What is Responsible Travel

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What is "Responsible Travel?"
You can enjoy adventure, nature and/or culture, and be socially and
ecologically conscious. Responsible travel is about having fun, while
also giving back. It is ethical travel that strives to reduce negative
impacts of our journey while creating long term benefits to the
environment, local people, and their communities.
"Eco-Green-Sustainable-Responsible Travel." Really? Just How "Green" is
Green?
By Peggy Lichter President, Wiser World Travel
The last time I checked, I could place my company on an online eco-
directory for $100, no proof necessary as to my sustainable practices
(other than professing my "green-ness.")Â As a tour operator, I can
convey my environmental concern by asking travelers to offset their
carbon emissions ? at their expense. How do we determine if our journeys
support local communities? Are we staying in locally owned
accommodations, eating in local restaurants, being educated by local
guides, better insuring financial benefits to host communities? How do we
know if negative impacts of travel are being minimized, that long term
benefits to local people and communities will outweigh possible short
term costs?
Are we being "greenwashed"? Just what is that, anyway? EnviroMedia Social
Marketing says greenwashing is "when a company or organization spends
more time and money claiming to be ‘green' through advertising and
marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize
environmental impact. It's whitewashing, but with a green brush."
Eco Practices?
I recently attended a conference in a U.S. city. The hotel that hosted
the event belongs to a major chain, which touts its commitment to
sustainable practices. They have been recognized twice as the Energy Star
Partner of the Year for Excellence in Energy Management. Yet conference
attendees were wearing extra layers of clothing to keep warm in the
conference rooms due to the air conditioning setting; just think what
energy could be conserved if the temperature was set even two degrees
warmer.
Plastic cups wrapped in plastic were replaced daily. After using a
thimble-full of shampoo and hair conditioner, the almost full bottles
were removed and replaced with new ones. I don't have to tell you how
plastic and non-biodegradable products clog our earth, not to mention the
waste of product. Is a "green" hotel one that asks guests to place
towels on the floor if laundering is desired and guests can choose to not
have sheets changed daily? While of course a plus for conservation, are
these practices suggested because they are environmentally correct or
primarily because they are visible, sustainable practice that positively
affect the bottom line and the hotel's image? And does conservation
become the responsibility of the customer?
Questions to Ask
How do we know if tour operators providing great "eco" trips are "walking
their talk"? What questions might we ask? Does the operator have any eco-
certifications? Are you staying at locally owned and operated
accommodations where the employees are from the local community? Are you
eating at local restaurants and being guided by local experts? If on a
tour, does the tour operator support sustainability programs in the
communities/regions to which they go? Do they contribute to a carbon
offset program? Does the operator and the accommodations that they
support recycle and demonstrate energy efficiency when possible? Are
travelers educated about the local culture and environment? Are they
encouraged to conserve and recycle?
The New Green
Perhaps we should do what British journalist Nick Rosen (off-grid.net)
suggests regarding greenwashing, ". . . we have to adopt a new color:
brown. Brown is the new green . . . Advertisers will never want to hijack
such a color. Brown is a reminder of what we talk about when we talk
about the Earth. It's a reconnection with our own dirt . . ."

"Green" has become fashionable, and of course every little bit helps for
whatever reason, even if it's for financial gain. But over the long term,
in order to sustain our earth with the least negative impact to it and to
life, don't we need to change our fundamental belief systems about the
connectivity between all people and the earth? If we love to travel, by
encouraging responsible travel practices, we can contribute to our
world's life span ? and not lose a bit of the fun, adventure, or
excitement of new experiences! And if bottom lines are positively
affected, it will happen.
About Wiser World Travel, LLC and Peggy Lichter, President
Wiser World Travel matches travelers to the most fitting, enjoyable,
quality, and sustainable packaged and custom tours and itineraries
offered by our ever-growing group of committed tour operators. We
strongly believe that members of the travel industry have a
responsibility to the environment and people of the world, and we intend
to make sure that the travel providers within the Wiser World network
meet the expectations set by our caring travelers.
Wiser World Travel was founded by Peggy Lichter in 2008. Peggy sought to
use her business and entrepreneurial experience to make a positive impact
on people and the global environment. Upon her travels she became
enthused about sustainable tourism, and how through travel we all have
the potential to contribute to the betterment of our world. Ultimately,
her difficulty in verifying tour operators who "walk their walk"
regarding responsible travel, combined with the lack of standardized
sustainable criteria in the travel industry, led to the company's
inception.

