TIPS ON SUSTAINABLE TOURISM FOR YOUR TRIP
As travellers we all want to preserve the environments we travel through. Simply consider our top 10 tips on sustainable travel and see how you can help preserve our beautiful planet for generations of future travellers. Together we will make a difference.
Traveling green doesn’t mean you have to sleep in a tent, volunteer to save the sea turtles, and forgo all indulgences. Nor do you have to shell out big bucks for an eco-luxury hotel with organic cotton sheets. No matter what kind of trip you’re going on, there are plenty of affordable ways to reduce your environmental impact—and most of them will even enhance your travel experience.
Enviroment, leave only footprints, reduce your footprint
Don’t leave any waste in natural areas ( national parks ), even seemingly harmless items like fruit cores or peelings, as it could harm the local ecosystem. Protect nature. Help us to look after the landscape and wildlife by not littering. Never touch or harass wildlife. Always follow designated trails. Support conservation by paying entrance fees to parks and protected sites or making a donation. Try to pick up at least one piece of litter every day – it might not be yours – but it’s not nature’s either… plus it’s good for your karma! Smokers: please discard off your butts carefully.
Never purchase crafts, clothing, furniture, or other products that are derived from protected or endangered wildlife or plant species ( hardwoods! ). In many countries it is illegal to bring these goods back home.
Do not feed wild animals in National Parks or natural areas ( for example monkeys and iguanas in Manuel Antonio or Coatimundis around the Arenal Lake ). Leave things as they are. Do not take any rocks, shells, corals, plants or animals ( reptiles, birds ) out of any area of Costa Rica, specially from protected areas. Upon arrival, participate in low-carbon activities such as trekking, mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking, rafting, caving, snorkeling, zip lining ( canopy ), swimming, concerts, theatre and language and cooking courses, to help reduce your carbon footprint.
Become an energy saver!
Reduce energy by switching off lights when you leave the room, turning down the air conditioners that are not needed, closing doors and windows and avoid leaving appliances on standby. Opt out of daily washing of sheets and towels. Not washing towels may save the hotel money, but it will also save water and electricity, plus cut down on use of environmentally damaging detergent. Thankfully, many hotels now give you the option of reusing your towels and sheets during your stay, rather than having them washed every day.
Be water wise
Turn off the tap. Save water. It may feel delicious, but don’t let the shower run for half an hour. The world is facing serious water shortage so you can help by turning off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving, sharing dishwater with others and taking shorter showers. Get a bit grungy. If you’re in unspoiled natural environments you don’t need to wash your hair or shave every day. The detergents you use can be very harmful and it’s a waste of precious water.
Reduce, reuse and then recycle
Try to avoid overly packaged goods and say no to that extra carrier bag. You can also support us in our efforts to recycle – put clean, squashed aluminium cans, glass, paper and card in the correct bin. Ask the hotel if it’s unclear where you can dispose of recyclables. Recycle your waste. Reduce fast-food waste whenever possible, as it creates an enormous amount of waste. Make use of recycling facilities and dispose of trash responsibly, even if locals do differently – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t set a good example.
Pack your batteries. Take your batteries home; don’t put them in the trash in developing countries. When batteries corrode, they leach toxic materials into the ground, contaminating groundwater often used for drinking and recreation. ( We have no batteries recycling facilities in Costa Rica yet )
Keep the air clean
Give the car a rest. Leave the car behind, if only for a day. Walk, cycle or use public transport to get around. Your hotel will be happy to provide you with advice. Try share transport where you can, take the bus, train, walk or bike. You’ll see a lot more and it’s cheaper!
Buying local is one of the key principles of eco-friendly living and never is this more applicable than on your travels. Plus, if you spend the time searching for local alternatives you’re likely to get a much better grasp of the local customs and culture.
Thank suppliers for their green measures, or don’t be afraid to ask why they don’t have a green programme. As a paying customer you can make a huge impact on companies’ policies.
Pay a fair price. While there’s nothing wrong with bargaining—it’s part of many cultures—avoid overly aggressive haggling for souvenirs. ( bargaining is not a tradition in Costa Rica ) Have some respect for the seller: pay a fair price. You probably earn at least 10 times as much as the merchant. Why shouldn’t he or she earn a little profit? Don’t short-change on tips for services.
