6 Topics of Traveling Consciously and Sustainably (AKA Ecotourism)

I love traveling and experiencing new cultures and scenery as much as the next millennial, so I felt it was my duty to share a few things about green travel. While there are the “three pillars” of ecotourism that you might often hear about; ecological (preserving the environment), economical (shop local), and social (preserve culture), I’ve broken it down into 6 categories that may or may not fall under one of these pillars. If you’re looking to make the most conscious traveling decisions, here are some tips for you.

Mode of Transportation:

First of all, traveling by plane might be quick and easy, but it’s not always the best option emission wise. If you’re traveling somewhere close (like Detroit to Chicago) it may be more eco-friendly to drive or take a train. In general, taking a train, bus, or ship is the best way to go for fewer emissions, but if flying just makes more sense, try to take a direct flight as the take-off and landing are what hurts the most.

If you’re renting a vehicle when you reach your destination or you’re going on a road trip, consider a car that makes less of an impact like an electric car or a hybrid. If you’re visiting a destination with public transportation, opt to take the bus or you can slow it down and walk or rent a bicycle.

Accommodations:

Book an eco-hostel or lodge, or a small locally owned hotel. Many of these places will source local ingredients for any food service they provide, use solar panels as an energy source, and used local materials for building.

Limit your shower time and opt for a shower over a bath. Strange enough, showers actually use less water. Hang up your towels when you are finished so cleaning service knows that you will reuse them and if you don’t need service, opt out with a “Do Not Disturb” sign. This will save loads of laundry being done, therefore conserving energy and water.

When you leave your room, be sure to turn everything off - lights, TV, AC, heat, fans, and all electronics.

Toiletries and Necessities:

When it comes to the things you’ll need, it’s easy to buy mini travel sets that will pack easier, but you should also consider the waste. You can purchase reusable silicone containers and cream jars for things like shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste and you can as easily take a reusable razor as a disposable one. You should not purchase these items when you get there and leave them behind thinking someone else may use them, because more often than not, they get thrown away.

Reusable water bottles are also encouraged. Bring an empty bottle with you to the airport and fill it after you get through TSA. Research if the tap water is drinkable where you are going or keep a look out for water dispensers when your are out and about. The last thing the world needs is another empty plastic, single-use water bottle.

Bring a reusable tote bag to do your daily shopping and avoid plastic bags.

Rubbish:

Be sure to take your waste with you. When you visit the beach or go on a hike, a common rule is to leave it better than you found it. Bring a bag for rubbish so you can pick up anything you see along the way.

Don’t leave behind any rubbish in your hotel room like half used toothpaste or worn out shoes. These likely won’t be used or properly cared for, so it’s best to take it back with you and dispose of it properly when you get home.

Wildlife:

Do not touch the wildlife by any means. If you go on a hike, stick to the trails to avoid damaging eco systems. Avoid excursions that exploit wildlife like elephant rides or swimming with the dolphins at a park.

Do not support sellers who are promoting trafficking of rare or endangered wild life such as unique seashells or animal furs.

Avoid stepping on the reef if you go snorkeling or scuba diving and if you go with a tour group, ensure they are local and using the most environmentally cautious practices. Ask how the protect and support wildlife. Ask if they employ local guides and ask what their environmentally friendly practices are.

Support Local:

Buy gifts and souvenirs from local artisans. By supporting them, you are ultimately supporting the economy in a more direct and positive way.

Buy from local organizations that give back to the community by donations or supplying jobs.

Give to reputable local organizations that work on social welfare programs, or to international groups that partner with them. You may also volunteer

Immerse yourself, learn the language, and honor local customs.