Travel

10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation

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I like to think I’m an eco-conscious kind of woman. I recycle, I buy “used” clothing, I turn off lights to conserve energy and keep my showers under ten minutes. I even carry around a water bottle that I refill at the local gyms and parks. Some of this eco-conscious behavior is just me loving a good deal, but there’s another part of myself that genuinely cares about the fate of this little planet we all share.

10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation

As someone who gets around a lot, I’m ashamed to say that I only sometimes wonder about the impact my travel behavior might be having on the planet. And unfortunately, I never used to think about it. Like most travelers, I’m just so happy to get the hell out of the office that all I usually focus on is where I want to go, how quickly I can get there, and how long it’ll take me to find the nearest bar.

And I’m not the only one. Every day, millions of naïve travelers just like me board planes, trains and boats, heading for strange and distant destinations. What we don’t realize is how our exotic excursions may be contributing to not-so-excellent things like habitat destruction, animal suffering and resource depletion. When all we’re thinking about is getting away, it’s easy to forget what goes into making these workplace escapes possible (and, more importantly, what comes out of it).

10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation

Enter “ecotourism,” defined by the International Tourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.” Don’t worry, I’m not entirely clear on the definition myself. But from what I gather, things like building roads and erecting hotels in national parks – in short, things that accommodate my desire to see the world – are also destroying it. So much for “worry-free” travel.

10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation

Was this a rainforest before it was a golf course?

As with any issue, there are two sides to the story. Many communities thrive purely on tourism. Were the flow of visitors to stop, entire economies might crumble. So, what’s the right move? Do we bank on saving some sacred trees, or do we fund a functioning society so it can feed and clothe its citizens? What is the “right” and “responsible” thing for us travelers to do?

10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your VacationReally, it depends on who you ask and what you’re willing to live with. We can’t just stop going places and start stocking up on back issues of National Geographic. That sounds about as thrilling as a four hour documentary on the history of bingo. What we can do for now, though, is compromise – at least on a few small things.

You don’t have to run around hugging trees to be an ecotourist. Here are a few simple tips for well-intentioned globetrotters:

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

34 Comments

  1. This is a great piece. I have been watching as many documentaries on netflix as I can an most focus on the problems we are creating for our planet. I am currently focusing my blog towards sustainable fashion choices that people can make to hopefully sway the balance eventually towards a more eco-friendly fashion industry. Thank you for posting about something that is important and useful to so many people!

  2. This makes me want to travel again ASAP! Gonna start planning right now… (with your tips in mind, of course!)

  3. Another tip: Have short showers! Also, you can splash water on yourself, lather up, turn off the water, then rinse off when ready rather than leave the water running the entire time in the shower!

  4. Wanda Minjares

    I’m going to set up volunteering in Belize when I visit later this month. Do you have any recommendations?

  5. Annick Jolly

    Fantastic article, yet again. I’m going to use some of these ideas for an article in my blog. Thanks!

  6. Kerry Ledford

    Seriously, shouldn’t the government force people and cities to be eco? It’s too much to expect every citizen to do this stuff on their own.

  7. Candie Monson

    To be totally honest, I’ve never really considered my impact until now. I’ll try to do better in the future.

  8. Caitlin Whisman

    “Here are some more tips: Turn off and unplug all the appliances when you leave the room.
    Minimize use of A/C and heat, just as you should at home.
    Opt out of daily housekeeping and fresh sheets and towels to save on energy and water.
    Bring your own toiletries, rather than using the pre-packaged, disposable little bottles.
    Bring your own mug and use it instead of the paper cups (or ask for a mug from the kitchen).

    Recycle: A quick Google search of “recycling dropoff in [city name]” will tell you where to go if the hotel doesn’t offer recycling.

  9. Kerry-Ann M. Meyers

    We all have to try our hardest to offset the damage that Trump is doing #ecosave

  10. Stephanie Payne

    Great tips!

  11. Thanks for this article — I really learned a lot. Not promising I’ll be able to follow all of these, but I’ll do my best to be more conscious.

  12. I hadn’t considered the issue with animals. You made some really solid points. Sad that we even have to think about these things. The government should mandate protections!

  13. Sherri Ferrante

    The truth is, I get so emotional every time I see “nature shots.” Thank you so much for this! I sincerely hope more travelers would follow these!

