It's important to know whether you're helping or harming the country you're visiting, and it's not always easy to tell. With specific regard to animals, many countries' developing economies take advantage of lax laws oversight of treatment of animals and the environment. Please do your research before engaging in any local activity that involves wildlife or the environment.
Animal and Environmental Tips
Do not ride on an elephant's back, we beg you. Not only does this cause the elephant long term back problems and exhaustion, but it also means that the elephant you're riding was submitted to a torturous process called The Crush in its childhood. Read this article to learn more about why you shouldn't ride an elephant.
Don't step on the coral and use reef-friendly sunscreen! If you visit popular snorkeling locations in the US, you'll probably have to watch a video first, showing you that stepping on the coral kills it, that urinating in the ocean around it negatively impacts the pH balance of the water when the area is visited by thousands of tourists year round, or that common sunscreen contain oxybenzone which disrupts coral growth. Unfortunately, these requirements don't always exist in other countries. Please take extra care not to step on any wildlife, touch it, or leave the path in any of your nature experiences, because chance are you don't know how adversely you're affecting the local environment.
- How are the animals treated? You'll find many tourist activities that offer the chance to interact with incredible wildlife. Your responsibility is to make sure that the wildlife is not ill-treated and exploited in order to entertain you.
The easiest way to do this is to check TripAdvisor reviews, and look at pictures tourists have taken rather than the dazzling, glossy ones you'll find on the attraction's website. Is the elephant keeper at the "elephant sanctuary" holding a bullhook? We can assure you, that elephant is abused on a daily basis in order to entertain you. Animals are wild creatures, so the unnatural
General Tips for Responsible Tourism
Consider these tips for Responsible Tourism from SustainableTourism.net:
- Be considerate of the communities and environment you visit.
- Don’t litter. Try to carry your own shopping bag to avoid contributing to the plastic problem in many countries of the world.
- Try to avoid excessive waste and the use of plastic bottles (in many countries there is no way of disposing of these, therefore creating plastic mountains due to tourism) – bring your own and consider purifying your own water & remove all packaging before leaving home.
- Reduce energy consumption. Unplug your mobile phone charger and turn off the lights when you're not using them.
- Conserve water. Take shorter showers--the average hotel guest uses over 300 litres of water per night!
- Always ask before taking photographs. If someone says no, respect their wishes.
- Educate yourself about the place you are visiting and the people.
- Respect cultural differences – and learn from it! People in different places do things differently – don’t try to change them – enjoy them.
- Dress respectfully. Observe local dress codes and adhere to them.
- Do not purchase or eat endangered species (e.g. turtle egg soup, crocodile handbags). Choose sustainable seafood
- Support the local economy. Buy locally made souvenirs, eat at local restaurants – enjoy the local culture!
- Do not give pens, candy or other gifts to local children – it fosters a begging economy. If you wish to donate, contact a local school or tour operator who can ensure the gifts are distributed fairly and properly.
- Do not support the illegal drug trade or the sex trade.
- Do no
- Take public transit. Or if you must rent a car – why not a hybrid or electric one?
- Before you go, ask your travel provider (tour operator, travel agent) about the company’s environmental and responsible tourism policies – support those who support responsible tourism.
- Ask your accommodation provider (hotel, guest house, lodge) about their sustainability practices – do they compost? Recycle? Have fair labour laws? Have an environmental policy?
- Support responsible tourism organizations – those operators who publicly are aiming to make tourism more responsible.
- Support local organisations – either in the place you visit or where you live