When you’re packing for your next trip, there may be more on your mind than simply getting to your destination. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, you are not alone. Environmental woes can affect travel and even put an end to your perfect holiday plans. Deforestation, natural disasters, habitat destruction and irresponsible tourism practices all contribute to travel disruptions and have led to a surge of sustainable tourism practices around the world.
Supported by millenials and seasoned tourists alike, it seems like sustainable tourism and ecotourism are here to stay. International tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. So, if you’re feeling a bit worried about your carbon footprint, or even if you are a complete newbie to sustainable travel and tourism, let us walk you through what kind of choices you can make to reduce your own impact. Use our guide to see how ecotourism is changing the face of travel, then grab your favorite Cabeau travel pillow and go change the world!
What is Ecotourism, Anyway?
Think of impact-reduction and conservation. Ecotourism promotes responsible travel choices by reducing your carbon footprint and impact on local communities while travelling. Ecotourism might include some of the following:
- Reducing your travel emissions
- Protecting the local environment and culture
- Lower-impact travel upon arrival
- Making different choices while travelling
Visitors are more educated than ever and local governments are also stepping up to the plate to make sure that they are taking measures to protect their own local gems. Part of this movement has been spurred by the everyday choices consumers are making while they travel.
What is My Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is just one aspect of ecotourism and probably has the largest impact. Fossil fuels include oil, coal and natural gas –– formed in the past by living organisms. Although fossil fuels are continually created through normal environmental processes, they are considered to be non-renewable, which is why thinking about your carbon footprint during travel is so important in the world of ecotourism. These travel activities all contribute to your carbon footprint:
- Road trips
- Air travel
- Trains and buses
- Other indirect consumption
Your carbon footprint is basically measuring the amount of fossil fuels you consume when you move from one point to another. In addition, indirect consumption such as heating your house or buying items made in a factory emitting large amounts of fossil fuels can contribute to your carbon footprint. For travelling purposes, remember that mobility can come at a price. For some, ecotourism may even mean making the decision to stay closer to home to reduce the environmental impact.
What Can You Do? Choose Wisely.
If decreasing your carbon footprint is not an option, there are other ways to practice sustainable tourism, including simply being mindful of your destination of choice. Many tourist hotspots are taking measures to make themselves known as ecotourism destinations by minimizing the physical impact during travel and by supporting conservation efforts in local areas. Take these countries as an example:
- Costa Rica
- Galapagos Islands
In Costa Rica, local groups have been working together with governmental organizations and NGOs to promote its image as an ecotourism destination. In the Galapagos Islands, extreme measures have been taken to protect biodiversity through limitations to visitors in the parks. And in Iceland, tourism authorities heavily promote the country’s sustainable geothermal and hydroelectric heating. Choosing to visit a country that brings attention to responsible practices is a great way to practice ecotourism.
Any traveller knows that part of the joy of travel comes from being carefree and having the gift of time – and that includes time to consider your activities wisely. Ecotourism means travellers should be more thoughtful once they arrive at their destination. Consider this: you have the choice between a speed boat excursion or a kayak tour. Which would you choose? On your next trip, take a moment to consider some of these more environmentally-friendly excursions where possible:
- A guided bike or walking tour in the city
- An eco-cruise or kayak tour to view ocean life
- A guided hike to learn about local biodiversity
Sustainable tourism means thinking about the environmental impact of various activities and choosing the lowest-impact option.
Practicing responsible tourism doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your luxury hotel and unpack your tent – although we think camping is a great, eco-friendly option! Many hotels and luxury resorts have sprung up in recent years catering to the ecotourism crowd. From ice hotels to resorts being completely solar-powered, there are endless options available if you want to travel a bit more green. Look for accomodations with these qualities to satisfy your low-impact travel experience:
- Powered by solar or biofuel
- Offering local tours straight from the location
- Non-toxic cleaning practices
Certain organizations also recognize these accommodations as being more kind to the environment and ecotourism-friendly. Read up on your destination to see if the local government promotes certain labels for eco-friendly practices.
While you are planning your trip, think about what you value back home and what you hope to get out of your trip. If having a living wage is high on your personal values list, it might be worth looking into the salaries offered at your ecotourism destination. Are workers being offered a living wage? Here are some other considerations:
- Do workers rely mostly on tips from travellers?
- What hours are staff expected to work at your hotel or resort?
- Are women offered the same opportunities as men?
Depending on local culture, the answer to some of these questions will vary. Remember, what may be considered a livable wage in one part of the world is unique and associated with the cost of living too. Choosing accommodations or tours where staff are valued highly and paid appropriately is part of the drive in ecotourism to boost workers rights.
The things we do daily are quite impactful on the environment and eating is no exception. Not ready to go vegetarian on your travels? Think of integrating these responsible eating practices to help support local business and dine mindfully on your next journey:
- Eat local
- Avoid overeating and excess
- Be wary of ‘local delicacies’
The world frowns on Western habits of excess, so you should consider yourself a representative of your home country on your travels. Ecotourism means being mindful, so when you are dining out, keep your portion sizes reasonable. Ask about local dishes, but read up on certain ‘delicacies’ that may not be responsible to partake in. Shark fin soup or bluefin tuna may sound really cool, but dig a bit deeper and you may find that these local flavors are best avoided. Sustainable tourism is about taking a step back and doing the right thing on your trip.
Treasure Your Souvenirs
One of the top issues that has come to light in recent years is the impact of souvenirs in certain tourism hotspots. Be aware that some souvenirs may seem amazing at the time, but could be stolen goods supporting local crime or even damage local wildlife conservation efforts. Ecotourism means being educated and aware. Avoid souvenirs with these qualities:
- Prices that seem too good to be true
- Could have been stolen from local ruins or protected areas
- Contain animal parts
- Sold by young children
Responsible ecotourism means being mindful while shopping for souvenirs. You wouldn’t want to find yourself the inadvertent supporter of unethical practices. Avoid anything sold by young children, containing animal parts or seeming way to good to be true. If you aren’t sure, seek help at a local government office or consulate.
Buy Sustainable or Multipurpose Travel Gear
When you are preparing for your trip, keep in mind that ecotourism can go beyond making important travel choices. Purchasing higher-quality gear that will last longer and serve a range of purposes is a great way to be sustainable. Look for these qualities when you are purchasing travel accessories:
- Environmentally responsible fabric, such as bamboo used on our compression socks
- High-quality yet compact, like our lightweight and inflatable Air Evolution® travel pillow
- Multipurpose, like our 4-in-1 Fold ‘n Go™ Blanket & Case
Remember, supporting local ecotourism practices may help boost sustainable tourism even more. It may also give local governments a push to increase wages or regulate environmentally unfriendly practices. Consumer trends are driving the tourism industry every day, and our own choices really can lead to a positive impact and more sustainable tourism practices.