10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


10 Ways to Weave Impact Into Your Vacation

How to travel in style — the ethical way.


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 taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 46 Comments

  1. Martha Tucker

    When we travel. We consciously and actively mind our carbon footprint. We choose to at least not leave garbage or anything that can harm the environment when we are on vacation. That means we carry our own reusable bags for groceries and all our trash are completely segregated and sent to a recycling plant.

  2. Great tips Hillary. As a Vegan, I appreciate the efforts to help local animal sanctuaries and not supporting whoever exploit animals. Traveling should enrich us culturally and spiritually, and respecting/supporting our exploration surroundings is a great souvenir to take home with us!

  3. Brett Lee

    Instead of taking the bus, how about using the city public bikes wherever possible. Best way to see a city. Also, rent bikes in other places for a more interesting view.

  4. Kathryn Gibson

    I love the idea of volunteering while traveling. Such a great idea.

  5. Eloise Ferris

    You always have such great photos in every article! I love the travel ones, especially.

  6. Genie Mackenzie

    I’m going to use this to teach the young people in my life — they’ll spread the word quickly, I’m sure. The younger generation really cares about these things. Gives me hope!

  7. Blanche Martina

    This is a great list. You make it seem so easy!

  8. Joss Butler

    Purchasing locally produced food is another eco-friendly travel advice. This is because locally grown food has less food miles and carbon footprint. If you could spare time, visiting the local market is also a good option.

  9. April Henry

    Smart points. Didnt realize about animals.

  10. Good timing for this one — I’m booking a trip today. 🙂

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