As sustainable travel continues to become more mainstream, hotels, resorts, tour operators and other travel companies incorporating green initiatives in operation are becoming plentiful. But as travelers, what role can we play in protecting the landscapes and cultures we love to visit? Following steps that are simple to commit to but make a drastic difference when practiced widely.
1. Learn About Your Destination – Enjoy a rewarding experience by learning more about the natural environment, culture and history that make every destination unique.
Whether it’s a guidebook, a National Geographic article, or your favorite travel blog, take time to learn about where you’re going. The point of travel is to enrich ourselves and get a head start before you go.
2. Don’t Leave Your Good Habits At Home – While traveling, continue to recycle; use water wisely and turn off lights as you would at home.
When you’re at home and paying your own electricity bills, you probably pay attention to turning off the lights or TV when you leave the house. Just because you’re at a hotel, don’t disengage from that habit. Same goes for blasting the air condition and leaving your balcony doors open. If you don’t do at home, don’t do it traveling just because it’s on someone else’s bill. It’s easy to flip the switches on your way out and slide the balcony door shut behind you.
3. Be A Fuel-Efficient Traveler – Book direct flights, rent smaller cars and keep your own vehicle operating at maximum efficiency. Once in your destination, walk or bike as much as possible.
Think twice when you’re renting a car. Do you really need an SUV? Or would a more compact car fit you and your bags just as comfortably. Seeing a city by bike can be a really fun way to get to know a destination and it cuts down on taxi costs AND emissions.
4. Make Informed Decisions – Seek out destinations or companies that engage in energy efficiency or recycling programs and that take actions to preserve their communities and natural environment.
Costa Rica has long been associated with eco-tourism due to the beautiful jungles, beaches, and extensive offering of outdoor activities – what could be better? What about the fact that the entire country ran solely on renewable energy 285 days in 2015? Spend your money supporting destinations such as Costa Rica that are committed to the environment.
5. Be a Good Guest – Remember that you are a guest in your destination. Engage with locals, but respect their privacy, traditions and local community.
Several tourists have gotten bad press recently for dressing or acting inappropriately at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. While this ancient holy site is a major tourist attraction, remember that first and foremost that it is a sacred place. It’s a privilege to be there as a visitor and make sure your behavior respects that.
6. Support Locals – As a visitor, the money you spend on your trip can help support the local artisans, farmers and business owners whose livelihoods depend on tourism.
Rather than buying everyone at home a cheap souvenir t-shirt that was probably made in a factory halfway across the world, buy something that was locally made. Be on the lookout for shops that sell handicrafts that support a cause important to the destination.
7. Dispose Of Your Waste Properly – Leave a beautiful place for others to enjoy. Recycle where possible, and always dispose of your waste with care.
For most people, recycling at home is second nature. Why should this change when you are traveling? Many hotels in Bermuda are starting to put in dual recycling/trash bins in the room. If your hotel doesn’t offer that service, consider leaving feedback that it’s something you’d like to see.