It’s easy to go green—it’s mostly a matter of common sense. Follow these seven simple steps to become a green tourist, and you’ll soon be marvelling at the diversity of destinations and the rich variety of cultures on our precious planet—Earth.
1. Read up on the culture of the destination you plan to visit before you go. Prepare yourself for any aspects of that culture that may shock you, and consider how your own behaviour might upset locals. Try to learn a few words of the language; locals will love you for making the effort.
2. Treat the local people, environment and culture with respect. This means things like asking permission to take photos before doing so, taking your trash with you when you leave and not laughing at cultural rituals that are strange to you.
3. Be a participant, not an observer. To get the most out of your visit, don’t just stand back and take photos, get involved at any opportunity…to dance, kick a football, pose for photos with locals, sing a song, and so on. For full-on immersion in an alien culture, consider signing up for a volunteerism project.
4. Where possible, use the forms of transport that locals use; travel on foot, by bike or by bus. Not only are these methods more environmentally friendly than travelling by plane, train or private car, but they also present the best opportunities to interact with local people.
5. Stay in green lodgings (hotel, hostel, guest house or homestay), but watch out for ‘greenwashing’. Many hotels use terms like ‘green’ and ‘eco’ in their brochures more as a marketing ploy than as a policy. Ask them if they employ local staff or use local artwork in rooms, and find out in what ways their presence benefits the local community.
6. When eating, order local dishes made with local ingredients, as this can offer insights into culture as well as boosting the local economy. Your hosts will consider it an honour if you like a dish enough to want to learn how to make it yourself.
When shopping for souvenirs, make sure you buy locally made handicrafts as a memento of your stay. A wood carving that you watched being made will hold stronger memories than a mass-produced T-shirt bought in a market. However, avoid buying products made of coral or from endangered species.