10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation
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.
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).
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.
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?
Really, 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: