Eco-Tourism: A Sustainable Way to Travel?

By Naomi Harris, GLOBUS Correspondent

If you’re anything like me January could possibly have felt like the longest month of the year.  

Okay, I do have my birthday to look forward to in February, but I miss the sun, being able to go outside without three layers on and not feeling like its time to go to bed at 5pm. For me, it is then no surprise that 5.2 million people book their holidays in the first month of the year. Who wouldn’t want to be planning their escape already?  

However, a study of 160 countries found that tourism accounts for eight percent of the world’s carbon emissions. This demonstrates the sheer scale of tourism, and its impact on the environment. Don’t start panicking yet! That’s not to say you can never leave the UK for some tropical sun again – you just need to be more conscious of your holiday decisions. With the demand for eco-tourism growing by 25% each year, there are an increasing number of alternatives. 

What is eco-tourism? 

Eco-tourism is designed to contribute to the protection of the environment – or at least minimize damage to it – through involving travel to areas of natural interest in developing countries, or participation in environmental projects. 

In simple terms, eco-tourism is tourism that gives back to the local region, and ensures minimal impact on the natural environment.  

This can be done by employing local tour guides and demonstrators to ensure tourism funds go directly back into communities. Currently tourism only returns 20% of profits back to the locals, but eco-tourism sees returns close to 95%. Eco-tourism can also involve a holiday centred around volunteering, or tourists can see their money reinvested into conservation efforts like reforestation. Eco-tourism ensures direct returns for the environment and those that live there.  

How can you find your eco-friendly holiday? 

There are the more obvious options such as using companies like Greenloons, who create eco-tourism package holidays for you. However, if you choose this easier route you need to do your background research. Many companies advertise ‘eco-friendly’ holidays, but these destinations can become exploited to make them more ‘tourist-friendly’. Habitats and indigenous people can be displaced to make room for hotels and businesses.  

Also, these companies are charging you big bucks for something, with a bit of research, you could often organise yourself. I don’t know about you, but my weekly budget is stretched thin at the best of times. 

How can you find your affordable eco-friendly holiday? 

As with anything the most important thing to do is research. One great place to start is Ethical Traveller who create an annual report on the most sustainable destinations globally; based on human rights, social welfare and environmental protection. Here you can be sure the countries you are going to uphold the principles of sustainability. 

But if you’re looking for a city, or a region, to visit The Telegraph has a great list of holiday destinations that are “saving the planet”.  For example, Denmark emits the lowest CO2 per capita in the world, and boasts vibrant cities and a lovely coastline. Denmark gives you the best of both worlds with little cost to the environment compared to other holiday locations.  

If you wanted to lower your carbon footprint even more, but still hit the popular student destinations, why not enjoy Ibiza, but in an eco-friendly light? Stay on a solar-powered yacht, or join the Plastic Ocean Cleanup catamaran, which you can ride for free, to see the wonders of the ocean and be a part of ocean cleaning. 

Header Image: Photo by Caroline Selfors on Unsplash

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