By Irene Lane, Eco-travel activist and founder of Greenloons
Basic eco-travel - a Mongolian RV.
It's tough to be an eco-traveler these days! If you are lucky enough to get time off from work for a much-needed vacation, you have to be conscious about carbon emissions, low-impact activities, and "green travel" consumerism. Here are five tips so you can have a more meaningful eco-travel experience.
1. Visit one small region of the world.
Explore that region by using public transportation, bicycles or even your own two feet. All too often, we find ourselves with very little vacation time, but the desire to get the "most out of the experience." Staying in a region where all vacation activities are reachable within a one-hour radius actually contributes to a more profound travel experience because you are immersed in the local community with its festivals, cuisine, and peculiarities that you'll likely be recalling for years.
2. Discover your ancestry.
Eco-travel is not only about adventurous outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking or sailing that are conducted in an environmentally-conscious manner; it is about becoming globally responsible citizens that understand local language, history, and traditions. Consider learning more about unique heritage to better understand your role in the world and to teach your children about having pride in their culture.
3. Research eco-travel credentials.
There are thousands of places around the world that offer distinctive green accommodations ranging from agritourism farms to old country houses to eco-lodges. However, it is important to ensure that your accommodation is certified by a reputable accreditation body, such as the Rainforest Alliance, Green Globe, Green Key or the country's individual eco-certification. If there are no eco-certified lodgings available at your destination, review the list of eco-accommodation
against the available options and ask the manager about their corporate social responsibility policies.
4. Go on a voluntour.
Eco-travel leads to a closer understanding of nature - and yourself.
Voluntourism is different from a volunteer vacation in that there is a balance struck between the tourist offering a volunteer service, for a conservation project for example, during the trip and the tourist enjoying the natural surroundings and wildlife habitats through ecotourism activities such as horseback riding or diving. Check out the organization's reputability and, to make the most impact, choose projects that may need your special technical or language skills.
5. Embrace technical eco-innovation.
Powerful solar chargers for your travel gadgets aside, consider adopting some of the technical innovations that are occurring all over the world that lessen the environmental footprint of tourism. One example is the eco-certified coffee plantation inn in Costa Rica that uses NASA-developed ionization technology to rid its swimming pool of impurities, thereby negating the use of chlorine and algaecides. Another example is the eco-certified camp in Patagonia that developed the world's first Geodesic eco-dome, which has been replicated in Chile, Argentina and Switzerland. Sharing these eco-innovations helps us all.