The Beginner’s Manual to Sustainable Tourism
As the travel industry has been quite shaken up this year, many are wondering what travel will look like in the future. We hope that sustainability becomes an integral consideration in shaping the future of travel.
There are many reasons that people travel, whether it be for work or pleasure, but when it comes to travelling sustainably, the most important thing is to ensure that your travels do not compromise the needs of future generations. Ecotourism, otherwise known as sustainable tourism, is a great way to travel in a responsible and environmentally-friendly way and is becoming increasingly popular as people become more aware about the consequences of their actions. For this topic, we partnered with Native Tours, a social enterprise offering authentic excursions that foster an appreciation for environmental and cultural conservation to bring you a beginner’s manual to sustainable tourism.
It’s no secret that transportation, especially flying, is a huge contributor to carbon emissions. So it’s important to make a conscious decision when deciding how you will get to and from your destination. If possible, choose to take the train instead of flying to significantly lower your carbon footprint. If flying is the only option to get there, choose a direct flight instead to reduce emissions – according to research conducted at the University of Texas at San Antonia (UTSA), on average, the difference between direct and connecting flights associated with U.S. tourism was an average of 100kg of carbon dioxide per person, which is equivalent to emissions required to operate a refrigerator for an entire year. (Environment Journal)
In addition, you can take it one step further by offsetting your flight or donating to an NGO that works with climate change. Carbon offsetting is a way to reduce your carbon footprint by making contributions to a project that is working to reduce or remove carbon emissions. By donating to the project, you are in effect contributing to reducing carbon emissions. This method can be used when you cannot avoid certain emissions but would still like to mitigate the impact of your actions.
When you arrive in the country, you can also make a conscious decision to choose sustainable transportation options- walk as much as possible and opt for public transportation.
When looking for a place to stay, it’s best to find ways to support local economies and communities. Instead of picking a hotel chain, go to local owned eco-conscious accommodations, locally-owned restaurants and make sure that your money is going back to the community.
Wherever you stay and wherever you go, make sure to leave the place better than when you found it! Be respectful to the locals and recognize that it is a privilege to be visiting their home and that you have the opportunity to experience their culture.
Even activities should be taken into consideration! Opt for sustainable activities such as low-impact hiking. Instead of going to the pool, swim in the ocean! This way you conserve water which is a limited resource in many countries. Never buy wildlife products. This includes shells, fur, ivory, etc. Don’t contribute to the trafficking of wildlife products that puts animals who are already at risk of extinction in further danger.
As always, do your best to reduce plastic and food waste by saying no to plastic and bring your own reusables (ie. cutlery, cups, bags, etc.) Ask for a doggy bag so you don’t waste food (or even better, bring your own tupperware), and try to avoid buffets where enormous amounts of food are wasted.
Opt for local tour guides! For example, if you want to go diving, make sure to book it with a reliable and responsible diving operator that keeps the environment in mind. Do research about tour operators by asking questions such as: Are they aware of the environmental impacts? What do they do about it? How do they make sure that the locals also benefit from tourism? How do they protect fragile areas, habitats and indigenous communities? A truly sustainable tour operator should have their Sustainability Policy openly published on their website.
Overall, we highly recommend that you consider some of these elements when planning your next trip and that you continue to educate yourself about sustainable and community-based tourism. And keep in mind that just because you choose to travel sustainably, doesn’t mean it will be any less fun. In fact, you might even discover new ways of traveling that will provide with you an even better experience while still protecting the environment.
If you’re not sure how to get started, you can check out Native Tours to find amazing community-based and sustainable tours.