Ecotourism has taken off, and for good reason. It lets people travel while lessening their impact on the environment. And in some cases, it can actually improve the environment. So, do some planning, pack your bags, and see (and save) the world.
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Here are a few ideas for would-be ecotourists:
Buy Carbon Credits
Carbon credits let you donate to reforestation or renewable energy projects, in order to offset your carbon footprint as a traveler. For that matter, they let you do the same when you stay home, as well. Check out sites like TerraPass or Carbonfund, both of which have a calculator to figure the size of your carbon footprint and how much you owe back to the earth.
Find Green Accommodations
Increasingly, hotel operators are realizing it’s good business to go green. Check out sites like the Green Hotels Association or Travelocity’s Green Hotel Directory, which give you ideas for where to stay. Also check with hotels that interest you to see if they have green policies in place.
Look for Fair Trade Products
When you’re buying souvenirs, look for fair trade labels, indicating that the people who produced, manufactured, or grew those products were compensated fairly for their labor. For more information about fair trade, visit Fair Trade USA.
This means pack lightly. The more you carry with you, the more weight you and the airplane, car, or other vehicle will be carrying, and the more energy it will take to move it.
Practice Green Habits on the Road
You’ve seen the signs in hotels asking you to conserve water by not having your sheets and towels washed every day. Take them seriously. After all, you don’t wash those things every day at home — why do you need them washed that frequently at your hotel?
Ride Your Bike
Consider a bike tour — either from your home, or once you get to your destination. Bikes let you see the environment, interact with others, and eliminate your emissions. Plus, they’re great exercise. Plan your own bike trip, or use a company like VBT Vacations, which organizes biking and walking tours.
Leave places cleaner than you find them, and do everything you can to minimize your impact on the environment and the communities you visit.
Try Slow Travel
Slow travel means you take it easy. Instead of seeing 10 cities in 10 days, spend some time in one and get to know the neighborhood. Or opt for small villages or towns instead of cities. Look for overlooked destinations instead of tourist hotspots. Take your time. Enjoy yourself. Savor the moment. It’s your vacation, after all. For more information about slow travel, look into the Slow Movement.
Use an Electric or Hybrid Vehicle
Use your own electric or hybrid vehicle, or rent one once you’re at your destination. Enterprise, Hertz, and other car rental companies offer electric and hybrid options. You might find you like it so much that you want to buy your own when you get back home.
Whether you work at an organic farm through Worldwide Opportunities at Organic Farms (WWOOF) or help to build a school in China through Global Volunteers, you’ll find that volunteering while traveling gives you a sense of purpose and connects you to the communities and people you’re visiting.
Once you start being an ecotourist instead of just a tourist, you’ll find that it’s difficult to go back to your old ways. Have fun, be creative, and enjoy yourself.