Ecotourism: How to make your vacations greener

Ecotourism: How to make your vacations greener



Ecotourism: How to make your vacations greener

Our responsibility to the earth doesn't go on hiatus when we travel. Ecotourism is the growing practice of ecologically sustainable exploration. Many activities are based on nature and culture and help contribute to the conservation of local heritage and environment. Ecotourism can give visitors deeper insight into the places they're visiting and everyone can go away with the satisfaction of having a minimal impact on the earth. Consider the following tips before your next vacation to have an eco-friendly  and highly fulfilling trip.

Choose greener methods of transportation
Flying is one of the most environmentally unfriendly methods of travel. When booking your flights, choose routes with as few stopovers as possible. Planes produce more carbon emissions during takeoff and landing than any other time. Once you reach your destination, opt for public transit or try to rent a hybrid or bio-fuel vehicle. In warmer weather, combine adventure with the greenest ways to see sites – walking, hiking and biking.

Consider carbon offsetting a vital cost of travel
Nobody should be made to feel guilty for seeing what the world has to offer, which is why many travellers try to maintain a carbon-neutral lifestyle. Through carbon offsetting, a system that works on credits, we can invest in green changes elsewhere that will help reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. This helps balance out the negative effects from activities like flying. It seems a little greedy to be able to pollute the earth and then pay someone else to make greenhouse gas reductions on your behalf, but consider that your investment will help make improvements that otherwise may not occur. (Read more about carbon offsetting from

Leave packaging at home
Instead of throwing out packaging in resort garbage bins, take it with you. Many developing nations don't have recycling or waste disposal programs like we do in Canada, so it won't be disposed of properly (similarly, leave packaging from new toothbrushes, batteries and other travel items at home before you leave). You can also plan ahead by tossing an insulated cup into your luggage if you're headed to an all-inclusive resort. Not only will your beverages stay colder and be easily identifiable poolside, but imagine how many plastic cups you'll save if you continue to refill your own.

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Pick green accommodations
Buying local isn't just for food. When choosing accommodation, support local businesses that make an effort to use environmentally friendly water and waste systems, are designed in traditional building style and employ staff from the community. This doesn't mean you have to opt for the most basic of accommodations – by researching your destination, you will be able to compare businesses and their environmental practices. Health and wellness retreats are known to be eco-friendly vacation spots because of their focus on low-impact living.

Go for eco-friendly activities
Eco tours can be anything from responsible rainforest tours to horseback riding or relaxing wildflower and birding excursions. They allow visitors to have memorable experiences without leaving a mark on the environment. Hosts try to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and educate visitors on the local environment in order to preserve it as well as possible.

If you're heading out on your own, make sure you're swimming in regulated areas and not disturbing someone else's territory, like splashing in protected turtle mating grounds. Remember that other people will want to see the same sights in the future, so you don't want to leave any impact or take a freebie – coral reefs have suffered irreversible damage because everyone wants just a little piece. Also make sure to follow local guidelines – your regular sunscreen may seem innocuous, but it can have a devastating effect on wildlife, which is why many swimming areas ask you to use biodegradable sunblock or simply wear a shirt.

Pick up savvy souvenirs
Do you really know 25 people who will cherish a tiny piece of the Berlin Wall taped to a postcard? Many people are trying to curb their overconsumption at home, so don't hamper their efforts by bringing them souvenirs that aren't meaningful to them. They'll either gather dust on a shelf or end up in the garbage anyway. Limit what you buy to special items that you know aren't made with endangered species or wildlife products and support local economies so you know where your money is going. There is no point in buying a souvenir in Mexico with a "Made in China" label on the bottom! (Check out the WWF's Buyer Beware tips.)

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Consider voluntourism
There comes a time when piña coladas and roasting on the beach get a little old for some travellers, which is when they turn to voluntourism, a type of give-and-take trip. Visitors get to see a new place, meet new people and get hands-on experience somewhere away from home and that region or country benefits from their generosity through the time they spend volunteering. Winnipeg's Fairmont hotel has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and now offers packages for travellers who want to build bedrooms by day and crash on a comfy bed at night. Opportunities farther from home include helping with reef cleanups and spending time on nature reserves.

Treat the earth like your home
If you keep your showers short at home to save water, do the same on vacation. Wasted water still takes a toll on the earth, even if you aren't paying for it. Remember to turn off the TV in your hotel room before you leave and turn down the air conditioning when you aren't there (and even when you are). Wherever you are is home to someone so maintain good habits no matter where you may be.

Eat local applies no matter where you are
Experience local flavour – literally - by trying local specialties when you're away. Many people believe the best way to experience a culture is through its food, so try locally grown produce and support independent, local businesses instead of the familiar burger chains you recognize from home. This is a great opportunity to try items we feel guilty about consuming at home because they have to be transported from so far away – and those tropical fruits will taste that much better in a tropical environment.

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Ecotourism: How to make your vacations greener