The average traveler is often shocked to learn about the many ways in which their travel impacts locals, natural resources, and wildlife. Being a responsible traveler that books sustainable and responsible tourism and travel experiences starts with making yourself aware, questioning options available to you, and then prioritizing who, where, and what you book. In the end, you can take a vacation that is not only low impact, sustainable, and supportive, but will also be enhanced by your choices.
Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Tips From Female Travel Bloggers
Our community of female travel bloggers have been emphatic and active advocates for sustainable travel options, seeking to inform and educate one reader and traveler at a time about ways in which they can minimize their impact on local communities, the environment, and wildlife all while still exploring the world. These are their reasons for championing sustainable and responsible tourism options and tips that any traveler can implement on their next adventure.
Respect Wildlife When Exploring Nature
Kirstin from The Tinberry Travels
There are so many amazing creatures in the world it’s understandably exciting to see animals in the wild, but there are lots of things to consider when heading out in search of local wildlife. If you’re planning your own trip out into nature, key things to remember are to keep your distance, try to stick paths so as not to disturb creatures, which will also help you reduce the impact on native flora, and always stay alert. During a backpacking trip in Australia, I occasionally forgot this last rule and accidentally stood on a brown snake! Keep in mind you are exploring their territory so it is you that must take extra care.
Feeding animals in the wild is another big no-no, no matter how cute that Instagram image may be – this endangers everyone, makes animals reliant on supplementary food, and will most likely make them ill.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Above all, one of my best sustainable travel tips is to just make the effort to research how to far you should keep away from animals, whether a bear in a US National Park, deer in the Scottish Highlands or nesting bird in Mauritius. Learn about the beautiful wildlife that you might encounter but also how to interact with it for everyone’s safety.
Follow Kirstin on Twitter @tinberrytravels
Don’t Be a Vandal! Respect the Local Heritage
Daniela from Ipanema Travels
We’ve seen them all: tourists climbing this fountain or that monument to take the perfect selfie, or carving their names with the indispensable heart shape around it on a bench in the park to immortalize the perfect moment. It may seem common sense that we shall treat with respect public property and historical monuments, but in reality, the destruction of our historical heritage is a daily occurrence. At some places, the situation is so aggravated, that local authorities need to intervene. Italy, for example, has started “Enjoy and Respect” campaigns in the most affected cities: Venice, Florence, and Rome, to educate the tourists to respect the city and its people. Initiatives like this are the last resort for the preservation of the monuments, but education needs to start earlier and continue through our formative years rather than at the airport or in front of the Colosseum. It is never too late to become a responsible tourist.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: We need to remember that we have to treat all historical monuments with respect, otherwise, there will be nothing left for the next generation.
Follow Daniela on Twitter @ipanematravels
Minimise Your Impact on the Ecosystems That You Visit
Malou from Skip to Malou
We see the harmful environmental impact of tourism on a daily basis in Barbados, but luckily there are small actions that you can take to reduce your ecological footprint on the natural environments and the resources of the countries that you visit. For example, travel with your own reusable straw, water bottle, cutlery, and bags, so that you don’t end up using single-use/disposable items which end up in the local landfill or waterways (or worse, in the stomachs of marine life!).
On small islands like Barbados that are heavily dependent on tourism, we import most of our food. By choosing locally produced food where possible and buying fruit and vegetables that are in season, visitors can help reduce enormous transport costs resulting from importing produce. Using environmentally friendly products such as reef safe sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner can also significantly reduce the number of harmful chemicals in the oceans, lakes, and ponds. Ladies, we can also reduce our impact on a monthly basis by using environmentally friendly period products – such as menstrual cups and reusable pads. These are just some of the sustainable travel tips that you can use to reduce your impact on the ecosystems that you visit – Let’s use travel to sustain the world, not destroy it!
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Choose locally produced food and environmentally friendly products.
