Published: June 2009
By Suzanne Mozes
1. Answer: C. You need to drink clean water, but you don’t need to buy bottle after bottle. They add up quickly in landfills (especially in countries that don’t recycle!). Ask your hotel in advance if it will top off your reusable bottle with filtered water. If not, consider bringing a filtered water system.
2. Answer: A. As a general rule, U.S. Customs (cbp.gov) does not permit products made from sea turtles, cats, elephant, or rhinoceros to pass through the border. And don’t believe vendors who insist that a certificate of authenticity will ensure that you will get past Customs. Check out Tips for Travelers at fws.gov or Buyer Beware at worldwildlife.org before doing your vacation shopping.
3. Answer: C. To offset or not to offset?Either way, you need to whittle down your carbon diet. Offsetting carbon consumption will ease your travel-conscience, but you don’t always know how or where your money will be invested. It’s not going to solve global warming, but it is a step toward the ultimate goal of going carbon neutral.
4. Answer: B. When in Rome, do as the Romans do-and read up on what they do before you get there. Whether crossing a street or a mountain range, you should try your best to adhere to the destination’s dress code and cultural mores. Public displays of affection in Asia are generally frowned upon, as is nudity and touching someone’s head, and don’t forget to remove your shoes before entering a home.
5. Answer: A. Unplug all battery chargers and laptops and invest in a programmable thermostat so you aren’t heating or cooling your house when you’re not there. Also, a bulb that burns all day wastes energy. Buy a timer for the light, instead.
6. Answer: A. Avoid these depopulated species at all costs, says Seafood Watch, a conservation group run by California’s nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium. Local fishermen, too, use unsustainable methods like longlines and bottom-trawling gear, which damage seafloor habitats and kill other fish. Print out a responsible-seafood guide at mbayaq.org.
7. Answer: B. When you must fly, lighten your load: according to Tom Arnold, chief environmental officer at TerraPass, each 15 pounds of luggage on a 5,000-mile flight adds up to 50 pounds of CO2. Go nonstop: takeoffs and landings burn more fuel than the flight. And avoid the red-eye: the warming effect of emissions is twice as pronounced at night. As for carbon offsetting, it’s commendable, but no substitute for conservation. Besides, you can’t always be sure where your money is going (see page 44 for a list of top carbon-offsetting companies).
8. Answer: B. Vendors are used to tourists on the hunt for bargains, but there’s a limit. Don’t battle it out for the absolute lowest price; just pay what something is worth to you. Countering with one-half to one-third below the quoted price is a good rule of thumb in much of the world. Yelling won’t get you far, especially in Asia and South America, where public displays of anger are frowned upon. But if you don’t bargain at all, you will encourage vendors to raise prices for other tourists.
9. Answer: C. While nothing is wrong with giving children money, there are consequences. By handing them cash, candy, or lunch, you encourage them to depend on tourists. Instead, donate to a reputable charity in that location.
10. Answer: B. Some of your money will inevitably wind up in government coffers, but choosing a responsible tour operator is one way to make sure your dollars flow in the right direction. (See our "20 Trips," page 99.) Ask your operator about its compliance with fair-trade principles, which guarantees that a significant portion of proceeds returns to the country’s people. Also, read up on the region’s governmental policies at the U.S. State Department’s Web site (travel.state.gov).
11. Answer: D. Call the property beforehand (ask for the concierge) and play sleuth with these questions: Do they hire locals?Pay fair wages?Source food locally?Implement environmental programs?(See "Our 15 Favorite Green Hotels," page 117.) Don’t assume that because a hotel is locally owned that it’s any greener or treats its employees better than one owned by a multinational hotel group. And newer constructions aren’t always more eco-friendly, even if they claim to be.
12. Answer: C. The best way to help porters is by working with an ethical tour operator, which ensures everyone’s safety. Check that the company pays the guides fair wages, provides medical care on the trail, and gives them appropriate shelter. Don’t think that you can trek this mountain by yourself, and though it’s certainly riddled with tourists, that shouldn’t hold you back from seeing Machu Picchu, for now, at least.