Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How travelers can make a difference, become eco-tourists

It is always interesting to have a good look at your travel providers ...we encourage you to check if your eco-resort, green hotel or nature tour do provide some good answers to the following key questions:

How do you conserve resources?

It's easy to request that guests reuse towels; hotels taking water conservation a step further irrigate lawns and gardens with gray water (from bath and laundry sources) rather than fresh water. Guests should be encouraged to walk, ride bicycles, and take advantage of public transportation and energy-efficient vehicles such as hybrids. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, are good signs, as is the separating of trash and composting. Whenever possible, buildings should be constructed with recycled materials and timber from renewable sources. Disposable items are best avoided.

How do you protect plants and animals?
Pedestrians and cyclists should stay on trails, and vehicles on roads. If your guide hacks up trees for firewood or your group disturbs wildlife and doesn't back off, something's wrong. Outside of qualified breeding programs, wild animals are never to be caged.

What do you do to help the community?
Not every company will be locally owned and operated, but outfitters and lodges should at least hire local staff. Beyond jobs, many operations emphasize charity. The owners of Lapa Rios, a five-leaf eco-lodge in Costa Rica, helped build a school in a rural area that lacked electricity and phones, while Guerba, a U.K.-based tour company, has raised more than $64,000 for homeless kids in Tanzania. When it's time to eat, look for restaurants selling regional, organic food.

What ecotourism activities do you offer?
One of the best things an eco-resort can do is impart awareness to guests. Snorkeling above coral reefs, hiking in rain forests, and rafting in remote rivers can be both thrilling and educational. Shopping excursions should focus on goods made locally, ideally with opportunities to learn about workers' lives and culture. And of course, activities ought to be respectful and avoid damaging the environment. Cooking with lightweight gas stoves causes less harm than using campfires. If you do light a campfire, always set it up in an established fire pit or ring. When you're snorkeling, never touch the coral. Optimally, you'll bring these practices home. Truly successful ecotourism changes not just the way you vacation, but the way you think--no matter where you are.

No comments: