You have read Sustainable Tourism, it has caught your interest and now you are (we hope) wondering what you as an individual can do. There are lots of things you can do in all aspects of your life. Let’s start with some things you can do before your trip.
Responsible travel starts with planning. Making informed choices is the key to becoming a responsible traveler and you can be informed by doing your homework before you leave home. Search for websites specializing in responsible travel, ecotourism or sustainable tourism; consult guidebooks that include information on your destination’s environmental, social and political issues. Guidebooks vary in quality, even within a series, but Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and Moon are among the best. Make contact with tour operators who have firsthand knowledge of the places you intend to visit.
Once you reach your destination there are other things you can do which include dressing properly – read up on local dress and dress appropriately. In many countries, modest dress is important.
Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, homes or private land. Be sensitive to when and where you take photos/video of people. Always ask first. Respect the natural environment. Never touch or harass animals. Always follow designated trails. Support conservation by paying entrance fees to parks and protected sites.
Never purchase crafts, clothing, furniture or other products that are derived from protected or endangered animal species.
Pay a fair price by not engaging in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs. Don’t short-change on tips for services. Choose locally owned lodges, hotels and B & Bs. Use local buses, car rental agencies and airlines. Eat in local restaurants, shop in local markets and attend local events. By doing this the money spent in the community stays in the community.
And very important – hire local guides and enrich your experience and support the local economy. Ask guides if they are licensed and live locally. Are they recommended by tour operators? And in your hotel, rental home or own home, use less hot water, turn off electronic devices you’re not using, unplug electronics from the wall when you’re not using them (even when turned off, things like hairdryers, cell phone chargers and televisions use energy to keep display clocks lit and memory chips working), and turn off all AC and ceiling fans when you are not in the room. Don’t leave the AC on so that you can come home to a cool room.
When you go out grocery shopping buy locally grown and produced foods, buy fresh foods instead of frozen, shop at the local markets in both Mérida and the villages, buy organic foods as much as possible (Greenery in Plaza Mayor on Prolongación Montejo, Cafe Orgánico by Ave. Colon and Reforma), avoid heavily packaged products and eat less meat.
And, when you get home, plant a tree! A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15%.
Sustainable travel is: Tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.
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