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What Is Sustainable Tourism and How Can You Incorporate It into Your Travels?

By Sandra Roussy August 20, 2023 Travel

Sustainable tourism, also known as responsible tourism or ecotourism, refers to the practice of visiting a place as a tourist while minimizing the negative impact on the environment, supporting local communities, and preserving cultural heritage. It aims to promote economic development, conserve natural resources, and foster social and cultural integrity.

There are several ways to support sustainable tourism, and this article will focus on the following:

  1. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations
  2. Support Local Businesses and Communities
  3. Respect the Environment
  4. Conserve Resources
  5. Choose Sustainable Transportation
  6. Minimize Plastic Waste
  7. Learn About the Local Culture and Customs
  8. Support Conservation Initiatives
  9. Educate Yourself and Others

So How Exactly Do You Travel Sustainably?

Let’s have a more detailed look into each of the above categories.

Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Look for hotels, resorts, or lodges that prioritize sustainability practices, such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction, and use of renewable resources.

Support Local Businesses and Communities

Opt for locally owned hotels, restaurants, and shops to contribute directly to the local economy. Engage in cultural exchanges by participating in local activities and purchasing locally made products.

Respect the Environment

Follow the principles of “leave no trace” by minimizing your impact on natural surroundings. Avoid littering, respect wildlife and their habitats, and use designated trails when hiking.

Conserve Resources

Be mindful of your water and energy consumption while traveling. Take shorter showers, turn off lights and air conditioning when not needed, and reuse towels and bed linen in your accommodations.

Choose Sustainable Transportation

Opt for eco-friendly transportation options whenever possible. Consider using public transportation, cycling, or walking to explore destinations. If flying is necessary, favor direct flights and try to offset your carbon emissions.

Minimize Plastic Waste

Carry a reusable water bottle and refill it instead of buying single-use plastic bottles. Bring your own reusable shopping bags and say no to plastic straws and bags.



Learn About the Local Culture and Customs

Respect and appreciate the local culture by learning about their customs, traditions, and etiquette. Be mindful of appropriate behavior, dress modestly where required, and ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

Support Conservation Initiatives

Consider visiting national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, or nature reserves that focus on conservation efforts. Your entrance fees and donations can contribute to the preservation of these natural areas.


Educate Yourself and Others

Learn about sustainability issues in the destinations you plan to visit. Share your knowledge and experiences with others to raise awareness about sustainable tourism practices.

Remember, sustainable tourism is a collective effort that requires the involvement of both travelers and the tourism industry. By incorporating these practices into your travels, you can help protect the environment, support local communities, and ensure a positive and sustainable tourism experience for everyone involved.

Why Travel Sustainably

Traveling sustainably is important for several reasons.

Environmental Conservation

Sustainable travel minimizes the negative impact on the environment. By adopting eco-friendly practices such as reducing carbon emissions, conserving water and energy, and protecting natural habitats, we can help preserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, and maintain the beauty of destinations for future generations.

Supporting Local Communities

Sustainable tourism emphasizes the empowerment of local communities. By choosing locally owned accommodations, restaurants, and businesses, travelers can directly contribute to the local economy and support the livelihoods of residents. This helps create employment opportunities, reduce poverty, and improve the overall well-being of local communities.

Preserving Cultural Heritage

Responsible tourism promotes the preservation of cultural heritage and traditions. By respecting local customs, engaging with the local community, and supporting cultural initiatives, travelers can help protect and celebrate the unique identities, languages, arts, and traditions of different cultures.

Enhancing Social Well-Being

Sustainable tourism aims to benefit the local population and promote social inclusivity. By engaging in community-based tourism projects, travelers can interact with locals, learn from their experiences, and foster cross-cultural understanding. This kind of interaction can lead to meaningful connections and promote mutual respect and tolerance.

Personal Enrichment and Learning

Eco-friendly travel offers an opportunity for personal growth and learning. By immersing yourself in different cultures, landscapes, and communities, you can gain a deeper understanding of the world and develop a broader perspective. It can be a transformative experience that promotes empathy, cultural sensitivity, and appreciation for diversity.

Responsible Tourism Industry

Traveling sustainably encourages the tourism industry to adopt responsible practices. As more travelers demand sustainable options, hotels, tour operators, and other service providers are incentivized to adopt environmentally friendly and socially responsible measures. This shift towards sustainability can lead to a more responsible and ethical tourism industry as a whole.

Traveling sustainably allows us to explore the world while minimizing our negative impact, supporting local communities, preserving cultural heritage, and contributing to a more sustainable future. It is a way to make our travels more meaningful, responsible, and beneficial for both the environment and the people we encounter along the way.

Eco-Friendly Travel Companies

There are several sustainable or eco-friendly travel companies that prioritize responsible practices.

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel is a leading global adventure travel company that focuses on responsible travel. They offer small group tours that aim to minimize environmental impact, support local communities, and promote cultural exchange.

G Adventures

G Adventures is another tour operator that emphasizes sustainable and responsible travel. They offer a wide range of small group tours with a focus on local experiences, community engagement, and environmental conservation.


Ecoventura is a Galapagos Islands cruise company that operates eco-friendly yachts. They are committed to minimizing their ecological footprint and supporting conservation efforts in the Galapagos, including implementing sustainable practices and collaborating with local communities.

Wilderness Safaris

Wilderness Safaris is a luxury ecotourism company operating in various African countries. They offer responsible wildlife safaris and conservation-focused experiences, and they actively contribute to wildlife and habitat conservation projects.

Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel is a platform that connects travelers with responsible tour operators and accommodations worldwide. They have a wide range of trips and experiences that adhere to sustainability principles, including eco-friendly accommodations, wildlife conservation projects, and community-based tourism initiatives.

Natural Habitat Adventures

Natural Habitat Adventures specializes in nature-focused travel experiences. They prioritize sustainable practices, support conservation projects, and offer environmentally conscious itineraries in destinations like Antarctica, the Galapagos, and Africa.

Kind Traveler

Kind Traveler is a socially conscious hotel booking platform. They partner with hotels and properties that have a positive social or environmental impact. When travelers book through Kind Traveler, a portion of their payment is donated to a local charity or community project.

These are just a few examples of sustainable travel companies. It’s always recommended to do thorough research and check for certifications, such as eco-labels or memberships in sustainable tourism organizations, to ensure the companies align with your sustainability values.

Want to discover another way to travel with purpose? Read VOLUNTEERING ABROAD DESTINATIONS FOR ACTIVE WOMEN OVER 50

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you travel sustainably? Do you make an effort to minimize your eco-footprint when you travel? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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The Author

Sandra is the middle-aged woman you hear about who sheds everything she owns and sets out into the world to rediscover and redefine herself. After more than twenty years spent in the fashion industry designing collections for brands such as La Senza, Victoria’s Secret, and JACOB Lingerie, she shifted her path and pursued her longtime passion for writing, traveling, and photography. Sandra was published in the NY Times best selling book Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. A deeply personal essay hand-picked by Elizabeth Gilbert about loss, facing fears, and going after dreams. Visit her website:

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