When it comes to visiting the world’s most beautiful places, the old adage rings true: Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.
Many people hear the terms “green travel” and picture someone camping in Big Bear or cycling through Baja. Although there is nothing wrong with either of these, you don’t need to sacrifice creature comforts to be a green traveler; you can visit big cities or small villages. All that’s required is an effort to preserve and protect the environment of the place you’re visiting.
What is green travel?
“Green travel” is one of many catch phrases — like ecotourism, sustainable tourism and responsible travel — that are bandied about with increasing frequency these days. But what exactly do these terms mean?
There are various shades of difference among all these terms, but at the heart of the matter is the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environment of the places you visit. That means conserving plants, wildlife and other resources; respecting local cultures and ways of life; and contributing positively to local communities.
Why go green?
With nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, it’s more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth’s natural and cultural treasures. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global; oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion in Mexico, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Rivera Maya, and carbon dioxide emissions from cars are a growing contributor to air pollution in general.
Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you’ve flown home. As an added bonus, it often makes for a more rewarding, authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit.
Transportation — particularly ground travel — is where most travelers have the biggest environmental impact.
Traveling by bus is green
Believe it or not, Traveling by bus is the most energy efficient mode of transportation in the world. Motor coach travel takes away more than 50 cars of the freeway and reduces emission levels by a significant percentage. To minimize your environmental footprint, travel with tour operators that employ the following established green business policies:
• Buses that idle for no more than five minutes.
• Wash buses with biodegradable detergents.
• Turn off all electric items inside offices, motorcoaches and yard.
• Recycling of parts and supplies.
• Emissions Reduction.
• BioFuel Program is the combined fuel solution of biodiesel with regular diesel.
During your green hotel or lodging stay
Even if you’re not spending the night in an ecolodge or green hotel, there are still several easy steps you can take to make your stay more eco-friendly.
• Keep your showers short, and shut off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.
• When you leave the room, turn off the air conditioning, heat, television or any other electric devices.
• Reuse your sheets and towels instead of having them changed every day.
• Bring your own toiletries and drinking cup rather than using the prepackaged ones provided.
• If your hotel doesn’t recycle, consider taking your empty bottles or other items home with you.
• Express your appreciation for any eco-friendly programs it currently offers.
Remember that when it comes to visiting the world’s most beautiful places, the old adage rings true: Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.
Alfonso Hernandez is a green travel expert and leads the Green Travel Initiative for Five Star Tours and Charter Company (http://fivestartours.com/), which is a program aimed to educate San Diegans about the benefits of traveling leaving the smallest footprint. Alfonso has taken the Green Travel Initiative to local schools and communities to take a more interactive approach for our future to look at group transportation.