Green Travel Made Easy - Page 2
|Keeping shark off your dinner plate is just one small way to lessen your footprint when traveling. (Photodisc)|
6. Act like a local.
Wondering why your Chinese hosts gave you the evil eye when you left your chopsticks sticking out of your rice? (In countries like China and Japan, this is the traditional way to offer rice to the deceased during a funeral ceremony.) To avoid embarrassing moments—and disparaging looks—learn local customs and mores, practice a few words of the language, and respect local traditional dress. Traveling is a cultural exchange: By acting respectfully, you tend to have more opportunities to interact with locals, and you give them a snapshot of your culture, too.
7. Skip the cheap shampoo.
The actions that are simplest add up the most, like not using air conditioning when it's unnecessary or cutting down your shower times in areas where there's no renewable energy. Forego disposable wooden chopsticks in favor of washable plastic or metal utensils, or even bring your own.
"People should carry their own toiletries that are cruelty free and biodegradable so when they are going to some of these wild places, their shampoos and conditioners are not polluting the environments they are visiting," says eco-lodge designer Mehta.
Even the simple acts of minimizing the disposable items you bring, filling up a reusable water bottle (where water is safe to drink), or picking up a piece of trash can set a positive but unobtrusive example for locals and other travelers.
8. Think outside the tip jar.
Enough travelers have been touched by their journeys that many hotels, lodges, and tour operators have foundations or local projects through which visitors can donate. But be sure to direct those good intentions wisely.
"Don't give to an individual without knowing truly what you're doing and where the money's going," says Ezaki, of the International Ecotourism Society. "You could be perpetuating a negative cycle."
Instead, ask your tour provider or hotel if there is anything you can bring, such as school supplies, or ask where you could direct a donation so that it is used to help people establish a sustainable community rather than accustom them to handouts. Alternatively, contact an organization or NGO that works independently in the area and support their projects.
If you're buying travel insurance, the footprints initiative at WorldNomads allows travelers to tack on small donations to their travel insurance purchase.
9. Criticize and applaud.
Businesses care what customers think, so travelers' feedback can make an impact. "If projects and organizations aren't held to authenticity, we're in trouble," says Rob Holmes, founder of the Green Living Project, which documents sustainable-travel projects. It could be as simple as an email expressing kudos for a job well done or a comment card encouraging the company to take further steps toward environmental stewardship.
10. Spread the word.
For travelers who have been touched by a trip or lodge stay, there is no better way to encourage eco-friendly travel than by spreading the word through grass roots. Post a review on a travel website, add captions to your photos on Facebook, or share inspiring stories at your next dinner party. Your enthusiasm has a ripple effect. As The Nature Conservancy's Sanjayan notes, "You want travelers to be aware of the opportunity they have to make a positive impact."
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