Is it possible to be a “sustainable tourist”? 12 ways to positively impact your travels |

Tourism has many positive aspects. Around two billion people travel each year for tourism purposes. Travel and tourism connects people and brings the world together through shared experiences, cultural awareness and community building. It provides jobs, stimulates regional development and is a key driver of socio-economic progress.

However, there is often a downside; Many popular destinations are threatened by increasing pollution, environmental hazards, degradation of heritage sites and over-exploitation of resources. And that’s without taking into account the pollution caused by travel to and from these destinations.

So, with that in mind, here are some tips that will help you enjoy your trip and leave with the certainty that your favorite tourist destination will not be damaged by your presence, once you return home.

1. Ditch single-use plastics

Often used for less than 15 minutes, single-use plastic items can take more than 1,000 years to degrade. Many of us embrace sustainable options in our daily lives, and we can adopt the same attitude when we’re on the road. By choosing reusable bottles and bags wherever you go, you can help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the ocean and other habitats.

2. Be “water wise”

Overall, tourists consume significantly more water than local residents. With an increasing number of places experiencing water scarcity, the choices you make can help ensure that people have adequate access to water in the future. By forgoing the daily change of sheets and towels during hotel stays, we can save millions of liters of water every year.

3. Buy local

When you buy local, you help boost the local economy, benefit local communities and reduce the destination’s carbon footprint related to the transportation of goods. This is also true at mealtime, so savor fresh, locally grown produce every chance you get.

4. Use an ethical operator

Tourism operations involve people, logistics, suppliers, transportation and much more. Each link in the chain can have an impact on the environment – positively or negatively. If you prefer to leave the planning to someone else, be sure to choose an operator that prioritizes the environment, uses resources efficiently and respects local culture.

5. “Please don’t feed the animals”

Sharing food with wild animals or getting close enough to do so increases the risk of spreading diseases like colds, flu and pneumonia from humans to animals. Moreover, when animals become accustomed to receiving food from humans, their natural behaviors are altered and they become dependent on humans for their survival. In some cases, this can also lead to human-animal conflicts.

6. And don’t eat them either!

By creating demand, the consumption of endangered or exotic animals leads to increased poaching, trafficking and exploitation of animals. Besides the harm done to the individual animal on your plate, an irresponsible meal can contribute to the extinction of species already threatened by climate change and habitat loss. Keep this in mind when shopping for souvenirs as well, and avoid products made from endangered wild animals.

7. Share a ride

Transportation is a major contributor to the carbon footprint of tourism. Instead of private taxis, explore public transportation like trains, buses, and shared taxis. You can also ride a bicycle, which offers a convenient and cheaper way to explore and experience a place.

8. Consider a host family

Staying with a local resident or family is a nature-friendly option that allows you to get closer to local culture and customs. Staying with local host families can uplift communities by providing income while giving you insight into different ways of life.

Immerse yourself in the local cuisine.  You will delight your taste buds and support the local economy...

9. Do your homework

Before your trip, find out about your destination. This will allow you to better immerse yourself in local traditions and practices and appreciate things that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. With the right information, you can explore a destination more sensibly and surprise yourself with new adventures and discoveries.

10. Visit National Parks and Sanctuaries

Exploring nature and wildlife through national parks is an intimate way to learn about animals and their ecosystems. In some cases, your admission fee supports conservation efforts that protect species and landscapes and preserve these natural areas for future visitors to enjoy.

11. Leave No Trace

You can make a mark by not leaving a mark on your vacation destination. Put trash where it belongs to avoid waste, and don’t remove or alter anything without permission. Let’s make sure to leave only soft footprints, not environmental ones.

12. Tell your friends

Now that you’re ready to travel eco-responsibly, it’s time to spread the word! Let your fellow travelers, friends and family know how sustainable tourism benefits local people by improving their livelihoods and well-being, and helps us all by protecting our beautiful environment.