Ecotourism and green travel involve travelling with the objectives of avoiding any environmental or social impact both to the areas visited and to the global environment.
- "We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth." – Rachel Carson, from Silent Spring
Protecting this planet we live on is everybody's responsibility. Future travellers should be able to enjoy it as much as today's travellers. Many of the things that can be done to reduce environmental impact are the same at home as they are when travelling.
You can save considerable power by turning off electricity before you go. If you are going away for an extended vacation, reduce your supplies of refrigerated and frozen food, this will enable you to ensure no food is wasted when you leave home, and may also save you money on refrigeration costs.
- Turn off furnaces and water heaters. (If there is a risk of pipes freezing, turn the water heater to its lowest setting rather than off.)
- Turn off the mains water supply. This will ensure no no flooding in the event of a water pipe failure while no one is home.
- Switch off all lights.
- Unplug TVs, video recorders and other devices that continue to draw power in their standby mode. This will also protect them against spikes in the electricity network (e.g. during thunderstorms).
- Walk, use public transport, or ridesharing schemes where possible rather than renting a car. When boating, slow vessels are to be preferred. Use air transport only for long distance travel where there is no rail transport available.
- Ecotour operators design tours that minimise environmental impact over a standard tour. Often these tours have an educational component, learning about the environment of the area you are visiting. Ecotours may educate travellers through leaflets, interpretation and advice from tour operators or guides about the culture, customs and etiquette of locals. This may prevent conflict between locals and travellers that might have been caused through misunderstanding or ignorance.
- When good infrastructure is not available, consider leave-no-trace camping principles. The principles about not causing erosion are valid also when the infrastructure is good.
- Don't use disposable cameras. They are wasteful and generally of low quality. Read Travel photography for some tips on selecting a camera that will fit your needs – or to get by without one.
- Leave all areas you visit clean. If no bins are provided, take your litter with you and dispose of it responsibly. This includes cigarette butts.
- If you take maps or brochures of an attraction, keep them in good condition so you can return them on your way out. Keep them only if you really have use for them later. You can take a digital photo if you need to keep some specific information.
- Eat locally produced foods. Try to find a local alternative to brands you are used to, which may be transported over a distance.
- Avoid food served in disposable containers or wrapping. Often it doesn't cost much more to eat at a local restaurant where the dishes are washed. Have your own containers (and cups, spoons, etc.) for food you eat on the road, allowing you to buy it unwrapped (but be careful about hygiene).
- Take reusable water bottles to refill, where the water is safe, rather than purchasing water bottles.
- On leaving a hotel room, switch all lights off.
- Dry and reuse towels, rather than leaving them or returning them to the hotel to be washed.
- Consider what standard is necessary for you. Five star hotels in an otherwise less developed environment usually need much resources and may have a big impact on local nature.
- Find hotels and resorts that encourage eco-friendly practices.
Flora and fauna
Did you know?
- Don't kill anything that is not a common pest. Not all insects are pests, some insect species are even protected and you may face a stiff fine if you kill them.
- Clean your hiking boots before moving from on area to another. Seeds often get stuck to the soles of boots or attached themselves to the upper portions or laces. These seeds can easily become transported to an area where they do not naturally occur and become an invasive species there. Rinsing the soles of your boots also reduces the risk of spreading disease.
- Fire poses a serious risk to many areas around the world, such as Australia, Portugal and California. Though fires do occur naturally and are even required in some ecosystems, human activities can increase the rate at which they occur and cause substantial ecological damage. When making a campfire, ensure that it is in an area clear of vegetation and do not leave it unattended while burning. Cigarette butts are a common cause of wildfires, also matches thrown away too early are a risk.
- Many species are under threat because they are killed specifically for the tourist trade. Starfish in coastal regions is one such species. Do not buy any animal products where the animal have been killed simply to serve as a tourist memento.
By employing local people whenever possible and paying fair wages, ecotourism seeks to prevent exploitation. This benefits the local economy by preventing leakages of the revenue acquired through tourism.
Paying a fair price for services can boost the local economy. However, in some cases it can distort the local economic market, with tourists paying many times what the locals could afford.
- Do not print all your photos.
Traveling, or transport in general, is one of the biggest sources of global carbon emissions (26% of global CO2 in 2004), the cause of climate change.
|Fuel consumption per 100 km/person|
|Source: WWF and Deutsche Bahn. Emissions vary greatly depending on details of the travel.|
By choosing a different mode of transport, you can alter your CO2 contribution significantly. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists analysis, buses and trains are almost always less environmentally damaging than planes or cars. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted depends on how great a distance is travelled and how many people are travelling in the same vehicle.
The Union of Concerned Scientists developed a set of tips for travelers in the United States based on their analysis.
- Motor coaches [the bus] often are the greenest option. A couple traveling on a motor coach will generate nearly 50 percent less global warming pollution than they would driving a fuel-efficient hybrid car.
- Big SUVs and first-class flights generally pollute the most. A passenger occupying a first-class seat is responsible for twice as much carbon dioxide pollution as one in a standard coach seat.
- For couples and solo travelers, a nonstop coach flight almost always beats an average car. Air travel is often assumed to be the worst option for vacation travel, but auto pollution can add up, especially when vacationers drive long distances or travel with few passengers. If traveling alone or with one other person, vacationers are usually better off flying direct in coach than getting behind the wheel. This is especially true for trips of more than 500 miles.
- A large, inefficient SUV emits nearly four times the global warming pollution of a highly efficient hybrid such as a Toyota Prius. If hybrids are not available, travelers should consider an efficient conventional car, which will cut pollution and fuel costs. Many car rental agencies now offer both efficient conventional vehicles and low-polluting hybrids. Consider the type of trip you are taking, as a hybrid will usually not give any fuel efficiency on the open road, as it relies on the braking and stopping of an urban area to generate its efficiencies.
- Vacationers should schedule their trip wisely. Sitting in traffic eats up gas, which means more global warming pollution. Altering vacation schedules to avoid peak travel periods can save consumers time and money—and cut pollution. The sweet-spot for a modern sedan car, is usually around 90km/h, which gives the greatest number of kilometres per litre of fuel. It is often lower for a SUV. Allowing extra time for your trip can reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.
On other continents there are different low-emission options available, like extensive rail links, coastal ferries, etc.
Besides energy, CO2, transport results also in other polutants, here is an overview:
|Amount of emitted pollutants per person per 1000 km traveled|
|Passenger car with catalytic converter||183 kg|