The Sustainable Tourist Challenge
Wildlife tourism provides people with the opportunities to observe, interact with, and learn about wild animals around the world, giving tourists the chance to develop a bond with some of the most endangered species. But, if we aren’t careful in how we travel, we can end up having disastrous impacts on local and global environments. We have discussed ways in which you can find the most responsible tourism company, however there are other smaller choices that tourists can make to help increase their sustainability. Most tourists declare that they are interested in making more eco-conscious choices, unfortunately, research also shows that actual behaviour change is limited. As a result of this, many strategies have been put into place to try and encourage sustainable choices. Eco-labels, educational campaigns, and certification for adhering to certain standards have been implemented, but are still being met with little success. The reluctance of tourists to support responsible tourism and adopt sustainable practices indicates a gap between attitudes and behaviours.
This gap simply opens the doors for more education. We need to build awareness around these issues so that people can see how even simple choices can have tremendous positive impacts! From the time that you are packing for your trip, to being in a far away land on your adventure, to being back at home exhausted and exhilarated from your time away, there are opportunities to lessen or even produce positive impact for wildlife and conservation. Here are some tips for you to follow in order to make your next wildlife adventure as sustainable as possible!
Before you go
When booking a trip, there are many different components to consider to decrease your travelling ecological footprint. Tourist consumption exists in many ways, with three major ones being location decision, as well as your choice of transportation and accommodation. Utilizing eco-efficient accommodations such as eco-huts or camp sites, can greatly reduce energy and water consumption as well as waste production, putting less pressure on the environment. By choosing to book more efficient transportation methods, or even reducing the distance you are travelling, your impacts will be greatly reduced. From an ecological standpoint, travelling by rail is one of the least environmentally damaging methods, as it releases less greenhouse emissions than airplanes or cars. Even better than these motorized forms of transportation is choosing to ride a bike! You can take your time, stopping to take photos or grab a bite to eat at your own leisure. It is also important to remember that, while travel to far away countries offers amazing experiences, there are wonders abound in your own country, so don’t omit exploring closer to home for some of your vacation choices!
On a simpler note, what you pack can also allow for more sustainable choices. Bringing along reusable water bottles and bags is a huge step in reducing the amount of waste that you produce while travelling. In some countries, it isn’t always easy to find drinkable water to refill your bottle with, so this may not be an option, but many tour operators can opt to buy large jugs of water for people in fill up on, instead of buying a crate of single-use water bottles if people express interest in this! There is also the option of bringing along sterilizing tools such as a Steripen or different sterilizing tablets. Packing eco-friendly or biodegradable toiletries can further lessen your impacts by reducing waste and the amount of harsh chemicals you may be adding to an ecosystem. Another big one is batteries! Many cameras and phones utilizes rechargeable batteries, consider buying a solar charger in order to recharge. For any of your other needs (alarm clocks, flashlights) make sure you only bring rechargeable batteries to help limit your waste production. Lastly, pack light, choose to pack with a purpose!
On your excursion
The mere act of visiting another country can have economic, and social impacts, but possibly more well-known are the negative ecological consequences. Since adopting more sustainable practices typically results in more operating costs, tourists represent the best opportunity for change by making their vacation decisions more sustainable and adopting environmentally friendly behaviours in their host country.
Perhaps most simply, is making sure that you are cleaning up after yourself. Unfortunately, some of the most popular tourists destinations can also suffer from waste overcapacity and litter, leading to huge damages to natural environments and risking injuries to animals as they can get caught up in, or ingest our waste. Reducing the amount of garbage you are producing, and making sure that what waste you do produce ends up in the trash or recycling is a very simple step towards cleaning up these destinations.
One of my favourite parts of travelling is eating. I love visiting new countries to eat their local food - it is one of my favourite ways of learning more about their culture, and it’s usually pretty delicious! But these food choices can also have huge impacts. Choosing to eat at local restaurants not only helps support their economy, but by eating locally and seasonably, you can greatly reduce your ecological footprint. Similarly, when shopping for souvenirs, look for local handcrafted products to bring home, and definitely do not buy any animal products. Ivory, coral, turtle shell - buying items like these can contribute to poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and ecosystem degradation. Avoid the trinkets found in large tourists shops, as these are often not even made in the country you are visiting! Instead, focus on buying from local women's groups, this helps again to support the local economy and usually assists womens and childrens rights and education. Buy souvenirs you can feel good about!
Back at home
This one can either be the simplest or most difficult behavioural change. You’ve just arrived back from your vacation, hopefully feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and having gained some knowledge on the local cultures and environment. If you have managed to make some sustainable choices while away on your travels (way to go!), consider implementing these into your daily lives at home. Perhaps more importantly, make sure you share your experience with friends and family. Share your adventure. Tell them how you witnessed new and rich ecosystems full of life that is worth protecting. Educating the people in your life, and continuing to educate yourself is how we can all work towards understanding, and adopting more sustainable lifestyles.
Now that you’ve discovered new ways for you to become a more responsible tourist, it’s time to show off what you have learned! We want to see some of the ways that you are adopting sustainable behaviours! Use the hashtag #lowimpacttravel on your facebook, or instagram, to show us some of the choices you have made to become a more sustainable tourist, the more creative the better! By showing off some of your responsible tourist behaviour, we will try to share your posts on our facebook or instagram - you can become a leader in sustainable tourism!
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