“Be gentle with the earth.” – Dali Lama
What is Eco Travel?
Eco travel focuses on conservation to promote an awareness of the environment and the world we live in. It’s a commitment and awareness of natural surroundings through energy efficiency and water conservation to reduce the amount of waste and omissions as we travel.
By acting responsibly within protected sites and natural areas, we can protect the local environment and wildlife, leaving it as untouched as it was before. Primarily focused on our impact on the planet, Eco travel is a way of protecting our planet for future generations by travelling with maximum adventure and minimum impact.
What Makes a Travel Company Eco?
Lodges, hotels and hostels are now realising the need to go eco and are becoming more energy efficient, installing solar power and improving the conservation and natural habitat of their nature-based surroundings whilst educating the traveller of ecological values and their environmental responsibility.
Companies can help to improve the lives of local communities by supporting indigenous trade and community projects and create employment opportunities for local people. Staying in an Eco lodge doesn’t mean sacrificing home comforts either as many lodges offer luxury accommodation whilst doing their bit for their environment.
How Can I Be an Eco Traveller?
- Respect local culture and protect heritage by paying entrance fees to national parks
- Use local accommodation and tour guides (or companies who do)
- Reduce the amount of air travel within countries (or fly point to point) and use public transport such as trains or buses to travel overland
- Buy local goods and merchandise
- Respect the environment. Don’t touch coral whilst snorkeling and dispose of any litter properly.
Practising Eco Travel
Consider Destinations That Don’t Require Flying
Where you go has a significant effect on the environmental footprint you leave. Ideally, choose a destination that isn’t so far you have to fly or somewhere that once you arrive you won’t need a car to get around.
Support the Local Economy
Instead of buying cheap “Made in China” souvenirs while you’re in Dublin or anywhere other than China, look for items that are locally made. Not only do they make for a much better souvenir of your experience, but by purchasing them you’ll be making a contribution to the economy that has a direct, positive impact.
Avoid Overcrowded Destinations
Avoid choosing destinations that are overcrowded with tourists so that you don’t further contribute to any degradation, such as Machu Picchu, Barcelona and Venice. “Over-tourism” occurs when there are simply too many visitors coming to a place – while that may be subjective, there’s a problem when wildlife is scared away, tourists can’t even see landmarks because there are too many people, rent prices are driven up pushing out local tenants to make room for higher-priced vacation rentals and fragile environments become damaged. If you do your research, you can find places that are just as alluring while getting a better insight into daily life.
Pick Accommodations Wisely
Forget about the massive beachfront developments, mega resorts and huge cruise ships too – you’ll enjoy a more authentic experience by staying in places hosted by locals like bed-and-breakfasts or couch surfing. If you do choose a hotel, be sure that it holds itself to high environmental standards, something that’s certified by a third party like the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Ideally, choose a hotel that’s owned by a local, as opposed to some big foreign corporation so that the profits will stay in the community.
When you pack, be sure to toss in reusables, like a reusable water bottle, cloth shopping bags, a travel mug and perhaps a container for leftovers so you don’t have to take anything away in a Styrofoam box.
Always Say ‘No’ to Wildlife Products
Wildlife crime is the largest direct threat to the future of many of the most threatened animal species in the world, such as the poaching of tigers for their skins and elephants for ivory. While you might think that hand-stitched hat made with plush wolf fur would be perfect to bring back to your home to keep your warm on a cold winter day, you’ll be inadvertently supporting a growing marketplace for trafficking endangered, rare wildlife products as souvenirs.
Eco Tourism books
- Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism by Elizabeth Becker
- Taking Responsibility for Tourism by Harold Goodwin Documentaries or videos on Sustainable Tourism:
- Thailand and the Fallout from Mass Tourism
- How ‘traveling like a local' can help cities fight overtourism
- Too Many People Want to Travel
Nicaragua – Jicaro Island Ecolodge