When you take a vacation, it’s a reprieve from work and everything that stresses you out. But it’s not a break for the Earth. Unfortunately, the tourism industry has the side-effect of stressing our climate.
It’s important for tourists to understand they’re not the only ones traveling, and tourism is a huge source of pollution. In 2005, tourism was responsible for 5 percent of global emissions, 40 percent of which stemmed from air travel, 32 percent from cars, and 21 percent from accommodations.
Thankfully, tourists are becoming more environmentally-conscious. There are movements such as ecotourism. Ecotourism puts a premium on destinations seeking to sustain the environment, and efforts at sustainability in tourism.
Are you going to travel this year? Do you want to decrease your carbon footprint and promote ecotourism? Try greening your trip with the following activities.
1. Mountain Bike Going-to-the-Sun Road
2016 is the centennial birthday of the National Park Service. Our National Parks seek to conserve natural habitats. At Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Road presents a perfect opportunity to celebrate the centennial while taking a green approach. Going-to-the-Sun road spans the width of the park. It includes plenty of places to camp, as well as Lake McDonald Lodge, where you can stay if you’re looking for comfort. For however long you want to bike, there are attractions along the road, and you’ll be conserving fuel. Climate change scientists estimate the glaciers will be gone by 2030. You’ll be doing your part at conservation by biking instead of driving.
2. Stay at a Costa Rican Ecolodge
Costa Rica has tons of national parks and wildlife refuges. While you’re visiting sites that promote conservation, stay at one of the many ecolodges and hotels committed to sustainability. While staying at Nacientes Palmichal Lodge in the Central Valley, learn how to make tortillas, or visit an organic farm and find out how they use biodigestors to create gas for cooking.
3. Go Bird Watching in New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park
New Zealand is full of rare and endangered bird species. At Tongariro National Park, you can watch beautiful species such as the endangered Kiwi, the mischievous Kea, and the singing Tui. Here, you’ll find guided bird-watching tours with naturalists, and sanctuaries dedicated to keeping these beauties alive. Many of the birds are exotic and unique to New Zealand.
4. Geocache Petrified Forest National Park
Geocaching is the combination of hiking, mountaineering, treasure hunting, and GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. The sport was invented by Oregonian Dave Ulmer at the turn of the century. The National Park Service sponsors Geocaching at the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. The activity is free—all you need is a GPS. You’ll learn about major geological resources. You’ll also get to learn about the Historic Route 66 Geocaching Project. Since the Park runs this activity, it’s an eco-friendly form of geocaching.
5. Do Denali Backcountry Yoga
The Denali Backcountry Lodge is located deep in the heart of Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve. This National Park the home of North America’s tallest peak, Mt. Denali, which stands at 20,310 feet. This area is not open to private vehicles. You have to take a bus from the Denali Cabins to get there. One of the activities you can do is yoga. There are morning and afternoon classes in the wilderness. You won’t need to take a car to get to the class, nor will you be able to. And, taking a bus to the back country is like carpooling to the vacation spot.
6. Dive with the East Africa Whale Shark Trust
Kenya is one of the top ecotourism destinations. The East Africa Whale Shark Trust is a scientific organization in Kenya seeking to preserve the population of Whale Sharks, or “papa shillingi”. Each year, they organize snorkeling and diving between February and April. This gives tourists the chance to see the tagging and documentation process, through which the Trust collects data in order to protect the Whale Shark. The diving and snorkeling trips help raise awareness and benefit the organization’s mission. You can also volunteer to help and get a view from the inside.
7. Shop Farmer’s Markets on Hawaii’s Big Island
This is a great way to contribute directly to the sustainability efforts of Hawaii’s local farms. There are a plethora of farmer’s markets dotting the Big Island, where you can buy exotic local produce and eat a plate lunch simmering with teriyaki steak, chicken katsu, rice, and salad. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried papaya fresh from the farm. You can also find artwork and hand-crafted goods you’d expect at the best farmer’s markets.
8. Volunteer in Kerala, India
Kerala is a fabulous Indian state on the tropical coast of Malabar. Lush forests, clean beaches, and attractions such as Rajamala National Park make this “God’s Own Country”, a tourist destination with extremely high recall. A great way to be not just another tourist is by volunteering through the Rainbow VolunTours program. You can help coach sports at the Kerala or Kolkata orphanages, or if you’re more the teaching type, there’s a teaching option, too. Rainbow VolunTours can also take you to Mozambique, where you’ll help with marine conservation efforts.
9. Hike the Fjords
Norway’s Fjords are U-shaped valley waterways that were formed by glaciers millions of years ago. Norway has made sure to maintain strict environmental regulations to protect the purity of these crystalline waterways. Hiking or biking the mountains surrounding the fjords is the most eco-friendly way to support Norway’s admirable sustainability efforts.
10. Ride a Horse through Yellowstone
Talk about a way to connect with the West. Horseback riding Yellowstone is the traditional way to see the back country of America’s first National Park. You won’t hear any motors as you hoof it by Lost Canyon and over Lost Creek to the Old West Dinner Cookout. Horseback riding is a sure-fire way to support sustainability in the area. Just make sure to pack your trash out in your saddle bag.
Featured photo credit: Peter Gronemann/Taman Negara (Malaysian National Park) via flickr.com