It may come as no surprise that tourism and wildlife conservation are inherently intertwined. When approached correctly, sustainable tourism practices can be a catalyst for protecting some of Earth’s most treasured creatures. Examples of this can be plucked from just about every country that boasts a high density of wildlife both on land and below the sea. In fact, through the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has agreed to implement practices that help protect the most vulnerable wildlife and ensure biodiversity continues for generations to come.
The pandemic has taken a toll on our collective global society from all perspectives. As we continue to assess the damage and chart a way forward, we at Discover Corps have spent hours on Zoom calls, like many of you, musing on what comes next. We consider ourselves eternal optimists and have really started to focus on one silver lining, how can we use this moment as an opportunity? An opportunity to re-invent the way we explore our world and fundamentally shift travel from a wholly consumptive experience to something that strengthens our shared humanity.
As the world enters yet another week of lockdown, the prospect of embarking on an overseas expedition may seem bleak. Though travel could be out of the question for a while yet, this may just be the perfect time to do some research about the hidden wonders of our world – and hatch your master-plan for a post-quarantine adventure.
In the modern day and age, there is a great push to have a better understanding of our unique cultural heritage, while at the same time celebrating the things that unite us as a nation and as a people. We live in an increasingly global society. Things like the global refugee crisis have created an entirely new class of people growing up in strange lands, speaking both their native language and the new language, but lacking in terms of cultural understanding and even to some degree, cultural sensitivity.
Maybe it’s your New Year’s resolution or maybe you have been living “green” for awhile, but it’s safe to say that sustainable living is not just a fad. It’s a responsible life choice if we want to maintain our quality of life and the planet we call home. Sustainable living doesn’t begin and end with recycling and reusable grocery bags. If you’re truly going to live “green”, this should extend to your travel habits as well.
In fact, it’s even more important to pay attention to your waste while traveling because oftentimes vacations lead to many non-eco friendly choices: unnecessary plastics, more waste, one-use containers, etc. And if you’re traveling as a family, that just means more waste in general. It’s easy to get in the mindset of “I’m on vacation, but I do well at home”, but over the years this has added up.
Check out several steps you can take to plan a sustainable and responsible family vacation.
1. Purchase Carbon-Offsets for Your Flights
This growing trend is an easy way that travelers can work together to reduce their overall carbon footprint, and a flight has a big effect. Most forms of travel generate emissions in the form of carbon, so to combat this, carbon-offset companies have created a formula to calculate the emissions from your vacation. Then, these programs will match you with a meaningful project that puts those carbons back into the environment – for example, planting 100 trees in the Amazon. The fee you pay will ensure that this project gets completed, thus completing the circle and helping cancel out the damages your flight may have cost the planet.
In addition to helping the plant, most companies utilize local communities to carry out the projects, which can play a big role in the local economies you are visiting as well. You can check out Discover Corps’ carbon-offsetting program here and learn more about how this can work when it comes to travel.
2. Choose Eco-Friendly Transportation Options
Once you arrive at your destination, consider biking, walking, or using public forms of transportation. Discuss with your children the environmental benefits of using these forms of transportation instead of renting a car. Check with your hotel as they may offer bikes and have bike racks available for use. If you’re in a city, you may even consider renting an electric vehicle.
3. Book a Sustainable Hotel
Many hotels are meeting the criteria necessary to become eco-friendly. There are several guidelines a hotel must follow in order to be labeled an environmentally sustainable hotel. Some of them include: dependence on the natural environment, proven contribution to conservation, and incorporating local culture.
Hotels around the globe are working to conserve energy and water. This ranges from things like kitchen equipment to linen and towel reuse programs. Other sustainable options hotels are offering include toxic-free cleaning products, fresh local produce, and plastic-free room keys. You can make an informed decision by checking out the hotel’s website or calling the front desk to inquire about sustainable efforts.
Talk to your kids about the efforts a hotel is making to stay green, and explain to them the importance of conserving resources. They should know why they’re reusing towels, and why it’s important to take shorter showers and turn the water off when brushing their teeth. If they understand the why, they’re more likely to make good choices.
