Most people have realized that our ecosystem is at risk of going extinct if we do not change our ways. This may be seen as a hallucination by many while others believe that we are in the middle of an eco-crisis. The fact is, there is a danger of living species becoming extinct if steps are not taken to reduce the risks. While the other sectors of the world are embracing the environmental approach, the travel industry has also joined the movement and are now engaging in what we call ethical tourism. This is why the advice of most travel guides are for people to continue to travel but to do so without harming our planet.
The ethical tourism concept is gaining traction all over the world and it is something that should be embraced. It has also incorporated ethical ways of interacting with customs, languages, people, and the ecosystem itself. It could be described as sustainable travel, and its role is not just to preserve the environment. It works tirelessly to ensure that the welfare of the local people and host communities are also considered and improved.
If you are interested in volunteering and helping in the environmental and conservation sector, you can check out a list of opportunities here. Many of these NGOs also have a contributing factor to their local communities.
Essentials of Ethical Tourism
If you wish to embrace ethical tourism, it is important to open your hearts to the following tips:
You cannot achieve anything in the bid to preserve the planet if you do not understand how your activities can pose danger to the environment. Now, you must understand that 5% of the entire greenhouse emissions in the world are due to tourism. So, in the bid to help reduce this, you must try and do what you can, even if it seems small. With this, pack lightly! You will help the plane increase its efficiency if you will be flying. Carry clothes that could be hand washed, sun-dried, and reused easily. This will reduce the quantity you will need. Do not buy travel sized items with their over-packaging. Refill your reusable containers. Give away anything extra you may have but do not need to other travelers or to the local communities.
Contributing your quota also involves the means you travel with. If you have 3 transportation options like flying, driving, or taking a bus/train, the best would be to take the bus/train. With this, you will save on large amounts of emissions that the first two would have caused. If flying becomes imperative, go for the efficient plane. Choose larger airplanes or ones with fewer takeoffs and landings. It’s also better to book your tickets electronically as it reduces paper waste.
Do not rent a car when you get to your destination. The local public transportation will be sufficient. Try to use buses and trains as much as possible and taxis only when you need to. And don’t forget that biking, walking, and trekking are always the best options. Travel like a local.
Lodging and Accommodation
When you are traveling (especially if you are volunteering or traveling on the off-beaten track), most times there are options to stay in the local villages. By staying with a homestay/local family, you are supporting the community financially and respecting the environment, as they tend to use less power. If you want to opt out of the homestay option, there are many eco-friendly hotels and hostels scattered around. You should go for lodging with green certifications and those that belong to the green industry associations. Go for the eco-lodges in the Central American jungles and African savannas. You will enjoy great services and there will be enough leisure so you won’t need as much power. They are highly conservative in what they offer and usually hire locals.
Click here to check out Varsana Eco-Village, an example of an NGO that focuses their efforts on sustaining an eco-village.
Live like a local
You will be a friend of the ecosystem if you get involved more in the local culture of the community. Watch their band play live music and eat their local food. Buy artwork from the market, especially those made with natural and renewable items, use travel guides from the locality and make friends among them. Above all, learn their lifestyle and support their community development initiatives. When you are exploring around, make sure you don’t pick anything including flowers and rocks. View the wild animals only, and don’t try to touch them.
In order to reduce your waste, you have to try and save energy. You can start by spending less time in the shower to save more water and turning off the tap while brushing. It is also recommended for men to join the beard gang and grow their beards, to avoid daily long shaves that consume energy. Towels should be reused, all lights must be turned off when not in use or when you are leaving, and avoid turning on the TV as much as possible. Ensure that your room is not cleaned every day, use a water bottle that is BPA-free, and send back all used brochures. Try to understand the local recycling options, and engage in their customs.
Traveling As an Eco-Tourist in America
It is easy for you to embark on a travel in America that supports ethical tourism. You can start this by getting a hybrid car for all your road trips. With this, the impact of the trip on the environment will be reduced. If you wish to achieve cheap eco-friendly travel in the US, you can also embark on volunteering activities. When you volunteer for certain NGOs, you may get free lodging or tent space. You can check out some volunteering options here. Many hotels in the US, plus attractions and tours are becoming more eco-friendly and slowly supporting ethical tourism. Some of their actions include water conservation, renewable energy use, recycling and eco-friendly waste disposal.
