a beeline to the nearest fast food chain that has thrown down roots in paradise. By spending your time and money wisely, you can preserve local cultures and help them to thrive.