It’s not easy making green choices – especially when planning your eco-friendly holidays. Although many travel agencies and tour operators will be happy to help you plan a sustainable vacation, how do you know the travel agent, hotel, cruise or destination you dream about really passes the sustainability test?
Here are five tips to help you keep a clean, green conscience when traveling.
1. Planning your trip
With major booking sites, such as booking.com, offering eco-friendly options, it’s never been easier to search not only for a good deal, but also an environmentally friendly one. If booking through a travel agency, they are the experts, so feel free to ask them for hotels or activities with environmental or sustainability certification. Here are a few questions you could ask:
- Does the hotel have an environmental or sustainability policy?
- How many local people does the tourism business employ, and does it source local products?
- Does the hotel or tour operator support any projects to benefit the local community or environmental and conservation projects?
- Is there any guidance and advice provided to guests on local cultures and customs?
- Is the hotel or tour operator certified, for example by Travelife or Green Key?
2. Stay green and local
Gone are the times when eco-conscious traveling meant having to share your bedroom with five others in some crowded inner city hostel. All around the world, growing awareness of environmental issues has led to a boom in sustainable accommodation, catering to all needs and wallets.
Take Sydney, for example, with its multi-award winning, modern Harbour YHA (budget), or the secluded, quirky Old Leura Dairy in the Blue Mountains. Melbourne’s Alto Hotel, the PARKROYAL on Pickering in Singapore, or the Great Ponsonby B&B in Auckland – the list of inspiring green hotels is long.
Another trend in recent years has been to stay with locals. People like you and me with a spare room, which they rent to travelers for a fee. Portals like AirBnB are a great way to really get to know a place and its people. But: be careful. Those accommodations aren’t subject to the same checks as hotels, which means they might be less safe. And you’ll want to make sure to only stay in AirBnB homes which are registered with their local council and not illegal.
3. Getting there
If you live in a remote place, like New Zealand, this is the hardest part, as air travel will never be environmentally friendly – at least as long as solar-powered aviation is still in the skies. The best way to keep your carbon footprint as low as possible – apart from visiting places within your country rather than overseas – is to offset your carbon emissions through the schemes provided by almost all of the major airlines, or trusworthy organisations like atmosfair in Germany.
It won’t make your impact on the atmosphere any better, but at least those emissions will be balanced by some tree planting or other initiative elsewhere.
4. At the destination
Whenever possible, leave the car and walk, cycle or use public transport. Select a hotel close to public transportation or near the places you are going to visit during your stay. For city travelers, that’s usually quite easy.
Many cities now offer public bicycle schemes that you can use. And walk to places if you can (we always do). Not only is this the most eco-friendly way, it will also give you an authentic feel of the place.
Opt for tour operators dedicated to environmental best practice and responsible tourism. Wildlife tours in particular require good local knowledge and dedication to wildlife preservation, rather than exploitation.
Look out (or ask your travel agent) for tours operated locally to make sure your tourist dollars benefit the local community. Whether koala conservation with Echidna Walkabout in Melbourne, or blue penguin support with Elm Wildlife tours on New Zealand’s Otago peninsula, not only will you leave with a camera full of great shots, but also with the feeling that you did the right thing.
5. Engage, give feedback
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important part, show that you care by letting the accommodation provider or tour operator know that you appreciate their sustainability efforts. Whenever you get a chance, talk to the manager, or use the feedback form. Tourism being demand driven, this will encourage businesses that care to keep up their good practices.
Don’t shy away from giving feedback if you think something could be improved. And: let the rest of us travelers know about your great green vacation by sharing your experiences on review sites such as TripAdvisor.
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