Sustainable tourism in 5 easy steps
Sustainable tourism, in 5 easy steps. Learn how you can travel lighter and empower local communities.
Many people think that doing an African safari or staying at an “Eco-resort” alone, is a great step forward to be a more environmentally friendly traveler. And in fact it is a great start, but it’s far from turning traveling into a real responsible experience. The truth is that the impact of a massive flood of people at a given time and place, by itself is enough to unbalance a whole ecosystem.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN 5 EASY STEPS
Being a light traveler means changing our behavior and patters and even adopting a certain awareness we might have not think of before. Empowering native and tribal businesses, Eco projects and activities can make all the difference.
“”In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principlefor sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.”” wiki
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, BUT SO IS OUR PLANET
A conscious lifestyle starts at home. Your daily choices will impact our planet far more than how you chose to behave during your holidays.
We’ve all heard “you are what you eat” but rarely someone says, so is our planet. Some of you know I’m a vegan for environmental and ethical reasons, but most people don’t even know what that means.
It’s scientifically proven how the massive industrial farming and the animal pastures are destroying our planet fast.
There are many informative and scientific studies pointing out the destructive results of Monsanto GMO’s, the mass agriculture and the Meat industry. The majority of the crops are not used to feed people directly, but to feed the cattle. There are very interesting scientific studies of the impact of the meat industry that leave no room for speculation. Did you know that giving up beef would reduce your footprint, more than cars?
When we travel and visit certain areas of the planet, we will increase the demand for food. Some tourist have eating habit radically different from their host destination. This raises a huge demand for certain goods that deplete the environment.
I can remember the small and isolated Andaman island in India, getting a great influx of people during high season. Everyone seemed to want to eat fresh fish and sea foods at every single meal. This created a huge demand for fishing at specific time of the year which has depleted radically the species that can now be found there.
After talking to some travelers who used to visit the island, over the years, they all were unanimous that the number and variety of fish they’ve seen nowadays while diving is a fraction of what it used to be. They were not vegetarians, but they told me they would only eat fish once or twice a week while visiting the islands.
DON’T LIMIT YOUR TRAVEL TO THE HIGH SEASON
This is a very neglected and overlooked problem of mass tourism. During high seasons, thousands of people flock to certain destinations, some of them, idyllic and fragile nature spots. This overwhelming increase of people, will consequently increase the amount of trash produced and drain natural resources.
This might cause, scarcity of food and natural resources as pointed in point one, but another consequence of the massive tourism is the negative impact it can have on the local population and their everyday life.
A good example of that is Barcelona, one of the most famous Spanish destinations. I lived in Barcelona for 7 years and I might have gone to the city center around 5 or 6 times…. I always avoided it. Why? Because it was simply impossible to walk around, to go to the market, to get a seat on a bus or the underground…. it was impossible to do the most basic things of life, because of the overwhelming number of people who flock to the city center. This is actually a topic that is bringing rage to the locals. Tourism is slowly becoming a curse in the lives of the Barceloneses.
When high season is over, most businesses struggle to get by. There are no costumers, no tours, nothing.
I personally only travel during low or medium season. I avoid all the crowds, queues, and high prices, sometimes saving more than 60% on hotels and flights alone!
MAKE THE JOURNEY BE THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TRIP
For most tourists arriving at a new destination is the highlight of their trip, I get that. You have a limited amount of time to visit a place and you want to get there quickly. But a new mentality is rising and many people are discovering the thrill of the ride as well.
Cross country train rides are a good example of how exciting a journey can be. In Europe, international train travel is quite popular and a lot of fun. You can hop on and off with an Eurail card and visit many destinations, but the excitement starts the moment you step in the train.
Traveling by land minimizes the amount of pollution we produce every year. I travel mostly by land, unles my destination is too far away or too expensive, but once I arrive there, I only take land transportation.
BUY LOCAL – SUPPORT THE ECONOMY
When traveling, support the local economy. Traveling shouldn’t be all about us, it should empower the lives of the locals as well, as the small businesses. Avoid the massive international chain hotels and resorts who, in many cases exploit their workers or import all their staff. Try to stay in local guest houses and hotels. Eat at local restaurants, there’s nothing more fun than experiencing the local gastronomy.
Be VERY AWARE that the “all inclusive resorts”, in many cases destroy and devastate all small businesses around. They keep most tourists inside a bubble, leaving most local restaurants and small hotels empty and struggling for costumers. I avoid all inclusive hotels and resorts at all costs, but if you still want to use them, then, go out of the bubble and try the incredible things your destination has to offer.
SUPPORT RESPONSIBLE BUSINESSES THAT PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
A friend once told me: “Yara, buying is like voting. Wherever you put your money, you’re supporting and making stronger”. No argument on that.
Chose to put your money on businesses that respects and empowers the local communities, the environment and the animals.
When scuba diving, check if your school is a member of a marine life protection association. Instead of taking elephant rides or going to elephant shows, visit an animal sanctuary that cares and protects these majestic animals.
Make sure your hotel or resort didn’t destroy the surrounded nature to build a golf course or to make a huge artificial lawn area for the tourists. A new generation of cool hotels ans Eco tree house hotels can be a great option. Make a google search on Eco-tours and Eco-friendly activities around and be aware that “Eco” seems to be a trendy word, and many of these businesses are just there for the money.
Sustainable tourism is much more than the type of accommodation you chose, is a whole concept we should embrace. It includes how we travel when we travel, what we do and what we support.
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