Travel and tourism account for 8-11% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Ecotourism has risen in popularity to combat these effects and helps travelers think globally about their environmental impact. 

Read on to learn how to be an eco-tourist so you can approach every getaway with a commitment to “take only memories, leave only footprints”—just not carbon footprints.

What Is an Eco-Tourist?

An eco-tourist is anyone with travel plans focusing on minimizing their environmental impact and experiencing their destination as sustainably as possible. 

Ecotourism elements involve examining the local culture, available technology, local resources, and the regional environment to help keep travel plans green and environmentally-friendly.

An eco-tourist typically possesses earth-minded characteristics, including interests in using green transportation methods, visiting natural destinations, utilizing low or zero-waste practices, and participating in local conservation efforts. In other words, ecotourism prioritizes activities that engage with the environment to better it rather than cause any harm.

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12 Simple Steps to Become an Eco-Tourist

How can you be a good eco-tourist? The goal of ecotourism is to protect and preserve the planet and find ways to benefit it at your destination. 

Whether you plan a trip with ecotourism at its heart or take a vacation with its principles in mind, these 12 steps can help you prepare for an eco-conscious trip well ahead of your departure date.

1. Travel During the Off-Season

The more people in a destination, the greater the strain on local resources and economy. This strain is less likely when you travel in a location’s off-season with fewer crowds. 

During the planning phase of your trip, make a note of the destination’s low season. Doing so allows you to enjoy lower prices and increased availability of popular sights. This way, local resources can be spread more evenly among visitors and locals alike. 

2. Visit Close to Home

You don’t have to travel far to find adventure. There are plenty of things to see and do, even in nearby zip codes. By staying close to home, you can minimize your environmental impact. The farther away you travel, the greater your carbon footprint due to transportation alone. 

Traveling just outside your neighborhood offers the same opportunities to explore a new place—with a much smaller impact on the planet. However, if a complete change in scenery is in order, look for areas you can reach within just a few hours to minimize emissions.

3. Book Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Like at home, prioritizing energy efficiency is crucial to lessening environmental impact. Eco-friendly accommodations are generally more conscious of their carbon footprint than alternative options. And, when it comes to sustainable lodging, you have options. 

Dedicated earth-friendly rentals are popular among seasoned eco-tourists, including eco-lodges equipped with solar panels or glamping tents outfitted with rainwater harvesting systems. However, even hotels can be a sustainable choice. Look for lodging with established recycling systems, efficient energy sources, and any sustainability certifications indicating an investment in green initiatives. 

4. Plan Ecotourism Activities

Ecotourism is as much about how you travel as it is about what you do while you’re there. You can make almost any vacation more eco-friendly if you fill your itinerary with activities focusing on enjoying and supporting Mother Nature anywhere in the world. 

The objective of any ecotourism activity is to promote an appreciation for the local environment, ensure the economic benefits of tourism are shared with local establishments, or support local conservation efforts. 

A few ecotourism activities you can do nearly anywhere include the following:

  • Birdwatching
  • Walking tours
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Swimming

In general, activities centered around ecotourism should aim to give back to local ecosystems, communities, and the planet. 

5. Arrange Green Transportation

There’s more to transportation than just getting around. Sustainable transportation involves low to zero-emission vehicles, including electric cars and hybrid transport modes. These options are often easy to find. Many destinations even have electric bicycles and scooters that don’t release harmful emissions or pollutants. 

As you book transportation for your destination, look first for green options. This may include researching eco-friendly car rentals or alternative fuel rideshare systems to help you get where you need to go while you’re there. 

6. Use Public Transit

Public transportation is always available, whether you use it or not. Your car, on the other hand, is one more vehicle on the road whenever you’re behind the wheel. This is true anywhere—even while on vacation. 

Because the transportation industry is the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, fewer vehicles on the road means fewer CO2 emissions. Use your destination’s network of trains, buses, trolleys, ferries, or rail systems. These systems minimize pollution and are a great way to navigate the city like a local.

7. Pack Eco-Friendly Products

As you compile your packing list, consider sustainability. Travel-sized toiletries may be easy to pick up at the grocery store, but they’re often made from materials that end up in a landfill when your trip ends. Instead, choose products with no or minimal packaging, or set aside a small number of your everyday products to take in a container you can reuse. 

Sustainable packing also involves examining the ingredients in your products. Keep marine life safe at your beach destination with environmentally-safe sunscreen. To find a reef-friendly sunscreen, ensure it’s free from common harmful chemicals. 

8. Buy and Eat Local 

Local goods don’t have to travel very far to reach their final destination, whether that’s on gift shop shelves or on your plate at a local restaurant. Even while away from home, make a point to support local establishments. This reduces your trip’s overall footprint, thanks to minimal transportation costs, and keeps money within the local economy. 

9. Minimize Waste

Traveling away from home means leaving behind many of the conveniences of your own space. For many, it also means looking to on-the-go amenities like disposable to-go containers and single-use plastics. Cut down on waste and consider packing more sustainable alternatives, including these: 

  • Reusable water bottles
  • Portable cutlery 
  • Stainless steel straws
  • Cloth napkins
  • Collapsible food containers
  • Reusable grocery and produce bags

If you’re staying in a hotel or vacation rental, you can also turn down complimentary daily cleaning services to conserve resources. 

10. Learn About Local Wildlife

Education is at the core of ecotourism. The more you know about the ecosystems and wildlife at your destination, the greater your awareness about safeguarding and keeping them intact for future generations. Choose tourism activities benefiting plants and animals with programs that fund conservation efforts and keep wildlife safe and protected.

11. Engage with Local Culture

Every region’s unique heritage is often celebrated through tourist attractions and activities. Ecotourism supports local communities by honoring the traditions and roots that set the area apart. 

As you visit local sights, do all you can to invest in the native people and cultures by following local customs and habits. This way, you can directly support the people working to maintain the local environment. 

In some cases, the local ways of life are more than just preferences. They may be long-standing traditions preserving the area for the people, plants, and wildlife that call it home.

12. Get Everyone on Board

Not everyone in your travel group will know how to be an eco-tourist without being equipped with the proper resources and education. It’s essential for everyone, even the youngest travelers, to understand what it means to be eco-conscious before you touch down at your destination. Take time to start conversations about the ecotourism principles to get the most out of your sustainability efforts while on the road. 

Eco-Friendly Energy No Matter Where You Are

Ecotourism offers a greener way to see all the destinations on your travel wishlist. For more ways to protect the environment, visit our blog for energy-saving tips and learn more about our eco-friendly energy plans. 

Do your part to support sustainability at home by enrolling today. Please contact us anytime if you have questions about your account or our service plans.