We are aware of our carbon footprints; stores are practicing more greentailing. We know about climate change and carbon offsetting.  We do more recycling, upcycling, and freecycling. All of these are elements of sustainability. There may be hundreds of buzzwords, but all you really need to know about sustainability is this: everything we need for survival and wellbeing ultimately comes from the environment. When we act to ensure that the earth can continue to give us – and future generations – what we need, then we are acting in a sustainable way.

Sustainability does not mean giving up the products or activities we enjoy. It may mean, however, that we change how we do so. Traveling, for instance, can be unfriendly to the environment, or it can actually benefit and sustain it. How can you travel in a way that is eco-conscious – and still fun?

  • Choose a sustainable destination. These are locales that have found a good balance between economic and environmental needs. While welcoming visitors, they do not discard their responsibility to the environment. Luckily, you have a growing list from which to choose. Brazil, Dubai, Belize, Canada, Kenya, and other destinations are changing how we travel.
  • Choose sustainable accommodations. Look for those who actually back up their claims of being eco-friendly. Do they recycle? Do they use sustainable products and building materials? What have they done to reduce waste and pollution? Do they participate in environmental initiatives? In Costa Rica, for instance, many hotels and resorts participate in reforestation.
  • Take nothing but pictures (when appropriate) and memories. Don’t snag a souvenir from nature. Those materials are part of the ecosystem. Instead, opt for ecofriendly, local arts and crafts. You’ll support local artisans, and leave nature where it should be. Likewise, don’t bug the animals! They don’t want to be petted, pushed, prodded, or frightened.
  • Tread lightly. When possible, walk, hike, kayak, or swim instead of relying on fossil fuel-using vehicles. This will also help you see more of the scenery and experience the culture up close!
  • Find fun close to home. Traveling far and wide is exhilarating. But also consider staying closer to home in your travels. Every locale has something unique and interesting to enjoy, whether it is nature, museums, restaurants, or cultural/historical landmarks. Be a tourist in your own backyard. This is ideal for the budget-traveler, as well as the world traveler who has a free weekend.

You can find ecotourism agencies, and you can, with some research, plan your own earth-friendly trips. The most prized vacation destinations, from Alaska’s rugged mountains to Ecuador’s bio-diverse forests, are in danger. While we do not have to forgo visiting many of these amazing sites, we do have to preserve them for their primary residents (people, plants, and animals!) and for future generations.

Enid Glasgow