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Embracing eco-friendly tourism

✦ Here at Brilliant-Online we have delivered numerous stories on the state of our planet’s health and how efforts are being made to enhance eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable approaches to help protect its future.

Many of us have been couped up for significant periods of time during the last 24 months or so, itching with the travel bug to get back out there into pastures new. Now the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be softening, at least in its severity and reach, borders have reopened and travel is once again largely permitted across the world.

Whereas this is great news for many of us, it isn’t necessarily for Mother Nature as the travel industry is one of the most detrimental in respects to its impact on the environment. Aircrafts emit heavy levels of carbon emissions, hotels use gallons of water to clean sheets and towels, and countless single-use plastics are utilised by travellers in their array of destinations. There is also the damage that tourism en masse does to the environment, with diving expeditions and the damage they inflict on coral reefs and the ocean being just one example of a popular tourist pursuit. Could it be that our frequent getways are causing far more damage to the planet and natural habitats than we realise?

Fortunately, ongoing campaigns to raise awareness as to the plight of the planet are having a positive impact and eco-friendly or green travel is now more than just a passing fad – it is a way of life for many.

“Sustainable travel is all about creating a positive effect on the communities you visit,” says Jon Bruno, executive director of the International Ecotourism Society. “Leave the place better than you found it.” In a nut shell, its definition of eco-tourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

Being an eco-friendly traveller sounds pretty straightforward in theory but maybe in practice it isn’t so. Here we touch upon a few ideas to make your green journey that little bit more attainable with some simple tips that are relatively easy to apply.

Do your research

To start with, just a little research prior to choosing your destination can very easily throw forward a myriad of options. There are many spots globally, be they well known or otherwise, that make conscious steps towards sustainability and protection of the environment that offer a perfect holiday destination. The Green Destinations website has a wealth of ideas and tips, including a Top 100 list.

Also, some airlines have a carbon offset option when booking your flight, whereby any money donated will go toward reducing emissions being added adding somewhere else. It might not seem especially relevant individually but if the approach is adopted in a more widespread manner then it can have a hugely positive impact.

The lighter the better

It sounds simple but packing as light as possible will mean that you are really only taking what you truly need but the lighter load will help cut down on aircraft carbon emissions. Historically, people tend to overpack as a habit, not sure what they will need when at their destination. How many times have you realised that you didn’t wear or use half of the things you jammed into your case prior to departure?

Eco-travel feature story by Brilliant-Online
Travel light

Keep it clean!

We all need a good shower after a long day sight-seeing, especially if in warmer, tropical and humid climes. However, instead of relying on the array of amenties that hotel chains and accommodation venues provide, think about possibly bringing your own shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, body lotion, etc. The small tubes and containers that hotels typically provide are not biodegradable and are therefore terrible for the environment.

Also, if planning a sun-soaked trip, check what type of sunscreen cream you are using. The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate found in many popular brands have been found to increase coral bleaching. Infact, in 2018 Hawaii became the first US state to ban the sale of such products. You can find a list of 11 reef-safe sunscreens here.

Put your phone down!

The world and his wife seems to be on social media these days, with many people seemingly living their lives through the likes of Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Whereas this is fine if it’s what floats your boat, widespread promotion of destinations can actually have an adverse effect on the environment by encouraging masses of tourists to visit. This is especially relevant if the person sharing the post is famous and widely followed, as hoardes of fans and disciples flock to the hallowed turf where their idol only recently stood!

One of the worst examples of a destination becoming a victim of celebrity was Maya Bay, not far from Phuket and Phi Phi in Thailand. An island paradise with sugar white sandy beaches and translucent, warm waters surrounded by beautiful, natural limestone cliffs, it rocketed to worldwide acclaim when it featured as the main location in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach back in 2000. Millions of tourists soon flocked to the destination which, sadly, utimately caused its demise.

Revival of Maya Bay. Eco tourism by Brilliant-Online
Revival of Maya Bay

By 2018, there were 6,000 people visiting Phi Phi everyday, leaving swathes of plastic litter and causing irreparable damage to the local coral and fauna. The bay could not sustain it any longer and closed in 2018. Over the four years since its closure, the natural habitat has had time to breath again and regenerate. It reopened in January, 2022 although with strict limitations on the numbers and duration allowed to visit.

Similarly, lay off or at the very least be more cautious and responsible when taking selfies. The need to take selfies these days has hit record numbers but be mindful when on holiday. There are countless examples of people wandering off designated areas in an attempt to capture the perfect shot, often into dangerous situations – there was the famous story of a French tourist in Thailand in 2017 trying to get too close to a crocodile when after that oh-so-precious selfie who ended up getting bitten by the, understandably, irate reptile! Also, wandering off into territories unknown can often mean damage to the local environment where people trample delicate fauna – the message is, the designated trails are there for a reason so best to stay on the beaten track!

Leave no trace

A popular approach among outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of camping is the leave-no-trace policy whereby you take away everything you bring with you to, effectively, leave no obvious mark on the environment. This mainly means packaging, containers, utensils, reusable bags, etc. We all know litterling is wrong but ensuring everything you take in with you can then be taken away is another step in the right direction.

Say No to single-use plastics

Fast becoming the scourge of the world from a pollutant perspective, single-use plastics are something that we all have the power to refuse. Declining plastic straws, plastic coffee stirrers, plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic cutlery are just a few of the examples of how we can make a positive contribution. We all get thirsty so best take a reusable drinking bottle with you instead of purchasing the endless supply of plastic bottles.

Indeed, this is a conscious approach that we can all make in our everyday lives and not just when on holiday. Hopefully, as alluded to earlier, if you’ve done your research and headed to an eco-friendly destination then this wouldn’t be an issue at all although there are still, unfortunately, so many places globally that haven’t yet adopted the riddance of single-use plastics as a policy.

There are so many ways we can contribute to a healthier planet and just taking a little time to make conscious decisions with something like our holiday destination choices, how we get there and what we do when we are there, is just one example. Enjoy your next holiday but please do so with a nod to the planet’s overall health by embracing eco-friendly tourism!

Protect the planet's overall health by embracing eco-friendly tourism. Feature by Brilliant-Online
Protect the planet's overall health by embracing eco-friendly tourism


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