What is Ecotourism and Sustainable / Green / Eco Travel – Definition, Examples, FAQ


Bike ride in the forest with a river view

What is Ecotourism? Ecotourism is a responsible way of traveling to nature and undisturbed areas, the main goals of ecotourism is educating, conserving, improving natural areas. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about green travel, or eco travel. But for many, there is some confusion about what the terms actually mean. You may also have heard the terms ‘ecotourism’ and ‘sustainable travel’, and wonder what exactly that involves. Whether we use the term green travel, eco travel or sustainable travel – broadly speaking all three mean more or less the same thing. www.travelrows.com

Broadly speaking, all three are all about minimizing negative impact on planet and people, and making sure that our adventures will make the world a better place – rather than making it worse. They are about enjoying and appreciating our beautiful planet without threatening it, or our continued existence on Earth.

While the terms ‘green’ and ‘eco’ are more about the environment, and ‘sustainable’ focusses on the long-term and the survival of humanity, it is important to realize that these things are very much connected. After all, if we do not take care of the planet- our local and global environments and wildlife- then it will no longer be able to sustain human life. Green travel, and green living in general, is not just something that would be nice. It is essential if we are to combat the existential threats we face.

Green Travel Involves Lowering Your Carbon Footprint

By now, most of us are aware of the massive threat posed by climate change and global warming. Most of us are also aware of the cause for this man-made problem: the release of unprecedented quantities of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2) into our environment. Unfortunately, travel releases a lot of CO2 into our atmosphere each year. Air travel in particular is a dangerous culprit.

Green travel involves thinking about how we can lower our carbon footprints and be responsible for the release of less CO2 as we enjoy our vacations and trips. It might involve, for example:

  • Staycationing, or vacationing closer to home.
  • Taking eco-friendly trains, electric vehicles or renewable power transportation (such as a sail boat or solar vessel) to reach our destinations, rather than flying there.
  • Choosing slow travel options like hiking, biking, or paddling.
  • Opting for green accommodation which is committed to using renewable power, and to reducing CO2 emissions in other ways.
  • Reducing the CO2 emissions of food growth and transportation by choosing local, organic produce wherever we go.

Ecotourism Involves Conserving Environments & Protecting Wildlife

In addition to reducing or ideally eliminating our carbon emissions, green travel also involves making sure that we help to conserve environments and wildlife. It involves making sure that we do nothing that contributes to their destruction. This might involve:

  • Choosing off the beaten track destinations rather than tourist hotspots, so we do not put too much pressure on one particular environment.
  • Opting for eco tours and excursions, which work to eliminate environmental harm or degradation.
  • Eating only ethical, organic produce while we are away from home. (Pesticides and herbicides used in non-organic farming do great harm to the environment and animals.)

We might even be able to give back while on vacation, by volunteering for conservation or ‘rewilding’ projects around the world, or helping others to grow organic food.

Sustainable Travel Options Take Care of Resources and Use Them Wisely

Wherever we choose to go, an eco travel option is always one which minimises the use of resources, and always uses them wisely. Resources might include:

the building materials used to construct an eco travel accommodation option. (Low-impact, natural materials, or reclaimed materials, play an important role.)
fresh water. (Green travel options always work to conserve water, and use it wisely. A green hotel, for example, might have composting toilets, or low-flush toilets, and will also consider water use when choosing bedding etc… Conventionally grown cotton, for example, uses huge amounts of water to grow. Organic cotton, or other natural materials like hemp are more water-wise, greener options.)
fuels (for heating for example).

Eco Travel is All About Reducing Waste in All Its Forms

Travelers and those in the travel industry can go greener by reducing, reusing and recycling wherever possible. This is, of course, a big part of using resources wisely, and of working for a circular economy within the whole of the travel industry. But the three ‘r’s are not just about how we use resources – they are also, of course, about reducing and ideally eliminating waste in all its forms.

Waste is a major problem in today’s world – from the food waste clogging our landfill sites and releasing the potent greenhouse gas methane into the environment, to the plastic waste that has now contaminated practically every environment on earth. The travel industry, unfortunately, plays a role in creating those mountains of waste. Green travel seeks to find solutions to the waste problems. Solutions might include:

  • Natural/ compostable alternatives for travel products. (e.g. bamboo, natural bristle toothbrushes to replace the plastic ones travelers usually take with them on their travels; eco-friendly canvas tents for camping; plastic free luggage/ travel clothing etc…)
  • In-house recycling and upcycling in travel accommodation and other travel destinations.
    Food waste composting/ schemes to use excess produce in restaurants etc…

Ecotourism Must Always Keep Local Communities at the Fore

While the environment (both local and global) is a key concern, eco travel must also keep the needs of the local community at the heart of any enterprise. Eco travel schemes will not usually succeed unless the local community is enfranchised and takes the lead. Travelers can do their part by making sure that the local community wherever they are visiting benefits from their time there – both financially, and perhaps in other ways.

There are plenty of intricacies when it comes to green travel or eco travel. But the above should have given you a much clearer idea of what it is all about. So, now you know what green travel actually is – make sure you choose green travel options on your next adventure.

All the Articles About Green/Eco Travel on Our Website

Can travel help you live greener?

Green travel tips for eating

How camping vacations could help you go greener

How to choose a green hotel?

Eco friendly types of vacations

Packing tips for a green vacation

Zero waist vacation tips

What to buy and not to buy?

Eco-friendly types of transportation

Author of our ‘green’ articles is Elizabeth Waddington – a professional writer and a consultant on topics related to permaculture, sustainability, green living and eco travel.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular destinations for ecotourism?

If you are looking for a destination to start with, we advise to plan a trip to Alaska or California (USA) or to go to Kenya, Palau or Costa Rica.


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