  14. These are wonderful, useful and easy to integrate into travel tips. Yes, we can all be responsible travelers!

  15. Chester Young

    The problem that I have with Ecotourism is two-fold: First, it always comes with a price tag and, secondly, it sounds as though something new is being invented.

    I question motives when I see the multi-day packages selling for thousands of dollars. Ecotourism is a commodity to sell. Those who lament about it are selling it. I’m not buying.

  16. Thanks for the excellent tips!

  17. Your article made me feel proud!

    As a frequent traveler, I’m aware that I make ALL kinds of personal choices when I’m on the road, on the train or aboard a plane. I make sure to support greener options and that makes me feel good.

    Yeah, it takes a little more effort but it’s gonna be worth it 🙂

  18. Excellent article, Hilary! Keep them coming!

    Yes, we can all make an impact, even in our small ways, or even when we are taking our time off somewhere! WE just need to be informed on how we can help and more articles like this should be written.

  19. Perfect! I hope those “greedy” companies that “just” jump on the “eco” bandwagon to earn extra $$$ would realize that they “need” and can do more to make things better and the world safer 🙂

  20. Great post, Hilary! I think eco-tourism isn’t necessarily eco-friendly. I find it a bit disappointing because a lot of places label themselves as “green” but don’t actually do something. Very sad…

    • Yeah, that’s a terrible fact that I observe as well. I think small, locally, owned businesses are actually a lot more green because they are sustainable than those labeled “eco.”

    • This write-up is very relevant. I think as travelers, we need to strike a balance between ecotourism and sustainable development to make it a “future” rather than a fad.

  21. Frederica Pellman

    Terrific article – as someone who loves to travel to exotic lands, can’t say I have ever considered the negative impact I might be having. This has raised my consciousness. Without being a tree hugger, anyone can agree that if we want future generations to enjoy this little planet we better wake up and be more thoughtful. I do think tours (which some people are a bit sniffy about) are a better option in that one bus can carry many people rather than us all charging around in our own transport. As for the animals, it gets harder and harder to ignore the pain we inflict quite casually on our fellow planet dwellers. I rode on an elephant in Delhi a few years ago who had clearly had seen his best years, and I felt so guilty that it was hauling a whole load of us up a steep hill to the fort. Eager as I am for experiences, I will pass on such exercises in the future.

  22. I love the eco-chic focus of Urbanette. Keep writing about this… more magazines should be like yours!

  23. This article reminds me of my trip to Maldives. The hotels, residents, and even the visitors are made aware of the continuous efforts everyone is doing to preserve nature and the flora and fauna on these groups of islands. I wish more countries will do this. They even have volunteer groups that ensure these goals are reached.

  24. There’s just way too much going on in my life to have time to think about this on top of it all. I’m all for saving the planet, but I don’t have time for research. That said, some of these tips require very little effort, so I’ll start doing those ones. Eco-people need to make it effortless for us non-eco’s to do the right thing.

  25. Gabrielle Williams

    Not enough people consider their impact while traveling. I didn’t even realize all the ways I could consider the local community, the planet, etc. until I read this. I’ll definitely do these things the next time I travel. Thanks for the tips!

  26. Courtney Watson

    I totally agree with the stuff about animals. It makes me sick that people buy animal parts, or eat exotic animals, having no idea how the animal was treated or what ecosystem they’re hurting. It’s greedy, selfish and downright shameful.

  27. I always reuse my towels and I never do tours that interact too heavily with animals. Another thing I hate is when people go to villages and gawk or take photos of the locals without asking. That’s so rude!

  28. Jen Spillane

    Bringing a refillable water bottle is a super simple and effective way to be green while traveling.

  29. Arabella Clarington

    This is an amazing work! Eco tourism must be promoted as much possible. I think this message has become very important these days as people are more aware about traveling and tourism. This should be improved asap. Thanks for this great post. 🙂

  30. Hannah Mayers

    This is such a great idea for travel. There are many travel packages offered, but hopefully soon, more eco-tours will be available worldwide.

  31. Andrew Givens

    While ecotourism may not suit everyone’s taste for travel, it is definitely one thing every traveler should experience in a lifetime. I agree that it is life-changing to say the least.

  32. I personally get enticed to go to another country if they have really great ecotourism spots. I’ve been to Africa, Fiji and the Philippines. I think ecotourism is a great way to develop a country’s economy.

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