Tourism is one of the leading industries in top destinations around the world, including the San Francisco Bay Area. It has a significant impact on the local economy through job growth, tax revenue, and civic pride. But money and status only go so far when travelers don't consider how their presence impacts an area's natural and cultural treasures.
We offer these green travel tips as part of our Green Hostels Project with goals to:
- Promote conservation and efficiency in our hostels
- Teach guests about conservation practices to get them involved when they return home
Take the following steps to sustain the local environment, economy, and culture of your destination:
Learn about your destination. The Internet has made it so easy to access helpful travel information and tools (you're reading this, aren't you?). Make sure you allow enough time between reserving a bed and packing your bags to learn about the geography, customs, and manners of your destination.
- What actions or standards are considered inappropriate?
- Can you help to preserve tradition by attending a cultural event?
- Is the region experiencing an energy or water shortage?
- Are there any local laws that protect the environment (animals, plants, open space, etc.)?
- What locally owned restaurants meet your diet needs?
- Is there a market where local artists sell souvenirs like clothing, mementos, and one-of-a-kind finds?
- If you paid for a tour, did you ask if the guide worked for a local nonprofit or a national for-profit company?
Know where your money is going. Our Green Hostels Project is an environmental education program that guides all nine of our hostels in Northern California. Make sure the other locally owned businesses you support with your travel dollars have conservation guidelines for waste, water, and energy (at the least). This step allows you to protect the environment with little effort and maximum impact.
As more travelers patronize eco-friendly businesses, the impact on our environment will compound. If you make the mistake of selecting a company that does not care, speak up and tell an owner or manager that company policies impact the local community and, as word spreads, profits will suffer.
Impact people, not the environment. We all heard the following advice as school children, but it has become a cornerstone of the earth-friendly travel movement: Take only photographs, leave only footprints. It is still good advice, particularly since few people were listening. We are all guilty of removing a rock or picking a flower, but imagine how the landscape would be altered if every traveler did the same thing. Future generations are entitled to the same breathtaking views:
- Do not leave litter of any kind.
- Do not take any souvenirs from historical sites and natural areas (many states consider this a crime).
- Do not disturb anything in the wilderness that you can avoid disturbing (e.g., find fallen branches for firewood instead of cutting down small trees).
- Do not leave designated trails in state and federal parks.
Utilize your travel time to interact with the world community instead. You will change in ways that impact the rest of your life when you expose yourself to new people and cultures.