Sustainability is more than just eco-tourism. Gain a new perspective on the world through thoughtful impacts. Thinking about the cultural, environmental and economic impacts of your travel choices will enhance your own experience and help to ensure that our world can be enjoyed by future generations.
Tourism can have a massive impact on how a culture adapts and changes over time. Over tourism can often be detrimental to cultures when a significant increase in visitors results in creation of amenities and facilities that aren’t a normal part of the environment, such as parks, golf courses and chain restaurants. Social media has multiplied this effect through surfacing locations in the world and creating buzz around the latest and greatest place to visit. Locals become uprooted, traffic increases, and the local culture shifts to accommodate visitors.
While this can be a significant problem, you can make decisions in how you travel to help offset these effects. Traveling to off-the-beaten path locations that are not overrun by tourism is one way. Visiting popular destinations during a low season or shoulder season is another way to lessen your impact. When in destination, take walking tours with local guides to experience culture through the eyes of its residents and gain perspective on local traditions. Avoid tourist traps bundled with cheap tickets, and focus instead on authentic experiences with locals that can share their knowledge and perspectives on the world. It’s essential to preserve local culture and communities as much as possible while traveling, which will enrich your experience as well.
Visiting a place and leaving it in better condition than you arrived – great idea, right? This concept is not as easy as it sounds. Humans have impact on the spaces around them as soon as they step foot. Choosing destinations and travel providers that focus on preserving natural resources and actively driving conversation efforts is a really important decision factor when determining the footprint of your travels. Everything from how environments are protected from human touch, to maintaining clean water sources and the treatment of animals can all inform how a travel provider can improve their environmental impact.
Beyond just choosing sustainable travel providers, you can also minimize your environmental impact in several ways. Ensuring you dispose of waste properly and using reusable water bottles will minimize waste and the likelihood of trash contaminants in the environments. While staying at hotels, consider not asking for fresh towels every day to help save on water usage. Finally, choosing restaurants that serve local produce helps reduce carbon emissions produced by transportation of goods. These small changes in habits while traveling will have a positive impact and will empower you to make more sustainable changes!
When making a decision on where to travel, consider keeping in mind where your money is being spent. Visiting communities and markets and purchasing locally made goods will put money back into the economy where you are visiting, and are typically better for the environment because local, natural resources are used to produce art and handicrafts. Rather than purchasing mass-produced key chains and magnets, consider how your spend can not only help the environment but also help locals who make their income from tourism.
One example of this we love is Madilika Beads in South Africa. With initial funding and support from &BEYOND’s social development partner, Africa Foundation, crafters create handcrafted beads from wine and beer bottles donated from local lodges. The sales of jewelry made from Madilika Beads have financed the expansion of electricity in the community and provides for their children’s education needs.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
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