Want to know how you can protect the environment while you travel solo? Read on to learn about ecotourism and the top ten eco-travel tips you can use to be eco-friendly in all of your travels.
Why Eco-Travel Matters
Many people think that being an eco-friendly traveler, or “eco-tourist”, requires camping, communing with nature, or “roughing it” in some way, giving up all the creature comforts you’re used to. Not true. Ecotourism means “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
However, you do not have to just visit natural areas to be an eco-friendly traveler. The ultimate goal of ecotourism is to consider how your actions as a tourist affect the area you are visiting, socially, environmentally and economically.
Therefore, practicing ecotourism through practicing eco-travel tips helps reduce our impact on the environment, and on climate change, while helping the local society and economy. After all, the more you know about the local area, the more apt you will be to care to help preserve it and protect the local natural resources, culture and wildlife habitat. Right?
“Take nothing but pictures,
leave nothing but footprints,
kill nothing but time.”– Unknown
Top 10 Tips for Eco-Friendly Travel
So, how can you do your part to help the environment, local communities and economies while traveling? Here are my top 10 eco-travel tips, with examples, anyone can use to be an eco-tourist. Please share them with others.
1 – Pack Light
The less your bag weighs means less fuel the airplane has to use. Additionally, not only will you save money in extra weight fees, if you can do all carry-on luggage, you avoid additional airport lines. Yep, this eco-travel tip has multiple bonuses.
Pro Eco-Travel Tip
Mix and match your outfits to maximize your options. Pack items you can hand wash and hang-dry easily so you pack less outfits.
2 – Save Energy
Before you leave home, unplug all electronics and put your lights on timers for safety and energy conservation.
When not using your hotel room or other accommodation, turn off the lights, television, and all electronics. Turn off, or turn down, the A/C and heat as well.
Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign so housekeeping does not need to run vacuums daily or wash and dry bed and bathroom linens daily saving energy and water, as well as reducing use of potentially harmful cleaning products.
Forgo the hair dryer and let your hair dry naturally. Find travel-friendly hairstyling tips that don’t require a hairdryer.
Click here if you are interested in more home energy-saving tips.
3 – Save Water
Take shorter showers or fewer showers. Using a soapy washcloth does wonders for freshening up without the extra water use.
Turn off faucets when not brushing teeth, washing hands, shaving, etc.
Hand-wash your clothes in the sink instead of using the hotel laundry service as some hotels may wash guests’ clothing individually, which is a huge waste of water.
Click here if you are interested in more home water-saving tips.
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4 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Bring your own refillable, non-plastic water bottle. Make sure it’s light-weight for carrying daily.
For hot and cold drinks, bring a BPA-free, collapsible cup. These come with a lid and wrist band, fit in small bags, and are great for any type of travel from camping to airline use.
Bring your own bamboo utensil set to avoid using plastic utensils in all locations (airports, airplane, hotel room or eating out).
Use only one bar of soap for both sink and shower use.
Bypass paper tissues and bring a couple of handkerchiefs. These are easy to hand-wash, not to mention they save a lot on paper and waste.
If your hotel does not offer recycling, hang on to it until you know where can recycle it.
5 – Buy Locally
To support the local economy, buy from local vendors and artisans. Also bypass the chain restaurants you may be familiar with and eat and drink at local restaurants and bars. This is also a great way to mingle with locals.
Do not buy products from made from protected hardwoods or from endangered animals, even if it is locally acceptable to sell them.
6 – Be a Conscious Consumer
Check product labels and ask questions on what the product is made from.
If you will be doing ocean water activities, use only reef-safe sunscreen or wear clothing. Reef-safe sunscreens, like Badger, are made to protect the health of marine life and coral reefs. Some destinations may not sell these brands, so bring it with you.
Want to know your accommodations or tour company cares about ecotourism, too? Check out the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST). CREST promotes “responsible tourism policies and practices so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity” and their site provides a list of tourism partners doing the same.
Just because a business says they are “environmentally-friendly” or “eco-friendly” does not make it so. Unfortunately, there are businesses that market themselves as such, but really aren’t. We call this “greenwashing”. Do a little research to follow up to confirm they are walking the walk.
7 – Take Public Transportation
Utilize the local public transportation system. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but it is also a great way to meet locals, get to know the area better, and provide a better understanding and appreciation of the local culture. Also consider renting bikes or just walk.
For maximum benefits, apply this eco-travel tip to your regular commuting, not just while traveling.
8 – Carbon-Offset Your Air Travel
If you are flying to your destination, consider purchasing carbon offsetting your air travel. As I state in all of my Destination pages, Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change such as purchasing through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Check it out.
Additionally, if you can buy a direct flight ticket to reduce flight time, all the better.
9 – Learn the Local Language and Customs
Learning he local customs and culture helps to preserve them. Learning the local language, even just a few words, shows respect for the local culture, helps break down social barriers, and makes for meeting people a lot easier.
Consider a “home stay” opportunity by staying with a local. AirBnB or other local rentals may be an option as well. Using these types of accommodations may save you money or you may get great local recommendations on what to do and where to eat. Plus, you could have a connection on when you go back!
Share what you know about the area or culture with other tourists or learn from each other.
10 – Donate
Donate your dollars to local conservation efforts so that you and others can continue to enjoy the area for years to come.
Donate your time. Consider eco-voluntourism in your travels. I have taken part in marine conservation volunteer work in Belize and have found it very rewarding. I can’t wait to do it again.
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear if this was helpful to you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!