Lend your support, give wisely
The trick to supporting sustainable tourism is to buy local and support locally run businesses wherever possible. Spending the majority of your travel budget locally is by far the best way to help your tourist dollars reach those who need it most, but if you feel inspired to donate on a larger scale, why not ask your tour guides how best to make donations of money or supplies to schools and villages that you visit on tour.
Never give gifts to children or beggars. It encourages truancy and begging. Rather, find out what’s really needed in a community ( from schoolbooks to balloons ), and give to local programs like schools ( ask your concierge or tour operator for school names ). Giving to local charities that can help a large number of people is the best idea of all. It may sound cruel not to give directly, but if you don’t give kids money, they may stay in school rather than choosing a life of begging.
Eat and drink local
You’ve heard the hype about local food. But it’s more than a trendy phrase being thrown around at hip new restaurants. It’s an approach that not only reduces pollution and carbon emissions ( from transporting food long distances ), but supports local economies as well. It can also mean the difference between having an authentic travel experience and feeling like an ignorant tourist.
Culinary-minded travel doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot on food. For affordable access to local delicacies, visit farmer’s markets—or even better, go directly to the farms or places where food is made.
Similarly, eating from street stalls or at smaller, locally-owned restaurants will not only grant your taste buds a gastronomical education, but you’ll be directly funding local businesses – much better than eating at an upmarket foreign-run hotel or heading for take-out at McDonalds.
Turn off your smartphone
The more you use personal devices, the more you’ll have to charge them, and the more you’ll have to worry about losing them. Asking a local for directions or dinner recommendations will be more stimulating than staring at some app on your phone. And playing cards with your fellow travelers will make for better memories than playing online word games with your friends back at home.
There are some worthwhile travel apps you may benefit from downloading before your trip, but keep your screen time to a minimum. Simply turning off your phone is the surest way to avoid wasting battery power and missing out on the real action.
Share resources avoid useless paper rubbish
Any traveler who’s returned home with a backpack full of used bus tickets, information booklets and mystery-location maps will testify to the growing pile of rubbish that long-term travelers seem to accumulate. Cut down on the waste by carrying a notebook to jot down information instead of picking up leaflets or tour brochures.
Reuse bags, toiletry bottles and eating utensils wherever possible and recycle your own cast-offs by donating old clothing, sleeping bag or shoes to your guesthouse or a local shelter. If you have good quality, but damaged items that you don’t need anymore considering donating them to local traders – a tailor, for example, could fix up broken shoes or clothing and sell them on. Just be careful to assure them that they’re doing you a favor by taking them off your hands! Don’t forget what you’ve left behind.
Become an animal lover
Responsible travel is not just about cutting down on waste and treading lightly – spare a thought for the world’s wildlife too. Animal cruelty and exploitation, destruction of wildlife, as well as illegal poaching and killing of endangered animals, are sadly all very real issues happening in tourism hotspots all over the world.
If you are planning to visit local animal sanctuaries or zoos or partake in animal riding ( horse back ), do your research and don’t believe everything you are told – sometimes even the organizations that appear to treat their animals humanely, act very differently behind closed doors. If in doubt, avoid any activity that is unnatural for the animal and choose instead to support tours that visit animals undisturbed in their natural habitats – whale or dolphin watching or non-intrusive walking safaris for example.
Be wary of purchasing illegal souvenirs that contain endangered animal or plant products – often these elements are used in handcrafted souvenirs without the buyer’s knowledge.
Water drinking without littering!
Bottled water, that is. Reduce water bottle usage when you can. Buying bottles is wasteful. You wouldn’t leave your bottles on your best friend’s lawn after a barbecue, why would you leave them at the base of a National Park or World Heritage site?
Invest in a refillable collapsible water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles daily. A good filter system or purification tablets not only reduces the amount of plastic waste but will save on the cost of expensive mineral water too – a worthwhile investment for long-term travelers
Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy / behavior / have an open mind
Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, homes or private land.
Leave home without your preconceptions. Learn how to listen to people. The world is so globalized now that we are your community as well.
Ask locals for permission before you photograph them. Remember you are a goodwill ambassador for your country.