Sustainable, eco, green, certified, responsible travel -- the language can not only be confusing, it can unfortunately, be misleading. Yes, the language can be confusing, but traveling responsibly can be as simple as booking the right trip with the right company.
If you're looking for some direction (a way out of the abstract adjectives) on exactly what type of impact your trip might have on the local people and environment, here is a helpful list of questions to ask your travel company before you book.
Does the company:
1. Build environmental and cultural awareness through education, activities, and pre-departure information?
2. Provide direct financial contributions for conservation efforts?
3. Minimize impact on the environment and the local culture? Travel in small groups?
4. Train tour guides in responsible ethics?
5. Respect local culture?
6. Look for lodgings that emphasize local traditions?
7. Support local businesses and service providers? Use local guides & locally owned services - hotels, lodges, and transport companies - to ensure that as much revenue as possible stays within, and therefore benefits local communities?
8. Partake of community tourism offerings whenever possible - walking tours, overnight stays, purchases of locally made products?
9. Offer site-sensitive accommodations?
10. Use hotels that: Conserve natural resources-water, electricity, etc. Do they recycle?
When you are away from home there are a number of steps you can take to help ensure tourism remains a positive experience from everyone and that we leave places as we found them:
Be Respectful of Nature
If possible walk/horse ride/bike only on designated trails. This prevents vegetation damage and erosion. If you have to travel off trail, walk on durable surfaces and have your group spread out so that new trails aren't created.
Remember you are traveling through the animals' backyard - observe all wildlife from a distance and don't attempt to feed the animals.
Try not to leave any traces of your visit. This will allow everyone to enjoy such places as nature intended.
Snorkelers & divers need to practice minimal impact techniques so as to avoid touching corals, and marine life.
Don't be tempted to collect living or dead items or historically significant souvenirs.
In many developing countries and remote places, waste management facilities are limited or nonexistent and recycling is unheard of. You can help minimize the impact from your visit by selecting products with minimal packaging, using reusable water bottles (like Nalgene brand), and purchasing drinks in glass bottles as these tend to be reused.
Leave what you Find
Take only pictures, leave only the lightest of footprints, and bring home only memories.
Resist the temptation to take home souvenirs found in the environment or at archaeological sites.
Leave the place you're visiting in a natural condition.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Preserve the solitude; respect others by traveling and camping quietly.
Uphill hikers have the right of way.
Respect Cultural Differences
Local customs and traditions are often different to our own; take time to learn what behaviors are acceptable and what is not
Ask permission before taking photographs of local people - carrying a Polaroid is a good opportunity to make new friends, and many families will never have had a picture of their children.
Taking the time to learn a few words and phrases in your host's native tongue is always appreciated and is a great introduction to starting an interaction with locals.
Help endangered species - do not buy products that exploit wildlife, cause habitat destruction, or come from endangered species.
Buy locally made goods.
Travelers can make another important contribution - information. Material benefits often slip through the hands of the local community. Honest information from travelers from the outside world can help people make informed decisions, empowering them in their own economic development.
See our Responsible Tours page for trip ideas.