“Going green” in everyday life means recycling bottles and cans, choosing Energy Saver appliances, using mass transit when possible, and planting native landscaping. But if going green means having that lifestyle 365 days a year, what happens when you go on vacation?
That’s where ecotourism comes in. According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” That means minimizing impact on the area, providing direct financial benefits for the local population, and building environmental and cultural awareness and respect. The Society also says ecotourism should raise sensitivity to the local country’s environmental, social, and political climate.
Before You Go
You could go on a local camping trip, but you also might be in the mood for something a little more exotic. Fortunately, the International Ecotourism Society has some destination ideas for the eco-minded tourist.
One of the first things a traveler should think about before embarking on any long trip is identity theft. LifeLock, for example, monitors people’s identities by notifying them of potential threats and verifies change of address forms. If you’re on vacation, something like LifeLock is particularly valuable because it helps cancel and replace the contents of a lost or stolen purse or wallet. To simply relax on an eco-friendly vacation, it is well worth the extra effort for the added peace of mind.
Once your mind is at ease with such protection and your passport, stop-mail, pet-sitting, and other necessities are taken care of, you can focus on your actual trip. If you are off to the United Kingdom, the International Ecotourism Society recommends looking for accommodations that hold the Green Tourism Business Scheme. They are assessed for criteria such as biodiversity and energy efficiency.
For example, Wilderness Scotland has launched a Conservation Contribution Scheme in which every booking will provide up to $15 (£10) to support chosen organizations. Trips start at railway stations, boxed lunches are provided, and tourists are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles (saving about 5,000 water bottles per year).
Or for something more off the beaten path, you could visit Africa and see all the exotic wildlife you typically see only in zoos and television specials. The Banoka Bush Camp in Botswana is 100 percent solar-powered and is raised off the ground so tourists can take in the view. Not only does the Banoka Bush camp have typical amenities such as a bar, lounge and dining area, it has an open campfire area so visitors can talk about the wildlife they have seen, such as lions, elephants, and wild dogs.
National Geographic, not surprisingly, also has lots of ecotourism ideas. One is the Caiman Ecological Refuge in Brazil. This working cattle station with a sustainable approach to ranching has forests, fields, and meandering waterways as well as four eco-lodges. Visitors can canoe on rivers, go horseback riding, and take nature walks to search for a vast array of mammal and bird species, like tapirs and wood ibis.
The ecotourism partnership Greenbox has created an enclave of unspoiled countryside bordering Ireland and Northern Ireland. The once-divided communities have preserved the area’s natural and cultural heritage, and National Geographic notes that visitors can add to the rural economy by biking, hiking, and canoeing while vacationing there.
The eco-minded person doesn’t have to sacrifice sustainable ideals, even on an exotic vacation.