We’re all aware of the need to make a positive impact on the environment and the local community, or at least not make a negative one, when we travel. Just google the term “overtourism,” and you’ll see why we need to be paying attention. The Center for Responsible Tourism and George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies even held a World Tourism Day Forum last September bringing experts together to search for solutions to the negative impacts of tourism.
But don’t cancel your travel plans just yet. Traveling responsibly doesn’t have to mean missing out. In fact, you may already be pretty good at it. Here are just a few ways that you’re probably already traveling responsibly.
You don’t litter. Of course you don’t. This is something you learned as a kid. It seems like a small thing, but the impact of litter on the environment, the animal life, and the locals is enormous. You put your trash in trash cans immediately or, worst case scenario, you hold on to it until you can dispose of it properly.
You use reusable things. You take a cotton bag with you for shopping, for example. You use a reusable water bottle. And you recycle anything recyclable. Yes, even on vacation. Just look around, and I’ll bet you’ll see recipients for recycling in many places.
You get off the beaten path. You see more than just the touristy hot spots that everyone is literally crowding into. You also leave a smaller carbon footprint by taking public transportation and walking. Both are better for the environment than big tour coaches and private cars.
You support the locals by spending your money locally. You travel with local companies, stay in family-owned boutique hotels or apartments, eat in restaurants owned by the locals, and shop in the local markets and artisans’ shops. And you support local culture by participating in local activities and cultural events. You take classes from local artisans, chefs, and producers.
What else do you do, responsible traveler that you are? You don’t commit vandalism. This one’s a no-brainer, right? You’d never think of committing vandalism! Take a can of spray paint and paint your name on a bridge? No way! But here’s a question for you: have you ever put a lock on a bridge? A lamp post? Anything? If you have, you’ve committed vandalism. Take it from a Parisian, those things that some call “love locks” are no better than if you’d spray painted your name on whatever you put the lock on. They damage the structure they’re attached to, and they cost the local taxpayers money in having the locks removed and disposed of and then having the structures repaired. You and I have better ways of showing our love than stooping to vandalism.
What other dastardly deeds seem innocent enough? Stealing pebbles or sand from beaches, taking coral or other living things out of their environment, buying products that are from endangered or protected species or that may have come from poachers. You and I have respect for the environment and the other living beings sharing it with us, so we don’t do those things.
And yes, you reuse your towel and turn the water off while brushing your teeth.
So, what’s the verdict? I’ll bet you’re probably already doing most of the things on this list. For any that you hadn’t thought of, now you’re aware and can do better. And oh yeah, be careful waving around that selfie stick too!