Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and has a major impact throughout the world. Many
As people become more “green” at home, they also look for ways to travel that won’t harm the environment or their local communities. Enter “eco-tourism,” which loosely means responsible tourism. Beyond being green, eco-tourism is also about caring for the area, and animals that live there.
In the past decade or so, eco-tourism has been gaining popularity. But what really makes a trip or destination “eco,” and how do you choose the right hotel or resort? These tips can help you make informed decisions to enjoy a vacation that’s both fabulous and guilt-free.
Choosing a Destination
While eco-travel can be found around the world, it’s most popular in Central and South America, with Costa Rica being one of the top leaders (25 percent of land there is protected). Like any type of travel, the luxuriousness of the accommodations, amenities and activities offered varies from one hotel to the next. What you choose depends on your own specific needs and budget. What defines eco-travel is how the hotel or tour outfitter acts in terms of sustainable practices and treatment of the environment and community. Many places call themselves “green” or “eco” to gain customers without backing up those claims in their practices. Complicating the matter, there is no overarching trusted source for certifying/rating these destinations. That leaves it up to the consumer to choose wisely.
Here are a few things to consider when determining if a destination really is responsible in terms of the environment and community:
- What does the hotel do to be sustainable? For example, recycling, using native landscaping and using renewable power sources.
- Does the hotel use local foods and products?
- Do they educate visitors about the local culture and environment?
- Is the hotel involved in the local community such as training and employing locals, and supporting local organizations?
Wherever you travel, there are many things you can do to help the environment and community. Here are a few places to start:
- Keep the focus local. For example, hire a local guide and dine at restaurants owned regionally and that use local products.
- Treat the environment with respect. Don’t litter and tread lightly, such as staying on the path when hiking, not standing on coral and wearing eco sunscreen when swimming near reefs. Also think green when choosing activities, such as a nature walk versus an off-road Jeep tour.
- Watch what you purchase. Avoid products made from endangered species or items that were transported a great distance.
- Don’t have your sheets and towels laundered daily.
- Just as you would at home, turn off the lights and turn down the AC when you leave the room, and don’t waste water.
While ensuring your travels are eco-friendly does take some extra effort, the return on that investment is ensuring those beautiful locations will remain that way for future generations.