With spring break still fresh on folks’ minds, and summer on the horizon, people are starting to plan fun family vacations and road trips with friends.
The travel industry is ready to greet them with exciting ways to travel and places to visit, with a growing emphasis on sustainable tourism practices and destinations. If you already made travel plans, there are still plenty of ways to be eco-friendly, even if you’re not planting organic crops at an eco-lodge in Belize.
Tourism: Do Your Part
Tourism is the world’s fastest growing industry. With such a wide reach, tourism has the ability to help solve many of our planet’s challenges, such as poverty, waste reduction, eco-system preservation and climate change. These issues can be integrated into tourism, contributing to a healthier, more sustainable planet.
But sustainable tourism is not just about treating the earth with respect; it also means minimizing negative impacts to cultural heritages and sacred and cultural sites. We can all do our part by selecting destinations, resorts and restaurants that practice sustainable tourism.
Sustainability is “In the Air”
With rising fuel costs and unstable economies in Europe and elsewhere around the globe, it might be difficult to imagine that an airline could be sustainable. But a few have got it right, with Southwest Airlines leading the pack. With low operating costs, high levels of aircraft and employee productivity, rapid turnarounds, standardization of aircraft and unprecedented success at coordinating operations, Southwest wastes less time, money and fuel than many other airlines. As a result, it’s a leader in sustainable travel.
Travel in Style, Not Ignorance
People may assume that as long as the word “green” is used, they’re practicing sustainable travel. Although environmental stewardship is obviously important, there’s a lot more to it than that. Sustainable travelers understand that cultural preservation is as important as environmental, and that it’s critical to provide communities with the ability and means to endure for generations to come. Tourism structures must be built to last and must demonstrate a commitment to preserving and promoting environmental and cultural treasures.
Your Guide to a Successful ‘Sustainication’
Now that you have a better sense of why sustainable tourism is important, here are some practical tips and destinations to get you started planning your own sustainable adventures.
- Do your homework. Book your tours with operations that specialize in sustainable tourism. Stay at “green” lodgings and once you reach your destination, find out where you can eat locally and support the region’s artisans for your souvenir shopping. Websites such as SustainableTrip.org are great for narrowing down your search.
- Wherever you go, respect the natural environment of your host destination. Allow animals to live undisturbed, leave natural areas alone and always pick up after yourself.
- Certain parts of the world have been recognized as doing outstanding work promoting human rights, protecting their environment and encouraging a sustainable, local tourism industry. The following countries were selected for 2012: Argentina, The Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Latvia, Mauritius, Palau, Serbia and Uruguay. By visiting these countries, we are using our economic clout to support their sustainable efforts and encouraging other countries to follow their example.
You don’t have to travel thousands of miles to practice sustainable tourism. A wonderful part of being a sustainable traveler is that you can take your environmental and cultural awareness with you wherever you go, even if it’s just a few hours from home!
This guest post is provided by Jason Monaghan who writes on sustainable education. He also writes on topics such as leadership, business administration and negotiations for a number of universities through the University Alliance.