For those of us who love to travel there is perhaps no greater way to understand ourselves and our world than through the conduit of travel. But with travel comes responsibility: how can we be good travelers; responsible consumers while respecting the environment we are in, the people we are surrounded by and the culture we are immersed in? Travel is a privilege, not an entitlement, therefore when I write about travel, and appear as a guest on radio shows I always encourage a thoughtful approach. So I’ve created just a few ideas to help us travel more ethically and responsibly and be better citizens of Planet Earth:
Minimize Your Environmental Impact
~Ask your hotel if they have a recycling program (they should – recycling rates in the U.S. are an abysmal 30%! They are much better in Canada and Europe). The morning newspapers, water bottles, and soda cans should be recycled. If the hotel doesn’t have a recycle program, suggest they might consider one.
~Recycle yourself: I routinely drink bottled water when I travel because I’m not always certain of the water sources of where I’m visiting. But I also recycle those bottles – either at the hotel, or if they don’t have a recycling program, I bring the bottles back with me in my suitcase. Hassle? Nope. They weigh next to nothing and barely take up space.
~Limit your water usage: many areas around the globe are water-stressed even in Cambria, home of the Hearst Castle, water is at a premium because there’s not that much of it. You may be on vacation, but that doesn’t mean you need a long shower.
|It's easy to recycle!|
Respect All Wildlife
This starts with not feeding wild animals. Sure they’re cute, curious and you can get close to them, but our own crappy diet habits should not be given to animals who are not used to the ingredients (chemical or otherwise) which we consume. Feeding animals damages their health, alters their natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Since Man is at the top of the food chain, we actually bear a greater responsibility to every other creature, to respect them and treat them well.
|The Channel Island Fox is adorable, but he doesn't need your food|
Stay on all designated trails when you hike, bike and walk. If you camp, camp on durable surfaces, and dispose of your garbage properly (especially true in parks and most especially true if you visit the Channel Islands here on the California Central Coast). So bring a bag with you and pack out exactly what you’ve packed in. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want someone to toss trash on your yard, right? Therefore treat everyplace you visit like it was your own home. It’s easy to think “I’m on vacation, so I’ll do as I please.” Well yeah, I get that idea, but it doesn’t mean our vacation is an entitlement.
Support the Local Economy
I was in Paris to run the Paris Marathon (raising money for cancer research) and part of the group I was with wanted to go to the Hard Rock Café. Mind you, I’m in
Paris, home of the best
food anywhere and though the Hard Rock employs local Parisians, I can go to a
Hard Rock anywhere. Visit the local places where you can explore and have unique
experiences. By supporting local businesses they will help the region you visit
to thrive. Don’t get me wrong, large corporations have their place too, but
dining at chain restaurants is far less valuable to a local economy.
|Support locals, like this farmer in Matzatlan|
Many places you visit rely on tourism – even here in Santa Barbara – and I’ve seen businesses shut down because visitors shop at chain stores over local businesses. Half the fun of traveling anywhere is trying new things. I always seek out the local coffee houses, local bakeries, breweries, wineries, restaurants, distilleries and shops and stores. And in truth, some of the best finds are local and only local. While in Switzerland a while back I had a local beer with fresh venison and a potato dish called rosti; all indigenous to the specific are I was in.
|This meal, like so many, was only available where I was traveling|
Ultimately treat every place you visit like it was your own backyard. My wife and I pick up trash around Santa Barbara where we live, and we do so everywhere we go, be that Spain, Paris or China. Trash is trash and if you can pick up litter on the way to visit a really cool site, you’ve done a fine thing. So have fun, travel well, learn, explore and by doing so you will continually evolve into a better person, a truly global soul who ends up being more compassionate, interesting and frankly, more cool to the people you meet
|Be a good traveler, be responsible and ethical|