It seems that soon we will all be able to start traveling again. We will be able to leave our computers and take a break from playing online at our favorite Vegas casino. But before that time arrives, we should perhaps take the time to think about what tourism and travel does to the planet. It is important that we commit to traveling sustainably. Our travelling must support conservation.
A recent poll taken by National Geographic and Morning Consult to find out if people had altered their view of travel since Covid-19, found that the majority of people said they would be more comfortable and safe travelling to more remote areas.
National Geographic’s team is aiming to make their excursions more sustainable. The goal is to reduce their carbon footprint, explore hidden areas, be respectful of cultural variances and actually invest in the communities they visit which also means helping organizations that are protecting the environment.
Here below are a few things that we all, as travelers, can do to explore and travel sustainably.
Exploring the world above us
We tend to focus our attention on all that is around us. However, there are incredible things to explore in the space above us. Exploring the world of the cosmos. You can explore this wonderful world even with your smartphone. The science of astrology is helping us to understand a world hitherto unknown to us.
Andrew Fazekas, a friend of National Geographic has put together a list of stargazing events that are happening this year. He lists a number of events such as a “blood moon” eclipse, and also some amazing meteor showers. Sadly, for the majority of Americans at least, they are not able to view the Milky Way anymore and the problem of light pollution is not improving.
If you want to get a good view of the stars you will need to travel to somewhere very dark, parks and other places protected by the International Dark-Sky Association. They are ensuring that the night sky is protected in these areas by enforcing responsible lighting regulations.
Enjoy the great outdoors
The pandemic has forced us all to be stuck inside. With the easing of restrictions there is a longing to embrace all that is beautiful in the great outdoors. All those national parks, remote open spaces, deserts and waterfalls are now on everyone’s compass. Camping and sleeping under the stars may become the number one choice rather than an afterthought.
Sustainable travel should be accessible to everyone. The George Wright Forum found that only 2 percent of people of color in America visit national parks. But this could change now. There are organizations like Color Outside, Black Girls Hiking and Outdoor Afro that are encouraging outdoor activities. There are some 62 very well-known national parks and many more public spaces looked after by the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service. There is an abundance of natural beauty for everyone to explore.
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Be a responsible visitor while enjoying public lands
During the Pandemic, preserving national parks and other spaces has become particularly challenging. Many more people have been flocking to these areas to gain some relief from being locked inside. Many of these people are first-timers and, perhaps, are not aware of how important it is to preserve these places and to use them sustainably.
It is not unusual to see trails full of litter or to see the beginnings of trail braiding where many people have taken shortcuts and a new path has developed causing erosion and harm to the natural environment. It behooves us all to make sure we are behaving responsibly. Learning how to be a responsible visitor will benefit us all. “Leave no trace, steer clear of wildlife, and respect your neighbors” said Rachel Brown.
Be a research volunteer and enjoy the trip at the same time
It is possible to go on a trip and do some good at the same time. There are science trips and expeditions where volunteers are required to collect data that will help researchers learn more about biodiversity and the effects of climate change. Earthwatch and Biosphere do expeditions and are involved in projects all around the globe. You do not need to have a background in science just a willingness to get stuck in and learn the ropes. Darlene Cavalier, in SciStarter lists a huge number of projects. It may not be something you are able to do right now but it could well be something to note down for future reference.
Be ethical when making purchases
It is fun searching out, browsing and ultimately purchasing some of the wonderful things being made by people in the all the different places around the world. Beautiful scarves made in Morocco, carpets in Turkey, or paper lanterns made in Japan. However, we need to know that those who made these items were not exploited, by being underpaid or overworked.
The ideal situation is to meet, if possible, with the artisan who actually made the item. This is the best way to know if you are shopping ethically. Learning a little about the work of these artisans will also make your purchase more meaningful. There are quite a few “courses” you can sign up for to learn about the work of some of these artisans. In Jaipur you can sign up to learn traditional Indian block printing or try a short learning schedule with “Vacation with an Artist”, which puts you in touch with all kinds of artists from Portuguese potters to Japanese calligraphers.
Visit your own backyard
Most of us know very little about the area in which we live. We are always looking to explore other places; somehow, they always seem more interesting. You will likely be surprised to learn all the hidden, and not so hidden, gems just around the corner. You can find out about these places through word of mouth but they can also be found on online sites like All Trails and Reddit. Also checking out local guides can be very useful and revealing.
For families, even before the pandemic, it was hard travelling with small children. Therefore, visiting local hidden gems that are only a short drive away can be really enjoyable. You can find hidden beaches, local cultural attractions or interesting hikes. Experiencing these things through the eyes of your young children may help to create a real appreciation for the simple things in life.
Becoming a virtual traveler will reduce your carbon footprint
Museums are a great place to learn about new and interesting places. Even if you are unable to actually visit the place physically you can still visit virtually and this has benefits for the environment. Many museums and other institutions have invested in advanced technology that now makes connecting with their programs possible. A few possibilities are the Museum of Modern Art’s Virtual Views program or, perhaps the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of South Korea. More can be found at the Google Arts and Culture partnership.