With more adventurers traveling the world increases every year, the environmental effect of travel only gets worse every year. Travelers are inclined to produce lots of waste- few tourists recycle while traveling, hotels are wasteful, and airplanes spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Tourism can be pretty environmentally unfriendly.

The environment one of the defining issues of the day, it’s more important than ever before that we make our travels become environmentally friendly. During the last few years, a new wave has developed within in the travel industry called “eco-tourism” to green travel.

Eco-tourism deals with reducing travels impact- both on the environment and on native populations. Eco-tourism promotes environmental and social awareness and, usually, eco-tours travel to locations where the flora and fauna are abundant. Think of places like Costa Rica, Tanzania, the Amazon, and New Zealand.

While many eco-tours are simply greener versions of everyday tours, others have specific itineraries:

• Volunteering: Many tours are based on participants volunteering in local community initiatives and clean up projects.

• Local Cultures: Many tours focus on educating groups about the local culture. This includes cooking classes, home stays, and language classes. The idea is to spread cultural respect and understanding while decreasing everyone’s environmental impact.

• Environmental education: These tours focus on highlight environmental issues in a local area and what can be done to improve the situation.

Eco-tourism promotes environmental awareness among its participants and reduces the environmental impact of travel. Companies use local products, local guides, and visit organizations that use sustainable and low impact methods.

Moreover, it promotes local conservation and trains locals on how protecting the environment is good for the planet but also for their wallet. Many companies run conservation programs and train locals on how to look after the environment. After all, no flora and fauna, no travel business.

Beyond the environmental impact is the social impact. By creating self sustaining industries and training locals, eco-tours help ensure that improvised communities develop financial independence giving them less incentive to cut down the environment that feeds them.

Here are a few ways that can help you reduce your environmental impact while traveling with these eco-tours:

Carry a water bottle.

Why it’s Green: No waste created from empty bottles.

Why it Helps You: You save money because you won’t have to buy water. Another option is (if you can’t drink the local water) to buy extra large jugs of water, leave them at the hostel; filling your bottle with only what you will need that day.

Walk, walk, walk.

Why it’s Green: No carbon emissions when walking.

Why it Helps You: You’ll stay in shape and you’ll save money.

When you can’t walk, take public transportation.

Why it’s Green: Fewer carbon emissions than a rental car or a taxi.

Why it Helps You: You get to really experience the local way of life and maybe meet an interesting local.

Eat less food and eat locally.

Why it’s Green: The “carbon footprint” of food is extraordinary! Eating less means there’s less waste and eating locally means a smaller footprint.

Why It Helps You: You’ll be healthier and save money and also you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the local culture.

Environmental related issues are the challenge of our century. These problems affect us all and, if we don’t start reducing our impact on the earth, many of these unique spots in the world might soon vanish.

Traveling is a great experience and helps promote cultural understanding but everyday travel has a heavy environmental impact. For those with a green spirit, this can present a problem. Yet we should not have to choose between travel and the environment and, with green tourism, we can sleep knowing we don’t have too.

Matthew is a ardent traveler and environmentalist. He loves how he can combine both his passions. For more information on traveling, visit his website on traveling the world, which contains a section on eco-tourism.
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