How to protect the environment as a tourist

It is complicated. We care for our environment but we also love travelling so much. All the transport options we use every day produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, especially flying. Flying truly has its perks, the shorter travel time and hence an excellent exposure to new cultures within a relatively short time frame is only one of them. And we can say that it is often the case that travelling will benefit communities of the destinations we choose to visit.

We can pay into carbon-offset schemes. But honestly, we produce all these emissions and believe with simply paying a few coins into a scheme we will make up for it. This is like believing in the Catholic Church who promises that confessions let sins disappear into thin air. See, it is complicated. It would probably be great if all airlines everywhere would charge emission payments and simply add it to the ticket price. If only the aviation industry in all countries would want to do this.

giant wheel seagull sky
Flying has its perks

We never know whether destinations care for the environment as much as we (believe we) do. We all want to go somewhere with beautiful surroundings and fresh clean air. It is not always easy to find that. Tourism companies who depend on nature better do their best to protect their livelihood and look after their land. From the outside many places look like paradise but are more like hell (at least for our environment they are).

Cheap is the greatest when booking a trip, but it doesn’t always work that way

I never ask a hotel directly about their waste management and their water treatment, or about their environmental planning before I book my stay. If I see these info’s stated on their website I trust them to be true but that is pretty much it. Call me naïve, but I always hope that they have a sense for economics, and want to make as much money as they can with their establishment. If they have set up environmentally friendly practices, they will soon realize that in the end that will save them a lot of resources and money.

As I care for the environment I don’t mind paying for it. True, cheap is the greatest, but it doesn’t always work that way. We can’t expect tourism companies and destinations to develop and set up amazing processes to protect our world, but then refuse to pay for it. It is our world too.

You might already use the towel in your hotel room on two days in a row, great, but that is not enough. We are only humans, but everyone can do the one or other thing to help. We only need to become more conscious of our surroundings. It will help ensure to make our journey an environmentally friendly one. I might not save the world with this, but here is what I usually check before I book a stay.

Checklist before booking a trip. Looking after the environment is easy. How to protect the environment as a tourist

1. Has the property (in this far-flung area) hundreds and hundreds and even more beds? Where does all the freshwater come from, and where is the wastewater meant to go to? Where do they dump the rubbish? How do they generate power?

2. Did the designers and architects plan hotels/resorts with the environment in mind, with using local materials to manage to minimise the impact on local people (and tourists)?

3. Do they use local plants in the gardens because they probably survive these conditions the best? Watering a green and lavish garden in a drought-stricken area uses lots of water (they might use desalinated water).

4. Did they create new access roads (and completely new infrastructure)? You can easily imagine that they cleared land, and probably destroyed the habitat of local wildlife, to create a wonderland for tourists.

5. Shower gel. Body lotion. Shampoo. Cleaning products. Are the products biodegradable or full of chemicals?

6. Food. Are ingredients mainly sourced locally?

These are only a few things to think about before booking a vacation. What else can I look out for before I make a booking? Travelling is a movement of hope, become part of it. Give me your ideas, can’t wait to hear from you.
From Berlin with love