- don’t slavishly follow a guidebook – when you do that you will just end up in crowded places. Do research on any sort of tour you are going on; are they a green company?do they invest back into the community
- Learn something about the place you go to – respecting how they act is not the same as agreeing with it – be culturally sensitive, don’t make judgements, be willing to and of learn dress appropriately for where you are
- buy from locals and eat street food,
- stay in locally owned accommodation places – take shorter showers – hang up your towels for reuse. Don’t waste electricity
- use local transport when possible – one person in the car is not eco-friendly so always share
- dispose of your own rubbish correctly – you can even pick up someone else’s rubbish!
- watch animals in the wild – don’t disturb them – keep your distance – don’t touch or feed them – don’t use flash photography – don’t pose for photos with captured animals – most of which have been beaten into submission
- minimise your carbon footprint
- carry your own water bottle and food container
- refuse straws
- travel is not a competition – we are not impressed with the number of countries you have visited
Here is an essay I wrote before about ethical travel:
Not everyone can travel. Living in New Zealand means we have a better chance than many. We have a far higher percentage rate of people with passports than, say, Americans, for example. There are also many countries in the world where people will never have a passport – and of course, poor countries are much more likely to be visited than to produce travellers.
I’m a travelophile. When I travel I feel good and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to and not need to go the flavour of the month so can be in places that are not on the tourist trail. I get to be a cultural tourist in that I stay longer in places and get to know people; absorb the local flavour.
This means that although I don’t often sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism?
My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are, very briefly, that’s it an activity that has the least impact while providing the greatest benefits.
Independent travellers are the ones most likely (but not always) be the closest to being real eco-travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country – those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs to the locals – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.
Unfortunately, tourist money is often creamed the off a country in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave, taking the money with them, or multinational hotels who don’t even pay tax in a country.
Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – the very trash that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags abound.
I’m reminded of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However, I know that alongside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.
The problems of being poured into the tourist funnel will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.
This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”
Combining the universal codes of ‘pack it in pack it out’ and ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’ along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’ll be able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.
Independent solo traveller’s, or backpackers may be the closest to being real eco-travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country– those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.
Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a natural part many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.
Life on a marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes, the natural sights ( and sites!) and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave, taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags abound.
We think of New Zealand – and market the country – as a clean green destination but pollution is not just rubbish on the ground. Have we (or travel agents) have sold the visitor a too narrow view of places to visit; given them a list of sites they’ must see’, activities they should take part in? This produces problems such as Milford Sound could have – buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors (and fumes from the buses) to see wonderful pristine sights. An oxymoron? This of course is not only a New Zealand problem.
The slogan 100% pure New Zealand was created as an advertising slogan with no reference at all to being clean and green – what it was talking about in those early days was that we would give visitors a 100% New Zealand experience – so pure New Zealand, not a copy of other places.
Sadly, a generation or two later, that has been forgotten, and people often think it means we’re 100% clean and green.
It doesn’t, and we aren’t, but we’re working on it.
Please help us give you a one hundred percent pure Kiwi hospitality and please, please, use our toilets and rubbish containers – do not leave such stuff on the side of the road, or in our bush.