Travelers care a lot about the environmental impact of their trips, surveys show, but many say they're unsure how to be a more sustainable and eco-friendly tourist, or are worried about paying more to become one.
"I think we're starting to see travelers that are more sensitive and aware about the impacts of climate change and the impacts of travel on climate change," Aditi Mohapatra, Expedia Group's vice president of Global Social Impact and Sustainability, told LX News. "So we're starting to see more interest from travelers in sustainable travel options and solutions.”
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Luckily, travel and nature groups are thinking hard about this issue and have some tips. Here are just a few ways you can be a more environmentally friendly traveler.
Look for destinations offering 'regeneration' or 'regenerative travel'
Regenerative travel means you're not just visiting a place and taking something away — you're leaving a place better than you found it before.
There are a few ways to do this: you could find a destination where visitors plant trees. Or you might want to eat at a destination with a menu that relies on local ingredients (which have a lower carbon footprint than produce sourced from thousands of miles away).
Limit your transportation's carbon footprint
Some ticket booking sites like Google Flights have started posting the amount of carbon your flight will emit, recognizing that some fliers will want to pick the most sustainable route they can.
Until carbon-neutral air travel is possible, consumers can make small choices to limit their impact.
'Leave no trace' when venturing into nature
Hikers and the National Park Service have a saying: "leave no trace." It's about enjoying nature on your hike or camping trip, and maintaining that destination's same sanctity over time. For example, are you picking up all your trash and taking it out of the woods with you?
Leaving no trace goes far deeper than just picking up trash, though. The National Park Service guide linked above mentions several other tips, like using a limited amount of biodegradable dish soap when you're washing those pots and pans from your campfire dinner. When dumping out the dirty dishwater, spread it out as much as possible to limit its impact.
The jury is still out on whether a bear craps in the woods, but it's clear that humans do. Once those hot dogs and that slice of cast-iron-pan cobbler are ready to exit your body, if there's no bathroom near your campsite, you're advised to dig a cathole and bury your waste in it. (For more info, check out the NPS article titled "Much Ado About Number Two: How to Poop in the Woods.")
Other common tips for leaving no trace: don't approach or feed the wildlife, leave plants, structures and artifacts how you found them, and manage your campfire well.