Ethical Touristic Routes in Europe
There are many ethical touristic routes across Europe. If you are sincere about playing a role in preserving the ecosystem while traveling, consider these journeys (either by bicycle or car). The following routes cover up to 35 European nations and connect regional and national parks. The routes also cover the UNESCO designated heritage sites and many biosphere reserves. Through them, you will discover the best places in the continent and learn a lot about European culture. Consider renting a hybrid if you are doing this trip by car.
The Mediterranean route
Here, you will enjoy terrains of different types, with caves, beaches, creeks, marine coasts, blue waters, and marketplaces. You will also encounter a lot of traditional festivals on the streets, with lively and warm people. This route covers 10 countries, including Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece.
The Atlantic Route
This covers the typical evenings in European villages, replicating the Irish, Scottish, English, and Welsh cultures. You will find dramatic landscapes and feel cozy among the fishing villages. If you love seafood, you will be delighted. It goes through Portugal, Spain, France, United Kingdom, and Ireland.
The Nordic Route
This covers those countries where huge castles, museums, churches and large cathedrals shed light on early signs of civilizations. Visitors will crisscross the champagne and Beaujolais road in France, get into the Netherlands’ Windmills, and move into Finland and Norway. It covers 13 countries, and they are France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and Poland.
The Occidental Route
This is the fourth recommended route, and it introduces you to those countries where people embrace their history and never let it go. Here, the cultural and natural heritage sites are still revered and laid bare. Fast changing landscapes along with artistic talents in painting, writing, music, and folklore can be explored. This route takes you through 14 countries, and they are France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
The Central Route
This is the route that goes through the northern great plains. This route is covered with vast forests and takes you to the mountain ranges in Czech, where the villagers love to share beautiful folktales and folklore. It covers eight countries including France, Luxembourg, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia.
For more information regarding these routes, please click here.
Ethical Tourism Experiences in Europe
Apart from the latter organized routes, there are many other destinations in Europe where you can enjoy amazing ethical tourism experiences. In every country, you will have something that satisfies your love for nature. This includes dramatic mountains, breathtaking experiences, and heart-wrenching beauty scattered in nature, hiking, and sports. Below is a list of some of the most popular experiences:
Hiking the Trails of Andorra
The principality of Andorra is a small country with a very mighty mountain filled with activities such as; hiking and skiing. It is time for you to leave the stretched French and Spanish slopes and come to Andorra for a fresh experience. The valley trails, the mapped ethical touristic routes, the nature reserves, and many other activities will give you an amazing eco-friendly holiday.
Caves of Pellumbas in Albania
This country is actually one of the most ethically touristic countries in the continent. Albania develops and manages many initiatives aimed at sustaining ethical tourism. One of them is the Caves of Pellumbas, which is among the most valued archaeological sites in the country.
Whitewater Rafting in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Tourism in this country before the civil war was great. They are now slowly growing into a nation that respects sustainability. Presently, there are many significant rivers that pass through the country, and they present the perfect opportunity for whitewater rafting. This has become the country’s main tourism activity. You will be tempted to jump into the rivers!
Scotland’s Western Islands
This is for those who want to travel to one of the farthest places on earth to enjoy the nature and understand the mindset behind green travel. The western islands present this so well. The landscapes are not only captivating, they are dramatic. Renewable energies are widely used and you will truly experience a remote vacation.
Cycling in Norway inspires people. It is dramatic and also breathtaking. The landscapes are great and vast, the open wilderness can make you shout, and the rugged fjords are here for your delight. The pristine water bodies and the snow-capped mountains are views you won’t want to miss.
More options: The Samaria Gorge in Greece, the Slopes in the Alps, and the Calm Beauty of Finland’s Lapland are also available for you to explore.
If you are interested in ethical tourism in Europe, the destinations mentioned above will be your best bet. Becoming an ethical traveler can take practice but with your contribution, you can help change the course of tourism and its effect on our planet.
Written by Eva Henderson: writer, traveler, and just a cheerful girl. She adores active rest, especially cycling. If you want to learn more about her, feel free to visit Eva’s Facebook, Twitter and her personal website at vuelta.club.