Oliver Lynch

Oliver Lynch

Content writer, language nerd and aspiring screenwriter. Usually found wandering old European towns or trying to snowboard.

Eco Tourism: How To Travel AND Save The World

Take only memories, leave only footprints.

Oh and obviously take lots of photos.

Travel is a massive global industry, as the world has become more accessible so more people can experience the joys of other cultures.

But the downside to this is the inevitable ‘spoiling’ of once beautiful hot spots. Whether by construction of massive tourist complexes, increased traffic, inefficient waste management – or by more ambient by-products such as light or sound pollution.

But charity begins at home and YOU can make the difference.

Ditch The Bottled Water

Wait. What?

The number one way to get the runs when travelling – drinking the local water – and you’re telling us to ditch the bottles?

Well. Actually, plastic waste is a massive problem globally with around 300 million tons produced annually. Only 10% of that gets recycled.

The best way to ditch the water bottles is get a portable water purification system. These come in many shapes and sizes and prices.

The Steripen ULTRA is one of the most popular and effective. Using UV it blasts any waterborne nasties and makes tap water drinkable in moments. There is also the more compact Steripen Classic which is cheaper but still effective.

Alternatively, the Drinksafe Travel Tap is a more straightforward bottle with filter option. The downside is it’s a bit bulky but as it’s a bottle you won’t need to carry any other extra filter items or additional bottles.

If you prefer to take water purification tablets these are also very effective and less bulky. OASIS water purification tablets are cheap and effective. You’ll still need a reusable bottle though.

Whatever you do, try your best to keep your plastic usage to a minimum.

Lets try and avoid this… / photo credit Efes

Tap Water Is Often Fine

Now, this isn’t always true and it pays to research the area you’re heading to. But often, the water is perfectly palatable. Especially in larger cities.

Asian cities often have perfectly safe water. Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong and even Mumbai are all fine to drink straight from the tap.

Pretty much all of Europe is fine as is North America and Australia – however take precautions in Central and South America and Africa.

A cursory search online ‘is it safe to drink the water in…’ will clear up any issues.

See also our article about drinking tap water across the world


Eco Hotels

Responsible and green tourism is becoming more of ‘a thing’. Eco hotels are establishments which have been created with the local environment in mind and with the minimum of disruption to the surroundings.

This can be using local materials for the structure, generating energy using renewables such as solar or wind, recycling as much as possible and using eco friendly cleaning products.

In a big city you’re sure to pay a premium, but in natural surroundings there will likely be more options for eco lodges and eco hotels.

Have a look at this article about Eco Lodges to know more.

Serene and green? / photo credit MarkusSpiske

Respect The Wildlife

One of the more disturbing things about the growth in travel is the reports of people who do increasingly reckless and stupid things involving wildlife.

For example the tourists who dragged a dolphin out of the water to take selfies in Argentina.

Or the woman who killed a swan, also for a selfie.

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg, but it goes without saying. Let the wildlife be! Take photos of them in situ, not pulled up on a beach surrounded by tourists.


Respect The Environment

Temples, monuments, rock formations, even ancient cities are all being worn down by the masses of visitors and often the silly actions of a few.

Places like The Great Wall of China or The Colosseum in Rome have been damaged by people carving their names in the ancient stone, or taking chunks home as souvenirs.

Avoid climbing where you shouldn’t, don’t leave any marks that won’t come off in the rain and don’t remove anything from the site. This goes for coral reefs and forests as much as ancient temples.

Anyway, what are you actually going to do with that piece of rock from Angkor Wat?

Machu Picchu – a rare quiet moment / photo credit: LoggaWiggler

Respect The Locals

Another simple faux pas committed by many a traveller, although sometimes innocently.

Simple things like, if you’re taking a photo of someone it doesn’t harm to ask. A simple gesture, the universal sign of the thumbs up and gesture with your camera. If they say no, ask someone else.

If visiting temples remember to remove your shoes and cover up. This counts for men as well as women.

If you’re in a party hot spot, remember that people do live there. Pissing in the street, vomiting in doorways, being boisterous or aggressive – all sure fire ways to annoy anyone who actually lives there.

Simply stop and think, if someone did this in my hometown how would I feel?


Take Your Rubbish Home

Heading to the beach? Camping out under the stars? Climbing a mountain?

Remember to take anything that you take with you home (or to the nearest bin). Take a bag for rubbish and account for the space when you pack.

This is probably one of the most obvious pieces of advice but one that is ignored by an alarmingly large portion of the population.

Who wants to turn up in a beautiful spot and see cans of drink, discarded food wrappers and cigarette butts? No one.

There is no excuse.


Bin it… / photo credit AJS63

How Can I Help…?

There are plenty of ways for the conscientious traveller to leave their mark.

You can help nesting turtles in the Caribbean, build a school in Africa or work with numerous conservation entities across the world.

Companies such as VSO International (Voluntary Service Overseas) or Projects Abroad are great places to start.

Other tour companies which have a greater focus on being responsible include Urban Adventures, Responsible Travel and WHL.

However you travel, leave only a positive impression and take only great memories.

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