Everyone acknowledges the two sides of conservation - ecological and cultural - but little attention is paid to the latter. Adventure Life believes it is critical that local people be made active partners in developing a local tourism industry. Money generated by tourism should stay in the community. This means hiring local guides, staying in locally owned hotels, and using the local transportation infrastructure - issues that have been at the heart of our travel philosophy from the beginning.
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. So join us on a journey of learning and discovery, and share a bit of yourself in a land of warm smiles and open hearts.
How to be a Sustainable Traveler
(adapted from Leave No Trace
A recent survey prepared by the Travel Industry Association of America with the support of the National Geographic Society suggests that more than 55 million American travelers desire travel experiences that "protect and preserve the ecological and cultural environment" of the destinations they visit. An even greater number, 77 million, prefer to learn as much as possible about their destination's customs, geography and culture. To meet these demands something called "community tourism" has developed. Community tourism refers to locally-initiated offerings that preserve the natural and cultural resources of destinations, while producing better livelihoods and higher standards of living for residents. It empowers local people to identify the cultural and natural resources in their midst and convert them into assets that can improve the economic life of their community. In so doing, community tourism becomes the engine for restoring and preserving those irreplaceable resources. This style of tourism falls under the umbrella of low-impact, socially conscious travel widely know as "ecotourism."
Each trip we take creates an opportunity to have either a positive or negative effect on our destination; thankfully, the choice is ours. By spending our tourism dollars responsibly and patronizing outfitters and lodges that practice ecotourism, we send a powerful message. Our habits can encourage others to follow our lead, and challenge the average company to raise the bar when it comes to managing their environmental footprint. For more information on how to be a sustainable traveler, check out the advice below...
Before you go:
There are conflicting uses of the term ecotourism. Many tour operators use this term for marketing purposes only, appealing to the public's increased awareness of environmental matters. Other tour companies are very careful to construct their itineraries in an eco-friendly way. Each trip you take is an opportunity to make a difference, and by doing some preliminary research you can select an environmentally responsible company whose trips benefit the communities in which they take place.
Here are a list of questions to help you discern if the company you are selecting really is an eco-tour company:
Does the company:
-Build environmental and cultural awareness through education, activities, and pre-departure information?
-Provide direct financial contributions for conservation efforts?
-Minimize impact on the environment and the local culture?
-Travel in small groups?
-Train tour guides in "Leave No Trace" ethics?
-Respect local culture?
-Look for lodgings that emphasize local traditions?
-Seek out excursions offered by local or indigenous people?
-Support local businesses and service providers?
-Use locally owned services -hotels, lodges and transport companies- to ensure that as much revenue as possible stays within, and therefore benefits local communities?
-Partake of community tourism offerings whenever possible -walking tours, overnight stays, purchases of locally made products?
-Offer site-sensitive accommodations?
-Use hotels that:
-Conserve natural resources-water, electricity, etc.?
-Use recycled products?
-Use non-toxic cleaning products?
-Use fresh, filtered air in guest rooms rather than recycled air?
-Reduce water consumption by opting out of frequent changes of towels and bed linens?
-Reduce electricity consumption by favoring fluorescent or other low-energy lighting?
While you're traveling:
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.
Pack it in, Pack it out
Do not dump garbage. If you bring it, take it back with you. If you find garbage others have missed or dropped by accident, pick it up.
When hiking do not bury toilet paper, as animals will often dig it up and spread it all over. Instead pack it out. Carry out all plastic or cotton feminine hygiene products.
Protect Water Systems & Oceans
Wash yourself and your dishes 200 feet from any water sources and away from campsites
On extended backcountry trips, don't use soap or shampoo; even biodegradable soap still has an impact on the environment. If you do have to use soap use it 200 feet from any water sources and the smallest amount necessary.
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.
It is all right to take any trash you find home.
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.
After your trip:
Here is one of our most recent -- and favorite -- examples of giving back after your travels. Inspired by a visit to the local Q'eros community in Peru, Adventure Life travelers took the following initiative:
Since Adventure Life always advocates bringing things to help the local population we had asked [our guide] Boris back in 2006 on our Macchu Picchu trip whether the kids needed pencils etc for school. He said they never got colored pencils. So we sent 200 boxes of crayons to him and he and his wife distributed them this May. We held off last year sending them because of the earthquake and postal services were slow. Anyway because of you all connecting us to Boris we were able to help. Now we will have to see what else we can do since the school is obviously not in great condition. We figure that in 2010 we will try and go back there with family and set up a trip just to do that and see what aid we can take.