Follow Malou on Twitter at @skiptomalouuu
Book Your Stay Responsibly
Karen from WanderlustingK
Although staying like a local in a new travel destination is great, platforms like Airbnb can cause significant housing problems in many cities where landlords can make more renting short-term to tourists than renting to residents in the city at an affordable rate. Lisbon is an example of a popular tourist destination where Airbnb has been named as one of the factors in the housing crisis. As rents go through the roof, many desirable areas are now unaffordable for most residents.
I was recently in Lisbon and friends living there told me to avoid certain areas where food prices have also shot up as the majority of the shops cater to tourists, who are fine paying three times the normal price.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Prior to booking, research applicable laws in the city that you’re visiting to ensure Airbnb rentals are legal. Further, consider the impact of your booking and opt for room rentals with the locals versus apartments in residential districts.
Follow Karen on Twitter: @wanderlustingk
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The Ethics of Getting the Shot
Julie from Bound to Explore
I am guilty of chasing “the shot.” I am guilty of climbing over a fence to get a different perspective of a waterfall in Yellowstone, and going off trail to find the secret hidden cave in Johnston Canyon. As a photographer, I am proud of those images. As a responsible traveler, I am ashamed of my actions. After a series of trips where I witnessed people damaging the environment and risking their lives to capture “the shot,” I was done with being one of those people. I am not saying don’t push yourself to create beautiful images, or to stop visiting destinations that you see on social media. However, I do think it is important that travelers consider the impact they are having when they visit and post about these beautiful places. If your actions can potentially harm yourself, other people, or the ecosystem, then the shot simply isn’t worth the risk. I want to set a precedent for how people should behave when they interact with Earth’s natural landscapes so that others can continue to enjoy them for the years to come. In the end, that means sometimes I will just have to pass on getting the shot, and I hope others will too.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Consider the impact you are having when you visit and post about these beautiful places
Follow Julie on Twitter @BoundtoExplore
Emily from Two Dusty Travelers
Voluntourism is exploding in popularity, since travelers with good intentions want to make a difference on their trips. But as a nurse who volunteers abroad often, I know from experience that it’s easy to do more harm than good! For example, during my first medical mission as a nursing student, I had to have a reality check about whether I was actually qualified enough to help – it was obvious that the Kenyan nurses were far more skilled than I was. Coming from a developed country didn’t automatically make me useful! (And the same applies if you’re doing construction or teaching English.)
Even the best intentions often have unintended consequences. Orphanage volunteering is a perfect example – although it seems positive on the surface, it has actually fueled the exploitation of vulnerable children. Unfortunately, not all volunteer programs are created equal, and with so many travelers willing to spend big money on voluntourism, there are plenty of organizations more concerned with making a profit than making a difference. The desire to make the world better while you travel is wonderful!
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Make sure to do your research and ask the right questions first.
Follow Emily on Twitter @2DustyTravelers
Pack Ethical Travel Beauty Products
Lola from Miss Filatelista
Being part of sustainable and responsible tourism includes being mindful about what you bring into the destination you’re visiting. Most people probably haven’t given much thought to how their toxic and chemical-laced mainstream beauty products can harm the local environment. Delicate plumbing systems can’t handle unnatural ingredients, especially if the wastewater is repurposed to water gardens. Try to stick to natural products that are healthier for your skin and the environment, especially while traveling. As an added bonus ethical beauty products are usually also cruelty-free and vegan. If you’re not sure where to start, look for products that have limited plastic packaging and water waste. Powders are amazing as they take up less precious packing space–you just add the necessary water when you need to clean your hair, teeth, or skin.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Be mindful about what you bring into the destination and how their facilities will cope with them.
Follow Lola on Twitter @MissFilatelista
Learn Before You Go
Naomi from Roaming the Americas
Cultural sensitivity is an important aspect of being a responsible traveler, and most people who seek to travel responsibly understand that learning about culture is vital to engaging with locals in a respectful way. Experiencing outward expressions of culture through food traditions, local celebrations, and customs can be a fun way to do this.
But I’m also a passionate believer that learning about history and current events of the place you’re traveling is not only enriching but it helps you connect with culture on a deeper level. I promise, though–it doesn’t have to feel like you’re back in history class! It can be as simple as reading a book set in that destination or following the local newspaper on social media to get a feel for what people are talking about around their dinner tables.
