Whilst we all know that travel enriches our lives, we experience other customs and cultures, and gain a new understanding of others. We see life and the world from a new perspective, from vast oceans, to great heights. But travel has come at a great cost – economically, culturally, and environmentally. Which is why we’ve seen a global rise in eco-tourism.
What is eco-tourism and its main principles?
Eco-tourism is simply a form of sustainable travel. It’s one that supports the local environment instead of putting pressure on it and exploiting its resources.
The main principles of eco-tourism are to build environmental and cultural awareness, as well as respect. Respect for the environment, the culture, and the people. It’s aim is to provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, as well as provide direct financial benefits for the conservation of the environment and the local community.
And as more and more of us become aware of the impact on travel – not only to the environment, but its effect on local communities too, eco-tourism is fast becoming an important factor in peoples travel choices.
Eco-conscious ways to travel
While we know travel causes a large carbon footprint there are ways that individuals can travel in a more eco-conscious way.
Think about your packing
Instead of opting for fast-fashion clothes, that can be worn once and thrown away, invest in clothes that have been made responsibly. Avoid bottled shampoos and shower gels in favour of soap and shampoo bars that are free from plastic – they also take up less room in your luggage too. And don’t forget your reusable water bottle – single use plastic contributes to thousands of tonnes being dumped into our oceans every year. Try and pack light – every extra kg of luggage contributes to the weight of the aircraft – a heavier plane needs more fuel to fly.
Eat and drink locally
When you arrive at your destination invest in local companies instead of large corporations – yes, we know McDonalds is a familiar face in a foreign land, but you’ll be doing more good supporting a local business. Similarly, opt for locally brewed beer and eat locally produced food – you’ll instantly cut down the carbon footprint because the distance the produce has travelled will be lower.
Stick to the path
When out exploring, always stay on marked paths. Going off the beaten track can, overtime, lead to soil erosion. You could inadvertently trample on protected or endangered plants, as well as destroy local wildlife habitats.
If you encounter any animals (even on a safari) maintain a safe distance from them – you are there to watch them in their natural habitat, not interfere.
Smaller groups are the key
Smaller groups tend to have less of an environmental impact, so travelling with specialist tour operators like Exodus who’s focus is on responsible travel will ensure you’re having a smaller environmental impact compared with larger tour groups. Before you book your holiday, you can ask what size the group will be. You can also ask them how they give back to the community you’ll be visiting.
It’s important to remember that we all have a duty when it comes to eco-tourism. And where possible, ask questions, and demand answers. It’s only in our demands, and holding travel companies, and our selves to account that we can really make a positive change.