When packing for your trip, consider bringing along reusable bags, food containers, and water bottles whenever possible. When you are planning out your day, think ahead and pack some snacks to eliminate purchasing plastic convenience items (because with kids, you know you’ll need snacks!). If you do have to purchase plastic, consider reusing it or recycling it on your own if you are unable to find proper receptacles. If you are dining out, consider asking if they have paper straws instead of plastic (you would be surprised how much of the world is adopting this), or bring along a metal straw if preferred or if your children need one.
5. Book an Organized Tour
Oftentimes there is little planning or thought given to the lasting impacts of tourism to a destination. Mass tourism can have negative environmental, economic, and social impacts to an area. Find a travel agent or a sustainable travel company that specializes in eco-friendly tourism. They can help you book a tour that focuses on social responsibility. It isn’t always easy to navigate, so letting someone else do the work for you is usually a great way to go that can also be cost-effective for a family.
Another component to consider is voluntourism. These tours are a great way to give a hands-on experience for your youngsters, all while leaving a lasting impact on your destination of choice. Take advantage of a great learning experience as well as an opportunity to educate your family on social responsibility, volunteering, and being environmentally conscious.
As tourism continues to increase, it’s more and more important that we become conscientious travelers. Traveling with our environment in mind can support local communities and conserve cultures and habitats. Taking a few extra minutes to think about your impact on the world can make a huge difference, and following the steps above can really make a difference when it comes to preserving your destination of choice. You and your family can also make a pledge to travel better.
Learn to leave a lasting impression and less of a carbon footprint, and then instill these values in your children so that the generations to come know and understand the importance of conserving resources.
Amanda DiSilvestro is the Marketing Manager for Discover Corps, an organization offering Vacations with Purpose for families and friends across the globe. An adventure lover herself, Amanda believes sustainable, responsible travel can change the world. Connect with her for content marketing services at amandadisilvestro.com.
If you have yet to hear, there’s something happening in the field of wildlife conservation that you really should know about…the animal rights movement is growing. This decades-long form of activism has created meaningful change – especially as of late. A great example of this is with the famed giant panda.
If your family is 5 or more people, you already know the hiccups that arise when trying to plan a fun and meaningful vacation for the family. From organizing every detail and double checking room capacities to making sure your youngest is entertained and your oldest is engaged, planning a vacation for a family of 5 can be quite the ordeal. Fortunately there’s a simple solution you may not have considered yet: group travel. Group travel is an organized, fun, and efficient way to travel, taking all of the headaches away that come with a family of 5 vacation.
“This trip and this experience ignited a passion in me to save them. I’d like to do more. The volunteering is helping out, but I want to be an elephant activist. It definitely sparked something in me to help them and save them.” – Linda S.
For Linda, the 9-day Thailand: Elephants & Islands trip ignited a passion for elephants that she plans to act on for the rest of her life. Linda has always been a believer in traveling with purpose and volunteering, specifically called to work with wildlife, and after a life-changing experience working with elephants the effects of the trip will be long lasting. Specifically, the relationship she formed with one of the elephants at the sanctuary, Nicole.
There is no better way to connect with country than through its people, and in South Africa, the locals will tell you that conservation is a part of their culture.
On our South Africa: Wildlife Volunteer Adventure trip, you volunteer at two reserves in the area that are spearheading conservation work for the rest of the world. First, Somkhanda Game Reserve was created by the local Gumbi Tribe who was dedicated the land to conservation. Due to challenging terrain and a small team, monitoring the reserve’s array of wildlife is a massive undertaking. While volunteering, travelers join these dedicated conservationists to protect critical populations of black and white rhino through radio tracking and set camera traps to record information on leopards. Second is Nambiti Game Reserve, the only reserve in the area with the Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino – and boasts 22,000 acres of African bush hosting over 40 species of wildlife. Travelers venture out each day to record key data on elephants, buffalo and wild dogs that helps the reserve keep track of their vulnerable wildlife population.
So what is the trip really like? Watch the video below and get to know native South African William, one of Discover Corps’ guides on the Wildlife Volunteer Adventure vacation.