Our Mission – “Go Green” Ecotourism
To promote responsible, environmentally friendly, and sustainable ecotourism by helping both travelers and the tourism / hospitality industry to choose travel practices that help save the planet.
What is Ecotourism and why do we need it?
Ecotourism is responsible and sustainable travel that helps conserve the environment, protect local culture and wildlife, and save the planet.
The impact of tourism on the environment is greater than most of us imagine and it is the responsibility of both travelers and travel / tourism companies to engage in ecotourism that supports sustainable and eco-friendly practices that save the environment.
Here are some ways that the tourism industry negatively affects the environment:
Pressure on Natural Resources
Natural resources around the world are becoming more and more scarce, while tourism continues to expand as more people travel the globe.
As natural resources are shared among all earth’s inhabitants it is imperative that we find ways to minimize the impact from travel on renewable and nonrenewable resources to conserve for the future.
During a tourist season local resources can be strained as tourists demand resources that often times are wasted with mismanagement and overuse.
Water – Water is fast becoming one of the most important natural resources on the planet and in many areas this resource is being wasted by overuse from the tourism industry. This includes over-consumption by tourists and overuse by hotels for golf courses and swimming pools. General overuse of water supplies also creates a larger volume of waste water which is often times not properly treated. Tourists end up using double the water that local inhabitants use in their daily life.
As an example, Tourism Concern estimates that a typical golf course in Thailand uses the same amount of water each year as 60,000 tourists.
Local – Resources including raw materials, food, and energy are often put under enormous pressure during a typical tourist season as often there are 10 times more inhabitants during the season.
Land – Construction of tourism facilities has led to land degradation that puts pressure on natural resources such as forests, soil, minerals, fossil fuels, wildlife, and wetlands. Deforestation is also a direct result of land clearing for construction and fuel wood collection.
Pollution to the local environment is one of the number one issues regarding green tourism.
There are many different types of pollution that come from the travel industry and many of them are issues that can be addressed.
In most cases tourists and the companies that support them pollute many times more over than local residents and this is a cause of great concern.
Noise and Air Pollution – Emissions from a single round-trip flight across the Atlantic produces more CO2 than the average person consumes in 1 year from all other sources including electricity, heat, car use, etc (Source: MFOE).
The CO2 emissions from transportation and energy production to support the tourism industry cause global warming, acid rain, and photochemical pollution. Tourist buses that leave their motors running for hours so tourists can return to a climate controlled environment.
Noise pollution not only creates stress and potential hearing loss for humans but also the local wildlife, which can have their natural activity patterns changed as a result. As an example, Yellowstone National Park has more visitors on snowmobiles than in cars and the noise from these snowmobiles was even drowning out the sound of the Old Faithful geyser.
Garbage and Solid Waste – Senseless littering by tourists and improper waste disposal in high-traffic tourist areas is destroying the natural environment including roadsides, scenic areas, shorelines, and featured tourist attractions. Mountain areas also fall victim to littering as they lack proper disposal facilities. Many mountain trails across the world have received new nicknames such as “Toilet Paper Trail” and “Coca Cola Trail” as littering has destroyed the natural environment.
UNEP magazine estimates cruise ships generate 77% of all ship waste and the average cruise ship passenger creates 3.5 kilograms of trash each day, compared with people on-shore who generate about 0.8 kilograms each day.
Sewage – Construction of tourist facilities creates more sewage pollution that affects seas, lakes, and tourist attractions, along with the subsequent runoff that can damage coastal environments and coral reefs. Sewage changes the salinity and siltation, causes algae to grow, and can harm both humans and animals.
Local Aesthetic Pollution – Tourism facilities, roads, parking, etc. can pollute the view of the local cultural aesthetics and design, and ruin the natural beauty of a particular area.
Physical Impact on the Environment
Featured destinations including rain forests, mountains, wetlands, coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass beds are ecologically fragile and their ecosystems are under constant threat from tourism.
People and the Planet gives a great example – Each year almost 300,000 tourists including pilgrims, trekkers, and mountaineering expeditions venture into the Himalayan mountains.
The mountainous area is destroyed each year by litter, trampling, and depletion of local resources such as firewood.
Construction – Tourism construction can cause land degradation, habitat loss, increased pollution, soil erosion, and destruction of scenery.
Deforestation – Very often the construction of tourist facilities requires land clearing or the draining of wetlands that can destroy the local ecosystem.
Marina Construction – Developing a marina or breakwater can cause erosion and destruction of habitats which affect local forests, mangroves, and coral reefs as a result.
Trampling by Tourists – Trails are overused and this causes the destruction of local vegetation, soil, and biodiversity.
Marine Activities – Activities surrounding fragile marine areas such as cruising, yachting, anchoring, fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving can degrade the local marine ecosystem. This includes lakes, lagoons, coral reefs, rivers, uplands, coastal waters, shorelines, and even offshore waters. Ocean Planner estimates that 90 out of 109 worldwide coral reefs are being severely damaged by cruise ship anchors and waste, with one anchor dropped per day destroying 1/2 a football field of coral reef and the reef needing more than 50 years to recover from the devastation.
Alteration of Fragile Ecosystems – Local safaris and wildlife viewing can cause undue stress on animals from truck and aircraft. It can also cause them to change their natural habits and behaviors which can lead to mating issues and failure to care for their young.
Global Impact of Tourism
The tourism industry has an impact on global tourism as we all live on one planet and traveling affects the planet as a whole.
This impact on our world is a shared responsibility that we have for future generations so they are also able to explore and experience the wonders planet earth offers.
Only through awareness and active policies which promote green standards and sustainable ecotourism can we make a real difference.
Impact on Biological Diversity – Tourism greatly affects local biological diversity and can destroy ecosystems we depend on for food, energy, and medicine. Wildlife, vegetation, land, water, and the air we breathe are all impacted by excessive use from the tourism industry.
Ozone Layer Depletion – The earth is protected from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can be deadly to both animals and humans. Emissions from accommodations, airplanes, and chemicals cause ozone depletion. Tourism Concern estimates that 1/2 of the ozone depletion caused each year is a result of air travel.
Climate Change – Most scientists around the world have come to the sad conclusion that greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere are causing our planet to trap heat from the sun and cause surface temperatures to rise. Mountain Forum suggests that air traffic alone accounts for 2.5% of global CO2 production.
The result of this will be catastrophic if more serious action is not taken. This includes coastal flooding, water shortages, more natural disasters, and harm to fragile ecosystems such as rain forests and coral reefs. Not only are we destroying the environment by not been more eco-friendly, but the results of climate change can destroy local tourism.
What Can I Do to Make a Difference?
While all of this information can seem bleak and quite daunting, our goal is to help tourists and tourism companies find easy ways to get started and protect the environment through green travel and sustainable ecotourism.
If you are a tourist, read about what you can do to “Go Green” and be an eco traveler
If you are a company in the tourism industry such as a tour operator, hotel, or other accommodation provider, read about how you can “Go Green” and promote green tourism and sustainable travel.