Green travel, also known as responsible tourism or sustainable tourism, is something all backpackers should be thinking about as they jet off on their big world adventure. Green travel is about being aware of the environment and your impact on it when you travel. It’s also about respecting your destination and knowing how you can have a positive effect on the countries you visit.
Asia is the world’s biggest continent with almost 4 billion humans and many more animals. The impact of the millions of tourists that visit each year and the immense population growth and rapid economic development is straining the continent’s natural resources and biodiversity.
To protect Asia’s wildlife and habitats as tourists we need to travel responsibly and respectfully. For Asia to remain as beautiful and diverse as it is there are a few things you can do to help…
1. Dispose of litter carefully
The most obvious thing you can do while travelling is to think about how to dispose of your garbage. Unfortunately, garbage cans are not a common sight in many developing countries, but don’t just throw it on the streets or leave it in the jungle. Much of the plastic in the world is non-degradable and takes thousands of years to decompose. So when you leave the destination, the locals will still have to live with your garbage, and for both animals and humans this can have a disastrous effect.
An average backpacker in Asia buys two large bottles each day. If you’re traveling in Asia for 60 days, that means 120 plastic bottles! In 2010, there were 15 million international tourists in Thailand – imagine how many plastic bottles that was? Before you go abroad invest in some water-purifying tablets, this will save the use of millions of plastic bottles per year.
Sometimes it may be more difficult to dispose of waste considerately – green travel requires co-operation and initiative from the local government which can sometimes be tricky.
2. Use water wisely
Anoher way to practice green travelling is to be aware of your water use. Turn off the water while you’re shampooing your hair in the shower and while you’re brushing your teeth. Use squat toilets instead of western style toilets too as every time you flush you use a massive eight litres water.
3. Dive considerately
A popular activity for travelers is snorkelling or diving. Watch your feet or swim fins while you’re doing it though – touching or stepping on corals is like stepping on the ocean’s rainforest. The underwater life is slowly fading away, mostly due to oil leaks, disposal of hazardous chemicals and deep-sea fishing.
If you’re tired, lay on your back and float instead of resting your feet on corals. It takes millions of years for corals to form. These corals provide shelter, food and breeding grounds for a lot of marine species so treat them with respect.
4. Use eco-friendly tour operators
Green traveling is also about the personal choices you make while you’re backpacking; that means the tours you choose, the hotel you’re planning to stay at and the food you eat. Try to find travel agencies that promote small ‘eco friendly’ tours. To find eco friendly hotels or guesthouses, you need to do a bit of research, but it will be worth it for the positive effect on the environment.
5. Respect the animals
Backing off endangered species is a way of supporting green travelling and local sustainable development. Even if an animal; whether mammal, reptile or fish, is endangered some of them are still served at fancy restaurants. Sometimes the customers don’t know that the fish they are served is on a list of endangered species. Knowledge is key.
Thanks to Jeff Kubina, Manish Bansel, Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten, Bohari Adventures and Buitenzorger for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.