Vacations are an integral part of every person’s life. Following long seasons of hard work, it is well deserved to get away from busy schedules and enjoy nature. The tourism industry is fully built around the need for vacations. While tourism is good, it has its dark side. The entire industry thrives on the existence of nature, yet it tends to erode away what is left of natural resources.
Tourism is one of the leading contributors to climate change. According to the U.N., tourism contributes up to 5% of all man-made emissions, with the rate expected to increase to 5.3% by 2030. Furthermore, tourism-related transport emissions account for about 22% of all transport emissions.
Besides emission-based pollution, tourism also contributes heavily to plastic pollution. According to the U.N., at least eight out of 10 tourists litter single-use plastic, of which eight million tonnes end up in the ocean each year. This kind of pollution can be reduced by advocating for sustainable vacationing.
There are many ways in which vacationing can affect the environment. Sustainability can be attained if we take conscious steps to protect our natural resources. While vacationing allows us to enjoy the available natural resources, the sustainable steps we take preserve nature for future generations.
What does it take to be an ecotourist?
The term ecotourism is often used interchangeably with sustainable tourism. While they are related, they are not one and the same thing. A sustainable tourist is concerned about vacationing without having too much negative impact on the ecosystem.
On the other hand, an ecotourist focuses on protecting nature, culture and social practices. Sustainability tends to take a more holistic approach to preserving nature, and social and cultural practices. Meanwhile, ecotourism mainly focuses on protecting nature.
If we look at it holistically, both ecotourism and sustainable tourism are important tenets to be embraced. Unfortunately, some practices that support both may be out of reach for individuals. There are some actions that can only be taken at policy development levels. However, there is a lot that can be done at a personal level. When it comes to ecotourism, your inspiration for others to take action is equally important. Unless you get your actions right, you may not be in a position to help others see the light.
Tips to vacation in a sustainable manner
Vacationing in a sustainable manner starts from your planning. Vacationing can be hectic and inconveniences occur. If you are not careful, your vacation may turn out to be more harmful than you intended. The only way to avoid messing up everything is to plan well. When you are planning, take the following intentional steps to make your trip sustainable.
Go for sustainable products
Write a packing list and go for sustainable products while you’re at it. When writing your packing list, you will notice that most of the items on it are basic essentials. If your home itself is already sustainable, you will not have a hard time shopping and packaging. If your home is not sustainable, you should make an effort not to carry the same effect on your vacation spot.
If you intend to shop for your vacation supplies, first get the shopping list right. It can sometimes be difficult to know what to pick and to avoid. Using a shopping list helps account for everything you will need. Do not put yourself under pressure when you step into the store. Simply read the labels and try avoiding products with a high carbon footprint, those that are not recyclable and those that affect natural resources.
Shopping list targets:
- – Avoid plastic packaged products where there are alternatives
- – Have zero tolerance for single-use plastics in your package
- – Go for eco and sustainably-produced products
- – Avoid packing what can be provided by your host
Avoid high-emission means of transport
Your travel options can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint. Depending on your vacation destination, you have several options to choose from. For instance, if you are vacationing within your state or even a continent, taking an electric train would be more helpful than flying. The International Civil Aviation Association estimates that the aviation industry alone accounts for up to 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions. If you wish to reduce carbon emissions on your vacation, avoid airplanes where possible.
The same can be said about road transport. We all know that gas-powered motor vehicles are among the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Whenever you visit a new city, go for electric transportation options. If there are no electric options, opt for public transport. Taking a bus lowers your carbon footprint compared to getting a taxi.
The whole idea of sustainability is founded on your ability to take action despite how insignificant it may seem. Such simple actions go a long way in protecting the ecosystem and preserving natural resources.
Care for wildlife and nature
The best way to care for nature and wildlife is to follow the rules. As simple as it sounds, most tourists break the laws regularly. In the end, they affect nature and compromise its availability for future generations.
If a park says no to feeding wildlife, simply avoid feeding them. Most times, what we interpret as affection for wildlife puts them at risk. If parks allowed every person to feed animals, chances of the animals dying from food poisoning are high. Attain sustainability by keeping the laws and respecting those in charge. We also protect our lives from potential danger when we follow the set guidelines.
Respect local communities and learn from them
In our efforts to protect nature, we may fail to appreciate other people’s cultures. One key aspect of sustainability is the ability of nature to coexist with humanity. This has been possible in some communities for years. For instance, the Indigenous communities in the Amazon are a part of the forest’s life. Respecting their culture and appreciating their contribution will be the best approach to take.
When you visit such local communities, take your time to learn from them. You may find them participating in some practices that may seem unfriendly to the ecosystem or wildlife. Instead of being critical, take your time to learn from their practices. Trying to listen and interact with communities opens more doors to bring in change than criticism does.
Share your experiences
Most people are not sustainability conscious. The reason for this is that they think it cannot be achieved. We have many ways to be sustainable and one is sharing your ideas. The sustainable option you choose may seem absurd to another person. However, sharing your experience may just help other people have different perspectives. For instance, spending a night at an off-grid cottage might seem boring to someone else. However, sharing the experience and explaining it to your friends may get them to appreciate it.
At the end of the day, sustainable vacationing should help you not only reduce negative environmental impact but also awaken society to such a reality. There is no one rule that fits all scenarios when it comes to sustainable vacationing. It’s a wide field and this article barely scratches the surface. However, it all starts with the intention to keep our earth healthy for our future.
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