Tourism is making a noticeable shift—people are beginning to reinforce the understanding that it is our responsibility to respect and preserve not just our homes, but the places that welcome us temporarily. You don’t have to be an ecologist to protect the land or a travel writer to locate the best homegrown restaurant. You just have to have a love for our world, and the unique beauty of each place you choose to spend your spare time. But if looking for definite ways to start a life as an eco-tourist, we have some small but mighty ideas.
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Study Before You Go
Collecting knowledge about potential eco-friendly destinations will allow you to understand the ecosystem and populated areas, along with the rules and expectations. After discovering sites that make this “somewhere” special, a deeper appreciation can develop, making for an overall more immersive trip.
Bring a Refillable Water Bottle
Keeping plastics out of landfills makes a huge impact, no matter where you go. Many parks and public spaces these days feature water bottle fill stations, where you can get some high-quality H20. This saves a good bit of money too, as you can carry it through TSA empty, then fill it for free before boarding the plane. So much good can come from such a simple purchase.
Buy and Eat Local
This is an obvious one, but still an incredibly important way to fuel the economy. Some locals don’t love the idea of their hometown becoming a tourist hub, but mindful travelers know to respect the land and boost local businesses, so communities can thrive. Purchase your morning muffin and coffee at a small cafe, as these types of joints are the real gems. Ask if there are any regional beer selections on tap when at a bar, or maybe a good wine from a nearby vineyard. When shopping souvenirs, ask the store owner which items are really made by people in the area.
Purchase Eco Friendly Gear
We can also do good for the entire earth by choosing to buy clothing, luggage and other travel supplies from companies taking a step toward “greener” ways. Samsonite’s eco suitcase is made from recycled plastic bottles, and, as expected, is attractively sleek. Open Wear creates highly functioning snow clothing made from the most sustainable material possible, while still maintaining integrity and durability. More companies are debuting earth-friendly products, and small businesses are doing equally, and often more, impressive things. And small businesses definitely fit with the theme of this article.
Stay on Marked Paths
Some of the most gorgeous destinations are infused with nature, which means hiking and other outdoor recreation. When wandering forests and mountains, staying on marked paths protects wildlife and their habitat, along with preserved terrain and foliage. The same goes for skiing, snowshoeing and so on.
Respect the Water
Rivers, lakes, springs, the ocean—water and the scenery it creates is invaluable. First things first, always take the trash back with you, to be properly disposed of. Consider the sunscreen and body products you use before jumping into the ocean. Specific products to protect our world’s great reefs have been developed, from sunscreen to lip balm. Rinse any questionable lotions or perfumes off before going for a swim in the lake—even chemical-based toiletries that go down the shower drain are thought to pose risk to wildlife.
Use All Natural Products
That brings us to our next tip—use all-natural products. This can be an overwhelming task for those unfamiliar with the world of sustainable body care, but in general, look for ingredients that are easy to pronounce. Avoid perfumes, artificial colors and parabens. Phrases like “100% natural” and “all organic” are usually a good sign. Can’t find travel sizes? Just buy full-size bottles and fill up smaller, reusable TSA approved containers.
Travel Places That are Walkable or Have Public Transportation
Support communities that are working to reduce emissions and air pollution through public transportation and great walking routes. Cities like Atlanta and Boise are connecting their neighborhoods through foliage lined paths designated to pedestrians. Kansas City is a part of a program converting old railroads into well-connected walking and bike circuits, while Ogden features a ski bus that carries passengers to two of their three ski resorts.
Choose Sustainable Activities
Sure, you could take an off-roading Jeep trip, or you could choose something a bit kinder, and equally as enriching. Kayaking doesn’t produce polluting waste and can allow adventurists to intricately inspect the waters beneath them. Without loud motors, wildlife is less disturbed, which means you may be more likely to see something really cool, like a river otter along the Deschutes River, or a seal in the offshore waters of Kennebunkport.
Thoughtfully selecting your accommodations does two things—it can boost a local business and can reduce waste if chosen well. Choose accommodation that focuses on sustainability and natural cleaning products, like the Pilgrims Inn on an island in Maine or an eco-lodge in Costa Rica. Or maybe dive into the funky appeal of repurposed, modernized motels that have been given a trendy second life, like Boise’s Modern Hotel, or a few reinvented options in Bend. But if you stay loyal to your fave big brand, focus on the little things, like reusing your towel for a few days or requesting that your sheets not be changed through the stay.
Social media has a major impact, good or bad. Choose to use it for good when traveling. Highlight a favorite local restaurant, offer sustainability tips while showing off nature pics, and encourage people to spread out and adventure to other sites, than just highly publicized parts of the world.
Leave Things Better Than You Found Them
A lesson applicable to all parts of life couldn’t be a better mentality for a true eco-tourist. Let the places you visit enrich your life while returning the gratitude. Never let a lone candy wrapper reside on the trail, show a local that you respect their home, return your rental bike with a little more shine to it than when you received it. So many tiny things truly add up to make a huge difference.