The holidays are over, you’re stressed out and the winter blues have set in. It’s time to get away. As you start to plan your vacation, do you consider how much good your trip could do for others? Some of the world’s most breathtaking destinations are now being managed sustainably, which means that in addition to benefiting your own mental health, your next trip could also benefit the environment and local communities. Here are 10 reasons to travel sustainably:
1. Make a Difference
One of the world’s largest industries, tourism employs more than 235 million people and generates 9.2 percent of the global GDP. The choices made by travelers like you can enormously impact community-run businesses, local cultures and biodiversity. Your decisions will have consequences, for better or worse, so why not choose better
2. Conserve Natural Environments
When you follow designated trails, respect local rules about interacting with nature and pay entrance fees to parks and protected sites, you help conserve the beautiful environments that you’ve traveled all that way to visit.
3. Protect Wildlife
By participating in bird-watching expeditions and forest hikes, you send the message that those species and their habitats are worth protecting. On the flip side, refrain from buying clothing or other products derived from protected or endangered wildlife since those purchases encourage the continuation of harmful practices.
4. Reduce Consumption & Waste
Sustainable tourism companies—including those businesses that have earned the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark—are smart about managing their waste and reducing their consumption of resources such as water and energy. By choosing sustainable hotels and tour operators, you voice your support for responsible business.
5. Support Local Economies
Choosing a sustainable tourism business keeps money in the community — these companies rely on local suppliers for goods and services, hire staff from neighboring towns and support community conservation, development and education efforts.
6. We’re In This Together
People who operate sustainable businesses understand that well-trained, justly compensated staff members are loyal to their employer and often help improve a company’s efficiency. Well-treated employees also provide excellent service, which is a key component of a great travel experience.
7. Preserve the Past
Your visits to historic and cultural sites help maintain these local treasures by giving the local community a reason—and the means—to protect them. Plus, learning about the traditions and cultures of others is a great way to discover new things about yourself.
8. Get the Inside Scoop
Who knows more about a place than the locals? Whether it’s through home stays, tips on the most scenic hikes and best regional dishes, or insights into cultural traditions, interacting with locals will only enhance your vacation experience.
9. Reduce Climate Change
Traveling by car, plane or train produces greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to climate change. But by choosing sustainable travel providers, you are supporting businesses that make an ongoing effort to mitigate these impacts. And if you also purchase carbon offsets, you’re really thinking ahead to a greener tomorrow.
10. Look to the Future
So you’re on your trip and you’re having a great time. Don’t you want the option of returning to that destination in the future? By supporting sustainable tourism businesses, you help ensure the long-term conservation of some of the world’s most spectacular places.
Here are some practical tips for planning your next sustainable vacation. Go to www.SustainableTrip.org to locate responsible tourism businesses, and visit the nonprofit Local Travel Movement to share your stories about past trips.