7 Ways to Travel More Responsibly 

Save the Earth, and see it too!

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Planet Earth boasts hundreds of thousands of stunning and fascinating, restful or adventurous, tourist destinations. Some are man-made, like the lofty Eiffel Tower, the illuminated streets of Broadway, and the historical engineering marvel of the Colosseum. Additionally, there are tourist attractions that showcase nature’s aesthetic. The rainforests, beaches, mountains, vistas, deserts, oceans, and beyond, provide travelers with unique, majestic, and awe-inspiring views.

Still, while traveling the world to see the immense Grand Canyon or to tour the pristine white beaches in Hawaii, it’s important to do so in a way that preserves these natural attractions for the next generation to enjoy as well. It’s always a good idea to travel in an environmentally-friendly way, that lets one both tour nature and preserve nature. Here are seven tips for eco-friendly travel.

Look for a green label
The NYT reports that recent demand for eco-friendly travel has resulted in a proliferation of environmentally-friendly labels used by businesses, resorts, and products in the “travel and leisure” industry. However, as Randy Durban, the chief executive of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, tells NYT, not all these labels are honest and well regulated.

“The range is enormous,” Durban explains. “From rigorous, impartial, and excellent to, frankly poor. We strongly believe in the value of third-party certification, when it’s done right. But, the way the word ‘certification’ is used in tourism is out of control.”

There are a few tricks to doing the research and finding out which labels are adequately environmentally friendly however. One option is to look at detailed online guides that go through the details of several common labels. 

Another is to follow the advice of standards-based organizations. For example, Susan Etti, an executive at Intrepid Travel says that the Tourism Declares Initiative includes some 230 travel-based companies that have taken steps to reduce emissions and help the planet. Another guide website is the B Corporation website, which lists “travel and leisure” companies that have met a series of rigorous eco-friendly standards.

Ask questions
When it comes to corporations not on those above lists, or those with environmentally-friendly labels of unknown adequacy, savvy travelers can peel back the obfuscation behind the label by researching, asking questions, or speaking to a travel agent. 

Sven-Olaf Lindblad, a chief executive of an eco-friendly cruise company – Lindblad Expeditions, tells NYT that research is absolutely essential because “there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in this business.”

Lindblad explains, “You wouldn’t just buy a car from an ad without understanding what it was and how it compared. I’m absolutely amazed at how little diligence people sometimes do in relationship to travel.”

Gregory Miller, the executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel agrees. He advises would-be travelers to check out whether sustainable language is used on a company’s website, and his organization has also put together a list of travels tips and things to ask companies about before traveling.

Fly less and fly direct
Dr Etti from Intrepid Travel says, “When you fly, make it count.” She suggests using long-haul flights when necessary, but switching to more eco-friendly options for more local destinations. According to The Travel, trains and buses produce significantly less carbon emissions than airplanes do. By traveling overland, one can cut carbon emissions by as much as 50 percent or 80 percent. 

Some destinations have overnight trains, which both allow for greener travel and save tourists the price of an overnight hotel. For example, Europe has sleeper train routes with places to rest one's head on the train itself.

Another tip for flying green is to take a non-stop flight. About a quarter of the carbon emissions emitted during flying happen during the take-off and landing process. A direct flight gets the traveler closer to their destination with less carbon emissions.

Stay local and buy local
Another way to cut down on flights and boost sustainability is to get in touch with the local community. Dr. Etti tells NYT that she recommends that travelers “stay in one location longer to really understand how life works in that community.” Staying local can cut down on travel emissions, and integrating into the local community can also decrease a tourists’ cultural and environmental impact.

Boosting the local economy can actually have green benefits. According to The Travel,  buying local goods can cut back on the emissions needed to transport mass-produced goods across the regions or the world to get them to the market nearby.

Another way to support the local community and cut back on emissions is to eat locally at a place that uses ingredients sourced from nearby and cooked on the spot. An added benefit of this is that the tourist gets to taste local flavors.

Dominique Callimanopulos, who works at Elevate Destinations, tells NYT that “exchange with a host community” should be a huge part of what travel is about. “People can make a shift from thinking just about what their personal experience is going to be to looking at the impact of their experience on the ground, on the destination and on the community,” Callimanopulos explains.

When you go makes a difference
According to NYT, tourists congesting an area can exacerbate the environmental impact of travel. Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, a tourism lecturer at the University of South Australia says that it’s better to travel during off-peak seasons when the area will be less crowded. Another option is to look for less heavily-trafficked destinations.

Reuse and reduce
The Travel suggests several ways that tourists can reduce their environmental impact, including habits that can help reduce waste and emissions even when not on the road. For example, having a reusable water bottle is always a great idea, but it comes into play even more so when on vacation, when one is out and about more.

Travelers can also help save water at their destination by foregoing unnecessary housekeeping. If one’s hotel room is already relatively clean, there’s no reason to waste water for extra washing-up on a daily basis. 

Stay on the trail and leave wildlife alone
When in a public park or an animal’s natural habitat, an environmentally-friendly traveler can take care to respect the territory of local wildlife. This means staying on the trails, and not feeding the local animals. This preserves the environment and reduces human’s impact on local flora and fauna. 

Andrea Nicholas, the chief executive of Green Tourism, tells the NYT that more and more travelers are seeking green travel experiences. “What we are seeing now,” she says, “From the interest we’re getting, is that it’s a must have.” And survey data backs this up. One survey found that two thirds of travelers are trying to be aware of eco-friendly brands. Another poll found that 69 percent “expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options.”There are always eco-friendly travel options out there and so many ways for tourists to take advantage of planet-saving strategies while globetrotting.

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