Since it is Earth Day, I’ve been thinking about how we can make an impact when we travel, and whether or not we are required to be responsible for the environment when we are on the road. For me, it seems like a no-brainer. If we are going to take advantage of the opportunity to see the world, we should make sure that we take care of it as we go along. So how do we act responsibly toward the environment while we travel? And can we really make an impact when we are only in a location for a short period of time?
As a travel writer, this means for me that I tell the whole story to my readers. I recently wrote an article about the disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park for Matador. As much as I try to encourage visitors to my home state, I also want them to be aware that we have work to do as a society in order to maintain our landscapes. I feel as though I have a responsibility when I write to let others know in which ways we are affecting the environment.
As most travelers would probably agree with me, it’s impossible not to see some of the changes that we’ve rendered. The Great Barrier Reef has been proclaimed “dead,” Venice is sinking, and animal and plant species are dying out a terrifying rate. As someone who tries to encourage others to travel, I want to know that we are making an effort to preserve our world the best we can for next generations.
So how do we do this? While I have some issues with many voluntourism organizations, there are a number of them that are truly trying to make a positive difference. One organization that I believe in is Visit.org, which works hard to create ethical volunteer jobs for travelers. I’ve worked with them on a number of projects and I’m impressed by how they work to create tours that connect travelers with locals and work on sustainability.
But you don’t have to always make a big impact every time you travel. In fact, small changes to daily habits can actually make the biggest difference. I’ve started carrying around a refillable water bottle instead of getting plastic bottles every time I need water (and when you’re traveling to many locales, water is important). I don’t buy a lot of things—partially because I don’t have a place to put a ton of stuff, but partially because I don’t really need it and I think of all the natural resources that went into creating that product.
I’ve also committed to finding adventure tours that I can recommend to readers on the blog that are working toward helping the environment. I am journeying with Ninth Wave Global this summer to the Azores (by sailboat) in order to talk with other travelers about sustainability and to write about the current environmental situation that is rapidly changing the islands.
It’s these small things that really make a difference as we travel, but I do believe that it’s an important part of contributing to a world that gives so much to us.