The biggest industry in the world isn’t banking, or real estate, or resold sneakers on eBay. It’s travel, and that means when you travel, you have a chance to make a measurable difference—without killing your bank account or getting FOMO. Here are 10 ways to see the world while also leaving it better than you found it.
You’ll want to check out the Ethical Traveler’s guide to the best destinations. Every year, this non-profit reviews over 100 developing nations and chooses the ones with the best current human rights records, environmental policies, and tourist-friendly programs. (And they’re all pretty cool spots: Costa Rica, with its incredible beaches, mountains, and monkeys, is a great option on the list.)
You and your squad don’t want to spend your trip worrying about parking and insurance, anyway. Opt for public transit — it’s worth a little extra research to experience the country more deeply while saving cash and helping the environment.
Make it a point to eat the food grown and made by the people in the area you’re visiting. It’ll taste better, make your trip a richer cultural experience, and help your destination country’s economy. You can get McDonald’s at home.
Getting a snap of yourself on an elephant is epic. But make sure that elephant thinks so, too. Do a little internet research (WASP, or World Animal Sanctuary Protection, is a good place to start) before giving your money to animal tourism businesses—you want to make sure none of the animals are being mistreated
Sure, there are internationally-recognized hotel chains almost everywhere. But you’ll get a more authentic and memorable experience, and help out the local economy, by staying in a hotel, hostel, or bed-and-breakfast that’s part of the local community.
Unwrap and de-package everything before you leave for your vacation. Chances are, your hometown has a decent recycling program; many other countries don’t.
LEED-certified buildings have serious eco-cred: they’re good on energy, water use, and use environmentally friendly cleaning products, among a ton of other requirements. Most big cities have a LEED-certified hotel; to find them, you can look on sites like Expedia and Travelocity for “green hotel” options.
This is a no-brainer: water is life. Plastic bottles are not. Even if you’re visiting a country where drinking tap water is inadvisable, you can refill your water bottle with gallon-sized (or larger) bottles that you buy and keep in your hotel room.
More and more tour groups are touting their ethical bona fides these days. Some quick searching will turn up tons of great tours that are known to be ethically sound.
Hotel construction can be a total fail for the environment. Try an Airbnb (or similar) instead: you’ll get to see how other people live (the fridge is so cute!) and you won’t be giving your travel dollars to massive developments that can hurt the local ecosystem.Have a great trip and don’t forget to take pictures!