Tourism as a whole has deep a impact on the world: on the one hand, it can, and does, contribute waste, reduce natural resources, and disturb precious ecosystems. On the other, the tourism industry plays a vital role in community development, conservation efforts, and promoting cultural heritage. While we may never completely erase our human footprint on the world’s landscapes, we can make efforts to embrace responsible travel and combat those negative effects.
Every choice made by the travel industry affects the environment, but traveling responsibly is never out of reach, thanks to more and more companies prioritizing sustainable practices. Hotels are implementing careful construction, leaving land undeveloped over a highly manicured lawn. Airline carriers are turning to alternative fuels that absorb carbon and allowing customers to buy carbon offsets with frequent flier miles. Even cruise lines are beginning to see change, from outsourcing food from sustainable fisheries to funding coral-reef restoration projects. Year in and year out, more and more companies push the envelope for responsible travel, through sustainability, community development, conservation, and cultural preservation. Each has a unique global vision to protect and preserve the place we travel through. Lightening one’s footprint begins by reducing the energy used—in hotels or airports, reinvigorating declining urban centers with edgy, art hotels, creating extraordinary experiences that introduce travelers to local causes, caring for (and restoring) threatened habitats.
Above all, consider your own impact. Some simple solutions you can incorporate on any trip: turn down your hotel room’s AC (or better yet, turn it off), reuse hotel towels, pack lightly, rent a hybrid car, take a shorter cruise, stay in a LEED-certified hotel, walk instead of jumping in a quick cab, and carry your own water bottle.