Responsible Travel: Helping Now
By Reagen Lowrey
Scientists are no longer debating if climate change is occurring, as the
devastating effects can already be seen globally. Nor is there any doubt
that human activities are a major part of the problem.
So why is this important to you, fellow travelers? Well, if emissions
continue to rise as currently projected, many of the places we like to
visit will simply no longer exist. A 2005 study conducted by Sustainable
Travel International found that the travel industry contributes about one
third of the world's climate damaging emissions. Are we saying that you
should not travel? No, of course not. Not only does travel broaden our
perspectives, but many economies in the developing world are dependent on
it. Put simply, we believe the lesson to be learned is how to strike a
balance.
Some members of the travel industry recognize their responsibility to
curtail negative impacts of tourism; they are making efforts to create
positive outcomes for the environment, local people and cultures, and
raising awareness about the need for green alternatives and
sustainability.
For the rest of us, it has never been more important to understand and
implement our own responsible travel practices, and to support those
travel providers and tour operators who are demonstrating such practices.
What exactly is "responsible travel"? It is ethical/conscious travel
that strives to reduce negative impacts while creating long-term benefits
to the environment, local people and their communities. It's about
having fun, while also giving back.
Go local. Protect the environment. Respect cultures and customs. Offset
carbon emissions. These are just some of the many things you can do as a
responsible traveler.
About the Author
Reagen Lowrey is a journalism graduate student at the University of
Colorado at Boulder and a former intern with Wiser World Travel. She is a
freelance writer who also leads international walking tours with a
Georgia-based trekking company.

Responsible Travel Tips To Enhance Your Journey . . .
Before You Leave
Choose a travel provider that best meets your needs and demonstrates best
practices for responsible travel and sustainability.
Request to see your provider's responsible travel policy.
Ask relevant questions, e.g., are local guides hired, are group sizes
limited (to minimize environmental and social impact)? Are accommodations
they use locally owned, do they purchase locally, recycle? Does the tour
operator participate in a carbon offset program?
Be an informed traveler.
Learn a few words of the local language to be polite, e.g., hello,
please, thank you.
Do as much research as you can via the internet and guidebooks to learn
about the local culture and environment.- Traveling with understanding
and respect earns you respect
Recycle/leave as much excess packaging at home as you can, e.g., film
boxes, plastic wrapping.
Consider your transportation options. Can you take a train rather than
fly?
Offset your carbon emissions (visit carbonfund.org).
If traveling to developing countries, ask your tour operator or hotel
what might be useful gifts for local people, e.g., pens, pencils, writing
pads.
While You're Enjoying Your Trip
Go local.
If looking for a guide, hire a local person or participate in a group
that employs a local guide.
Purchase local food and products.
Eat in local restaurants rather than international chains.
Protect the environment.
Use public transportation, hire a bike, or walk when you can.
Avoid littering.
Stay on existing trails.
Conserve resources.
Use water sparingly.
Avoid wasting food.
Re-use towels and bed sheets.
Don't litter.
Demonstrate respect for the local culture.
Be sensitive to cultural differences, and show respect for differences in
customs, e.g., dress codes.
Understand the differences in concepts such as personal space and time,
and with non verbal communication.
Avoid obvious displays of wealth or handing out of money, which may
result in jealousy and resentment.
Understand bargaining; know when it is appropriate and when it is not.
Upon Your Return
Provide feedback to your tour operator. We can make a difference,
creating positive impact towards environmental and economic
sustainability, and to supporting local communities and cultures around
the world!

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