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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Green Travel: Responsible Tourism

by Susan Melgren, Web Editor

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Although we all need to get away, our travel can negatively affect the environment of the place we visit. However, by taking a few small steps, we can help protect our vacation spot’s environment and keep it clean for those who come after us. 

On your next vacation – whether local, national or international – keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re being a responsible tourist. By following them, you can adhere to the old mantra of “take only a photograph, and leave nothing but a footprint” – but not a carbon footprint! 

• Bring a reusable water bottle: Every year millions of plastic water bottles end up in a landfill. Unfortunately, plastic water bottles are popular with tourists. On vacation access to water isn’t as easy as going to the kitchen and grabbing a glass, so many tourists fall prey to the water bottle trap – buying them in packs, rarely reusing them and then dumping them in the trash when done. Fixing this is simple: bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it up multiple times. If you’re visiting a place where the drinking water isn’t safe, it’s even easier to give in to water bottles. Other options, however, such as water purification tablets, will allow you access to water without the pesky plastic bottles.

• Buy local: If you’re looking for a snack or making yourself dinner away from home, try to buy from a farmer’s market. Buy souvenirs from local sources as well, but watch out for items made from endangered plants and animals. Not only will you be supporting the local economy, but you’ll be minimizing your carbon footprint by buying products that weren’t flown in from overseas.

• Hike friendly: Always stay on the marked path. Wandering off the trail can hurt the vegetation and disturb animals. Keep track of your trash and take it out with you – and if you see trash from other hikers, pick it up!


Save plastic water bottles from a landfill by bringing your own reusable water bottle when you travel. Photo coutesy Kaeru.

• Don’t buy new guide books: Instead of getting a new one for every trip, borrow from a friend or – better yet – the library. That’s what it’s there for after all, and you might be surprised how many guide books your local library has.

• Bring your own toiletries: Instead of using the miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner that hotels provide, pick up a set of empty travel-size bottles and fill them with products you already have. By reusing the bottles, you’re saving them from a landfill, and wouldn’t you rather use your own products anyway?

• Ditch the car: Walk, rent bicycles or use public transportation. If you need to use a car, consider renting a hybrid or a smaller car that gets better gas mileage than your own.

• Travel with an eco-friendly tour guide: For a list of these, check out Independent Traveler’s guide.

• Take a volunteer vacation: Give back to the place you’re going.