Should you book an ecotourism resort in order to be a responsible traveller?

Ecotourism is

“the responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education”,

according to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES).

I want to travel responsibly, with a carbon impact as small and a social impact as big as possible. Is ecotourism an option?

TIES partners with big organisations and institutions, like the questionable Rainforest Alliance. This raises the suspicion of greenwashing.

The problem with ecotourism is the certification process.

It takes a good amount of time and money and organisations need to fulfil certain standards. The generalised standards don’t leave much room for individual initiatives.

This is not a critique of ecotourism. It’s a fantastic idea, but just like with everything else, when it becomes too big, it becomes less efficient and impactful.

Boardwalk through the Gazi Mangroves in Kenya, a local ecotourism initiative

Boardwalk through the Gazi Mangroves in Kenya, a local ecotourism initiative

Here are some things you can do to make the place where you are your private ecotourism project:

  • Use organic cosmetics that have a smaller impact on the environment. Waste water management is organised differently in different places. Consider what you put in the ground without filter.
  • Use public transport instead of cars carrying only you.
  • Avoid waste as much as possible. The waste management systems in other countries work differently. Sometimes, waste separation, recycling etc. are not necessary or possible. You can act most responsibly by avoiding to buy plastic waste in the first place.
  • Pack lightly, in order to reduce waste, pollution, energy usage – and back pain.
  • Hire a local guide to get the perspective of a resident and support the local economy.
  • Follow instructions. They are not made to deprive you of your fun but not only to care for the environment, but also for your own safety.
  • Learn as much as you can. Be open-minded and listen to what people have to tell you. Ask for personal insights as well as the global context. Only by understanding can we improve situations and places.
  • Talk about it later, once you are back from your journey. Be it to friends and family, showing them pictures, or writing a blog, an article, or even giving a presentation. Share your stories and the lessons you learned and inspire others to travel responsibly and environmentally friendly.

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