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Sustainable Tourism (and how to travel while respecting the environment)

Being a tourist doesn’t necessarily need to be a synonym for being a careless, selfish douche bag. You CAN be a responsible traveler. You CAN help the environment. You CAN help the local economy (without your money ending up in the wrong hands). You CAN be a great person while being a tourist. But before I give you any ideas for what you can do to help the planet, here’s a brief summary of what’s going on that needs to be changed.

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It’s no secret that our planet is in danger. It hardly ever snows in certain parts of Norway anymore, we had 18 degrees and sunshine in Paris in March, and still a lot of people claim that global warming does not exist – while lighting their cigarette and driving their diesel fueled car on the way to the airport to take the fifth flight that week. We breathe in the dirty air, and we daydream about weekend-getaways to nice little cabins in the woods or cozy mountain lodges somewhere far away, somewhere where the air is fresh and the grass is green. Maybe even a picnic in the park. No, not the city park close to home. That one’s too dirty, too close to the noisy traffic and there’s trash everywhere. No, we don’t wanna go there. We wanna go somewhere remote, somewhere where we can be one with nature.

It’s no secret that rain forests are being destroyed. Partly because of climate change, but mainly because humans decided to deconstruct it for their own winnings. You know, to make all those cheap industrial biscuits, potato chips, chocolate, drugstore makeup, you name it – palm oil seems to always be one of the main ingredients. This is bad news for us, but even more so for the poor animals who die as a consequence of rain forest destruction.

It’s no secret that animals suffer from tourist’s selfishness. Generation selfie, I beg you, please don’t let yourself or anyone else get hurt just because you want recognition from strangers online. When you pick up those two starfish out from the water to take a cute photo – like the one’s you’ve seen on Instagram, you’re actually killing the starfish. And so did the people you wanted to copy. When you ride an elephant, take a selfie with a tiger, swim with dolphins or take selfies with cute little monkeys on a leash, you’re supporting an industry that profits from animal abuse.

It’s no secret that people suffer from other people’s greed. Generation selfie and the generation before us, we have become accustomed to the fast way of living. We want to keep up with the latest fashion, the latest technology, the latest food trends – and we are not willing to pay a lot for any of it, when given the option. But for every fast-fashion or fast-food item sold, there’s someone who has to work all night and day in terrible conditions and earning close to nothing, just so that you can save a few bucks.

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Here’s a guide to how you can travel while respecting the environment

  1. When traveling short distance, choose trains or buses over flights. Personally, I love traveling by train. I love looking out the window, noticing new places and wondering what they must be like to visit. Also, it’s easier to stretch your legs and take a walk around on the train than on a plane!
  2. If you’re planning to go to the park, to the beach or to a remote area where there might not be any trash cans anywhere in sight, bring your own recyclable bag for your waste. Hold onto it until you find a trash can!
  3. Instead of going to the supermarkets, go to the farmer’s markets. You’ll support the local agriculture, the local economy and you’ll know exactly what you’re putting into your body!
  4. If there’s an artisan market or bazaar in town, that’s where you should do your shopping! Handmade cosmetics, artisan jewelry, hand-woven bags, hand-sewn clothes – the money you spend on these items go to the people who created them. You’ll support the locals, their artistry and you get slow-fashion items completely unique from any of the stuff your friends have back home!
  5. Before signing up to any kind of tourist attractions with animals, use your web-browsing skills and read, read, read! Animal sanctuaries is an example of something that might either be completely fine or absolutely horrible, depending on the organization. Dig a little deeper than the basic tourist-reviews and you’ll find out for sure if this is something you should or shouldn’t spend money on.
  6. If you want to take a picture of a starfish, a dolphin, butterflies, birds, sharks, whatever creature it is that greets you on your travel, please do so. But please do it without touching them. They deserve to be treated with the same respect as you do.
  7. I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Support local agriculture! Visit a vineyard, go on a wine tour and purchase a few bottles of wine from the producer. If you’re more into breweries, visit a microbrewery and learn about the craft. Or maybe you’d rather see how cheese is made? Or coffee? Chocolate? There’s something for everyone in every country – and I can honestly say, the most fun tours I’ve ever been on were those where I was in direct contact with the producers of what I used to view as ‘everyday products’ until I realized how much work is put into creating them.
  8. Visit Botanic Gardens! Their role is to help address the issues relevant to restoring ecosystems. They provide knowledge and expertise in conservation biology, restoration ecology and ethnobotany, and raise awareness among the general public of the need for, and benefits that can come from, successful ecological restoration projects.
  9. Support the independent businesses. Instead of always going for the big chains for your accommodation and your meals, visit the independent ones. The owners put their heart, their soul and all their savings into their businesses and they depend on every costumer they can get. The big chains, the big guys, they’ll be fine. They’ll always have their following. But the little guys might not always be that lucky.
  10. If you see something, say something. If you witness someone abusing an animal, disrespecting the locals and their community or littering the streets – speak up. This planet needs a lot more everyday heroes to come to its rescue. You can be one of them!

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Me and my little friend, in a butterfly conservatory 

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I never laid a finger on this beautiful creature

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Coffee plantation in Boquete, Panama

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Woman making argan oil in Marrakech, Morocco

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Purcari Winery in Moldova

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Me, in Norway

 

 

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8 comments on “Sustainable Tourism (and how to travel while respecting the environment)

  1. I agree with your point – “It’s no secret that animals suffer from tourist’s selfishness.”…. I hope people understand that! Also, the picture of the Purcari Winery in Moldova looks very interesting :).. I am sure you must have had fun!

  2. I loved this! You’ve taught me so much about respectful travel, and I love that you’re educating people in such a great way. Thank you for this post!

  3. This is a really great list and it just proves the point that there is so little effort in traveling more responsibly. All it takes is awareness and research- just willingness to go beyond Instagram style travel.

    • Exactly! Those who know how to post photos online, also know how to use Google, and it isn’t hard to do a little research before traveling 🙂

  4. Hey thank you for the insight, we visited Costa Rica for 3 weeks and that’s a place where eco tourism is increasingly growing, can only recommend 🙂
    Sami
    http://www.willyoutravel.com

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