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.
In contrast, the sustainability movement has spawned government and social initiatives in efforts to reduce the effects of pollution. Sustainability advocates have picked up some 10 million pieces of trash from coastlines and have donated over $100 million to environmental protection programs.
You can be a part of the sustainability movement, too. There are great ways to prioritize the environment on your vacation. With these ideas, you’re not just going to have fun—you’ll feel good about your trip at the same time.
Take an eco-tour
Ecotourism is about giving back to your destination’s ecosystem. It’s about choosing activities that benefit the environment, being proactive and being culturally sensitive.
Ecotourism in New Zealand is a huge part of the country’s efforts to support its national parks, forests, and reserves, which make up 20% of the land. In the 13 national parks, the Department of Conservation administers and maintains a number of activities for the express purpose of sustaining the environment and culture. Attend a Maori cultural performance in the Geothermal Region and eat a feast cooked underground in an earthen oven. Or, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tongariro National Park.
Take a walking tour
Normally, when we tour a city we motor around from site to site. Walking tours give you the opportunity to slow down, indulge yourself in the sites, and reduce your carbon footprint. The top cities for a walking tour include Venice, Copenhagen, Seattle, Paris, and Florence.
In Italy, Venice is primarily vehicle-free, and there are free guided walking tours to show you the fantastic sites. Here in America, Seattle has taken steps to prioritize pedestrian traffic and offers free tours as well. In Denmark, Copenhagen turned the Stroget shopping district into a car-free zone in the 60s. Stroget is the longest pedestrian thoroughfare in Europe.
Try WWOOFing it
WWOOF is eco-tourism on steroids. It stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Basically, with WWOOF you pay the cost of travel to one of the many host farms all over the world. Then, they provide food and accommodations as you dig deep into local organic farming, learning about the process and the people. Yes, you’ll be working on the farm. But you’ll rediscover the value of simple things, and you’ll get to know the locale in a more personal, richer way than you ever would by merely touring the sites. WWOOF opportunities can extend from three days up to six months.
Take a bike tour
The cross-country bike tour is an experience you will never forget. You’ll need a dependable bike, preferably a touring bike that can handle all sorts of terrain. You’ll leave no carbon footprint whatsoever. Along the way, you’ll explore the land through a unique lens. Rough it, or sign on with a professional tour organization such as America by Bicycle, or Trek Travel. These guided tours include a variety of perks, including luggage-carrying service, meals, lodging, mechanical support, and the chance to meet other travelers.
Go horseback riding
This is a great way to get back to the basics. For thousands of years, humankind got around on horses. Pretty much anywhere in America you can find opportunities for guided rides through the countryside. And, many trail horses are retired workhorses. These magnificent animals are better off on the trail than somewhere else. Trail rides and stables put them to the use they deserve. Go here to search for horseback riding sites near you.