With “eco” labeling seemingly everywhere, it can be hard to figure out what is truly environmentally friendly, and what is just marketing. Travel and “Eco-tourism” is no exception. How can you know whether your experiential travel is “green” when choosing an eco-tour provider? Look for the following:
– Supporting Local Economies– Supporting local economies is a key component for the “triple bottom line” of sustainability that ensures healthy people, planet, and place. Supporting locals (from hiring local guides, to patronizing small family owned restaurants and hotels, to supporting community based tourism or conservation programs) is a key component of environmentally friendly experiential learning travel.
–Conscious Partnerships- Similar to supporting local economies, choosing environmentally conscious partners (from transportation companies to activity providers) is another key component of an eco-tour company that “puts its money where its mouth is”. An environmentally oriented eco-tour company will seek out providers with a commitment to green business practices. When done right, every component of your expedition- from the food you eat, to the places you stay, to the people you meet, will be chosen with an eye to sustainability.
– Exploring the Issues- Another vital aspect of “green travel” is to expose and explore real issues and threats to sustainability. While at first glance, most eco-tour destinations can appear pristine, it is important to show the good and the bad, and help travelers understand real problems (such as deforestation, harmful agricultural practices, and threats to cultural traditions). In this way, travelers can meaningfully support and help seek positive solutions, both during their journey with Costa Rican Adventures (CRA) and when back home.
-Showcasing Sustainability- A true “eco-tour” should not only introduce you to the wonders of the natural world, but should also showcase positive solutions for sustainable living and conservation. Learning about ways to live lightly can inspire and have an impact even after your trip is over. Visiting an organic farm, staying at an off-the grid lodge with hydro-powered electricity, or meeting an indigenous leader working to safeguard endangered species on a reserve are all ways in which to immerse yourself in eco-tourism.
–Opportunities to Leave a Positive Trace- One of the most eco-friendly activities you can do while on an experiential learning trip is to give back to the place you are visiting. Environmentally and socially conscious travel companies often offer a chance to participate in service projects. Meaningful community service is a tenant of all CRA’s Costa Rican Vacation Packages . Project options include participating in reforestation, endangered species conservation work, or community building and education programs.
At CRA, we are committed to creating a healthier and more sustainable planet through safe eco-centered adventure travel, service, and cultural immersion. Our goal is to educate a new generation of environmentally conscious and culturally aware citizens who connect with the earth and become aware of the complex issues facing our environment, local communities, and planet. There is no better way to fall in love with the natural world and learn to live lightly than through experiential and educational travel!
Crawford Hill is the owner and director of Costa Rican Adventures, an educational travel company focused on cultural immersion. An expedition leader, former biology teacher, and educational innovator, Hill has been guiding students and adults on wilderness adventures since 1974.