Not only does learning add more layers to your own observations and reflections about a place, it also deepens your conversations with local people and helps you be a more culturally sensitive traveler.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Learn about the destination you are visiting, before you go; it’s culture, food, celebrations, and customs.
Follow Naomi on Twitter @RoamtheAmericas
Fly Less and Choose Transportation Wisely
Alex from The Mindful Mermaid Blog
In case you didn’t know, flying has a significant carbon footprint on the planet. For every one mile that you fly, the plane releases 53 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Even if you fly even a couple hundred miles a year, that’s still a TON of additional carbon warming the atmosphere.
The most effective way you can minimize your carbon footprint from traveling is by flying less. If it isn’t possible, try investing in airlines with a carbon offset program or utilizing third-party companies such as Green Seat. Depending on the company or airline, you can often pay anywhere from $3-$15 to offset your flight miles through programs that plant trees, invest in renewables, or empower sustainable local businesses.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: One aspect of sustainable and responsible tourism that I’m working on is choosing my transportation wisely, including when I get off the plane as well. I always take public transport and if possible, I almost always walk. Not only has it been more eco-friendly, it has been significantly more affordable.
Follow Alex on Twitter @mindfulmermaid7
Susanna from Wandering Chocobo
Travel planning was never my thing. I liked to show up to a destination take it all in. I thought this made me a “good” traveler. It allowed me to soak up the local flavor. However, in the last few years, I’ve realized that in order to get the local flavor of a place you need to plan ahead and do some research to support local businesses and products. Supporting the local economy, over big corporations or products made in unethical factories overseas, is one of the best things you can do for a destination. It puts money into the economy and into the hands of locals who need it most.
In order to prepare I always look up what the sign is for locally made products. For example, in Alaska (my home state) we have several options. There is a polar bear with a cub that says “Made in Alaska” signaling something was made in Alaska. You might also find an open palm hand that says “Authentic Native Handicraft,” this tells you something was made by an Indigenous local, by hand. At the supermarket, you will want to look for a logo that says “Alaskan Grown” which means your food was grown in Alaska. Purchasing products with these logos means that you are helping a local make ends meet, cutting emissions from the long transportation process to get goods to remote Alaska, and you have something truly made in Alaska. If you research ahead of time, your mind will be on the lookout for them and it will be easier to buy local.
Another thing to look for is supporting local companies or those that hire locals. Alaska, for example, really struggles with this because so many people come up to Alaska just for the summer to start a tourism-related business or work in the tourism industry. Do some research and stay at a bed and breakfast owned by locals, eat at a restaurant serving farm to table products, or hire an Indigenous walking guide for downtown Anchorage instead of a non-local who is just up for the summer.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: Look at the tour company, restaurants or hotels’ about page to see who the owners are, why they started the company, and what they do for the local economy.
Follow Susanna on Twitter @wanderingchocobo
Do Not Collect Souvenirs from Nature
Ketki from EcoKats
Everyone loves souvenirs – it reminds them of the wonderful trip they had and also makes for a perfect gift for family and friends. Though fridge magnets, artifacts, and jewelry are the most common souvenirs, people tend to pick up naturally present no cost things from nature. Most commonly that includes sand or shell from beaches, volcanic rocks, and wood/flowers/leaves from national parks.
It is best to avoid taking any of these back home because shells, sand, and stones help stabilize the ecology around them – they may help anchor seagrass; shells provide homes or hiding places for crustaceans. When rocks break down they provide nutrients for the soil and organisms living in the area. Seeds from the plant also help in maintaining the indigenousness of the area and it is best to leave them where they were found. US Customs also tend to question passengers if carrying soil, sand, fruit or seeds. If found carrying any these items, they most likely confiscate them as they are considered to hold bugs, seeds, bacteria, etc. in it.
Sustainable and responsible tourism Tip: It is best to stick to clicking photos from those amazing places, printing them, and then set it up as a magnet on the refrigerator. It also makes for an amazing Christmas card for friends and family.
Follow Ketki on Twitter @ecokats
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