Some special occasions are far too important to celebrate with ‘stuff.’ What makes a more memorable gift — Your honeymoon vacation? Or that year you and your spouse decided the new sofa would be your gift to each other?
If you read us often, you’ll know we encourage experiences over ‘stuff.’ So when you consider an experience gift of travel, it’s also important to consider the impact on the planet.
This type of travel is called Eco-travel or Ecotourism, and it’s the new way of life for many travelers. Essentially it is responsible travel, replacing indulgent vacations that are either no longer affordable, or just don’t feel right to green-minded travelers.
Choosing the perfect Eco Tourism Destination
From volunteer vacations to eco-luxury retreats, your options are limitless. So, where will ecotourism take you?
When you consider your ideal destination, there are two questions to ask yourself: Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and get involved? Or do you just want to relax and get away from it all?
Either way, there’s a perfect eco-travel option for you.
The Travel Industry Associations of America says nearly 56 million Americans have taken some form of volunteer vacation, and nearly twice as many are looking for options to “travel for good.”
You’ll get a chance to soak up the local flavors and culture, while making it a meaningful trip. By choosing ecotourism abroad, your money encourages developing nations to protect their natural resources and preserve the local culture.
Just a few examples of volunteer vacations are:
- Care for endangered wallabies in Australia
- Work on an organic farm in South Africa
- Observe and record marine life to help protect coastal ecosystems
- Help women learn trades to support their families and villages
- Work with large organizations like the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity
Sustainable Luxury Vacations
If relaxation is more your style, you won’t be roughing it at today’s sustainable luxury resorts. They’ve found a way to “green” every service and amenity… housekeeping, toiletries, food, energy, and transportation.
My ecotourism dream vacation is the Lapa Rios Rainforest Eco-Lodge in Costa Rica. Set in a tropical rainforest with pristine Pacific Ocean front views, this resort is as stunning as it is sustainable. I completely love the fact that it was designed in harmony with the forest and the beach.
Lapa Rios is known for its responsible land use and for supporting local workers. Even the housekeeping practices are green: they compost kitchen waste, use biodegradable cleaning and laundry supplies, and the sheets and towels are dried in the sun.
But Lapa Rios is just one of many beautiful, yet sustainable destinations. National Geographic has an entire section devoted to sustainable or “GeoTravel”.
Responsible travel starts in the planning stage
Taking green travel a step further, we consider what it takes to set yourself up for a sustainable trip before you ever leave the house. The good news is: today, there are more options than ever for greening your vacation.
Several commercial airlines have updated fleets of planes with winglets, which reduce drag and carbon dioxide emissions by about 5 percent.
Go a step further and invest just $20 in clean energy or forestry projects to help offset your travel carbon footprint. ClimateTrust is a reliable organization to help you find your ideal donation.
When you arrive at your destination, be sure to take advantage of public transportation like buses and ferries. Or soak up the local culture by walking from place to place.
Ideally, you should choose a hotel that’s eco-friendly. But you can still do your part:
- Reuse your sheets and towels
- Bring your own soap and shampoos in reusable containers and pass on the complimentary ones
- Always turn off the lights and A/C when you leave the room
- Recycle your newspaper, guide maps, water bottles, etc.
- Be sure to patronize local establishments. Eating at a neighborhood restaurant is better for the local economy than going to a chain restaurant.
So what are you waiting for? Start packing for that eco friendly trip! And don’t forget to send us a postcard… or at least post a comment and tell us all about your amazing experience gift!