Ecotourism: The Sustainable Way to See the World. By Louise Osborne ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On Recent Trends Monday, 17th February 2014
Exclusive Feature: Travelling is bad for the environment, say some; planes, buses, boats and cars all pumping out carbon dioxide, while tourists pick rare flowers and break off pieces of coral as they dive, staying in hotels built on the site of a destroyed rainforest....
OK so most people don't travel like that and many hotels and travel providers are responsible, but as issues of climate change increasingly hit the headlines, people are asking how they can better protect the environment and travel in an eco-friendly manner.
While avid travellers do not want to give up circumnavigating the globe meeting new people and experiencing new cultures along the way, different initiatives have grown out of their desire to reduce their carbon footprint and to conserve those picturesque beaches and magnificent snow-topped mountains for the next trip and the next generation.
One such initiative is carbon offsetting. By buying carbon offsets you can fund a project, such as a renewable energy programme, or the planting of trees, that leads to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions counterbalancing the environmental cost of your air travel.
Many airlines and travel companies now offer travellers the opportunity to offset the carbon from their flight, but it is still voluntary allowing you to choose whether to take part in the scheme or not.
Another way of conserving the environment while you travel is by choosing to go with organisations that support ecotourism. Ecotourism, as defined by the International Ecotourism Society is "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."
Ecotourism is supported by a number of special travel agencies the world over, that help people to see the world without causing excessive damage to nature and to the livelihoods of those living in the area.
Manaca Travel offers trips to destinations including Australia, Costa Rica, and Kenya working with operators on the ground who have signed a pledge to responsible tourism. An eco-tour of the forests of Thailand has people staying in small, quiet hotels in the towns and cities, while enjoying life under canvas as they trek into the jungle.
Meanwhile, Carpe Diem Travel, which offers trips to Cambodia, Laos and Bangkok promises to only work with local people and use local products. As a non-profit travel agency, they say they reinvest all profits into projects helping local people to realise their potential and have a future, according to their website.
As well as Asia, one of the prime locations for ecotourism is Central America with Costa Rica offering a wealth of opportunities for the eco-friendly traveller as one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. Greenway Nature Tours offers the chance to go river rafting, horseback riding and to visit volcanoes, all while practising sustainable travel.
Still, with all the options available online there's always the danger of choosing a company that is "green-washing" its business to attract the environmentally aware traveller – the best advice, if you want to stay green while seeing the world, is to really investigate all your options before choosing an eco-tour that's right for you.
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Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
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