Green travel simply means being a responsible, respectful traveler who continually makes sustainable decisions and contributions that enhance the destinations and cultures visited.
Minimizing impact as you travel is essential to green travel and goes hand in hand with the footprint only mentality. Your goal should be to leave your destination looking just as it did, or better.
- Refill. Strive to use refillable everything, disposable nothing. That goes for cameras, toiletry containers and especially water bottles.
- Protect. Make sure the trash you do generate makes it to the garbage can and the products you use are biodegradable.
- Recycle. Efficient waste management systems aren't a reality in many destinations. Recycle, reuse, and repurpose items whenever possible.
Cultivating a habit of appreciation and awareness for your surroundings and your impact is essential for your green traveling journey. It requires seeing the bigger picture and having a direction for the legacy you want to leave behind as one, as a nationality and as a generation. Make sustainable choices when it comes to water and energy use.
- Minimize. Be mindful that water is a very precious, very limited resource in many destinations. Use the minimal amount possible when showering or freshening up.
- Conserve. Leaving your AC on when you're not in the room may make for a cooler reentry, but it also expends unnecessary amounts of energy that are difficult to generate, created by a destructive processes (like diesel generators in the Galapagos) and are costly in more ways than one.
Supporting the local economy is the only way to ensure a destinations continued authenticity and survival. Staying in local hotels, eating in local restaurants, and utilizing local businesses empower the community rather than padding a corporate outsiders pocket book. Getting local is a great way to practice green travel and maximize your own experience at the same time.
- Experiment. You can have a burger and fries at home. Try the local cuisine and expand your palette, it is better for the local economy and it is more sustainable.
- Sleep in. Sleep in a family owned bed and breakfast or a non-franchised hotel that is. The owners and staff are usually eager to please and a wealth of information.
- Insource. As opposed to outsource. The local inhabitants are usually the most knowledgeable and passionate about their homeland, its intricacies, and its way of being.
Blending in, building relationships, and truly experiencing your destination as a participant, rather than a spectator is key for a genuine experience.
A willingness to learn, step outside your comfort zone and not have all the answers is the first step to connecting to and learning from other cultures.
- Communicate. The best way to learn about a people and a culture is to talk to them. Learning some words in the native language breaks the ice and shows eagerness to learn and to listen.
- Blend in. Look like a local, not a tourist. Looking like a 100%, map toting, picture snapping tourist usually creates a barrier against authentic experiences. Leave your camera for the day, respect the local customs, and assimilate to your new environment.
- Be curious. You can't fill a full glass or a full mind so empty any preconceived notions from the get go and be prepared to see different ways of the world that still work. In other words, be open-minded. Life is interestingly different across the globe. Not wrong, just different. Learn about it, respect the differences, and broaden your horizons.
It's always good to leave something behind, a good impression, financial assistance, a day of volunteer work; anything that leaves a positive impact.
- Impress. Realize that you are being watched, categorized and studied. You represent your generation, your population, and all of mankind to a certain extent. Make sure that your attitude and your actions leave a positive impact and serve to enrich relationships between your destination and fellow travelers for many generations to come.
- Donate. It can be money, time or supplies. Anything to better the environment or empower the locals.
Every decision has a consequence for now and for later. Myopic attitudes and actions have no place in a green travel repertoire. Conscious awareness of the continued impact of every decision and each mindset is paramount. It's not about single handedly saving the world. Small choices can make a big difference, so make sustainable ones. It's about doing something today that enables a better tomorrow.