14 August 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Top 10 Earth-friendly travel tips

As a visitor to a country, you wield incredible power. Your simplest choices can make a positive difference in the lives of the people you travel among. Find the win-win options that combine maximum enjoyment with local benefit.

Interaction with locals often yields the best memories. Photo Chris Marais

As a traveller, can you save the world? Perhaps not, but the choices you make can make a positive difference in many lives. Here are my top 10 Earth-friendly travel tips:

1. Before you book your trip, do plenty of research. Find out which is the shortest route to your destination. The more stopovers, the more fuel is used by the airline.

Chat with locals. Get to know the country from the inside out.

2. If you’re coming to South Africa, seek out responsible tourism operators. Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, Heritage and Green Leaf accredit ethical companies where staff enjoy good working conditions and training, where the environment is respected, and where local communities and businesses benefit.

Staying in a small establishment is generally better for the environment and community than a swish hotel

3. On that subject, consider that staying in a small guest house has a far smaller carbon footprint and usually far greater benefits to the local community than staying in a big, internationally owned hotel.

4. The tap water in South Africa is mostly good, so there’s seldom need for bottled water. If you’re unsure, buy 1 of those long-life bottles with a water filter.

5. Whatever you do, don’t buy souvenirs that come from endangered animals. No rare woods, shells, corals, shark teeth or anything made of ivory.

6. Your food choices are important. Eat seasonal, locally produced food. As for fish, the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative makes it easier. Just send a ‘fishMS’ to +27 (0)79 499 8795 with the name of the fish you’re considering and you’ll get a reply in seconds telling you whether your choice is classified as green (go ahead and order), orange (think twice) or red (absolutely not).

Most people are happy to be photographed, but ask permission first. Photo Chris Marais

7. Ask questions about the environmental policies of the place where you stay, or the tour or adventure operator you might choose. Ask questions about whether local communities benefit. As travellers show their preferences, so responsible tourism grows. Your queries might inspire a ‘greenwash’ establishment to become the real deal.

8. Chat with locals. Get to know the country from the inside out. Don’t just come for the brochure experience of a lovely hotel room and swish surroundings. Your best memories will come from encounters with people.

9. Haggle, but not too much. By all means, feel free to seek a good deal on that must-have object, but don’t take advantage of someone’s hunger and desperation to make a sale.

10. Be respectful. In the case of South Africa, most people are happy to be photographed, but some might not be. Always ask permission first.

Haggle by all means, but not too much. Photo Chris Marais

Category: Responsible Tourism

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