(The following is a guest post by Rachel Campbell of Treepot Travels, a blog focused on adventure travel and nature/wildlife photography. You can follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a blogger looking to guest post on GGT, email Bret Love at info@GreenGlobalTravel.com.)
With 59 different US National Parks to choose from, the idea of selecting just one for a family vacation or weekend hiking trip can be daunting at best. In order to help make for an easier decision, many travelers will start with a list what they’re looking for in a park, what knowledge they hope to gain, and what memories they hope to take back home.
If you’re looking for majestic mountains, scenic cliffs, towering pine trees, a vast blue ocean, rocky beaches, tranquil lakes, and a large network of winding trails that not only offer up an exciting day out, but picturesque vistas, then hiking Acadia National Park should top your list. Here you’ll find a vast wilderness waiting to be explored, peacefully tucked away on rugged islands off the coast of Maine.
If you took a poll asking people whether they’d prefer to be responsible or irresponsible travelers, most would choose the former over the latter. But what does Green Travel even mean? How do you do it? Do you have to sleep in a tent and cook on a solar-powered camp stove to be considered eco-friendly?
The truth is that sustainable travel is all about making simple choices to lessen your negative impact on a given destination. Individually, each one of these choices makes only a small difference. But collectively, becoming more conscious about these little things can have a huge impact.
What we’ve assembled below are 40 Green Travel Tips that EVERY traveler can use to be more eco-friendly. Most of them are ridiculously simple, such as using a refillable water bottle, putting a Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel room door, and buying locally made products rather than imports. But if every one of our 30,000+ unique monthly visitors began incorporating these tips into their travel routine, our collective impact could be amazing!
“Tourism is really about selling nature and cultural heritage,” says National Geographic Traveler editor Costas Christ during an interview near the beginning of the Gringo Trails documentary. The rest of the thought-provoking film explores the obvious follow-up question: At what cost?
The film was directed and co-produced by Pegi Vail, an American anthropologist and Associate Director of the Center for Media, Culture, and History at NYU. Once an avid backpacker herself, Vail began the project back in 1999 as a Fulbright scholar researching the impact of backpacking on the Salar de Uyuni region of Bolivia. Over time, the film’s focus morphed into more of a big picture examination of the impact mass tourism has on the culture and environment of a destination.
Through interviews with eco-lodge operators, members of Bhutan’s royal family, and travel experts such as Pico Iyer and Rolf Potts, the film culls stories from all along the historic “gringo trail.” The crux of the conversation is how we can reconcile the needs of tourists who want to travel off the beaten path in search of authentic experiences, and those of developing nations desperately in need of tourism revenue, without destroying the things that make these destinations uniquely beautiful.
While Gringo Trails offers no easy answers, it does ask poignant questions and offers some compelling examples of role models for sustainable ecotourism. We recently spoke with Vail (whose book based on her research, Right of Passage, is forthcoming) to discuss her thought-provoking film in depth.
I feel like I’m in a scene straight out of Finding Nemo.
I’m diving 50 fifty feet below the waves, at a site called “El Barco,” located about 100 yards off the beach of Costa Rica’s Caño Island Biological Reserve. I’m literally surrounded on all sides by thousands of fish– yellow and silver-striped Grunts, huge Amberjacks, vivid Striped Snapper, cautious Horse-Eye Jacks, and dozens of other species I cannot identify– swimming in huge schools that seem to ebb and flow in unison in response to my every movement.
I spin around in awe, taking it all in, looking up towards the surface to see more schools passing overhead, like storm clouds blocking out the sun. We’ve been snorkeling and Scuba diving at least a hundred times during our travels, from the Caribbean and Galapagos Islands to Hawaii and Tahiti, but never have we seen so many fish in one place. And our day has only just begun…
I realize this may sound like exaggerated hyperbole. But, until you’ve come face-to-face with an animal more than twice your height and 75 times your weight, it’s hard to fathom how the experience can alter your perception of humanity’s place in the Universe.
For me, it happened during the first game drive on the first day of my safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
He was a massive bull elephant, feeding on a tree about 75 yards from our open-air safari vehicle in Londolozi Game Reserve. As he noticed us, he slowly turned and ambled our way with a sense of purpose. When he got within 50 yards, I began looking at our guide nervously. By the time he’d reached the 30 yard mark, we asked if perhaps it was time to move the Jeep and give him some space. Solomon assured us that it was fine, as the elephant came closer and closer and closer.