The desire for exploration is the foundation of our civilization.
We explor our surroundings, we explore our own beliefs, and-most of all-we explore new places.
As the efficiency of infrastructure has grown, so has our ability to travel freely. I may live in White Salmon, Washington, but the Salween River in southwestern China is only a plane trip and bus ride away at any moment (albeit, a long plane trip and uncomfortable bus ride).
The relative ease of travel has made the tourism industry drastically boom over the last 50 years. Now, as we begin to step-back and see the effects of our actions on the planet as a whole, we realize that traveling sustainably makes a big difference in preserving those spectacular places we yearn to explore.
Between 1940 and 2009 the number of international travelers increased from 25 million to 880 million people per year. This boom in participation put the travel industry on the same level as the food, automobile and oil industries.With so much money and resources devoted to travel, sustainable choices are crucial to the continual exploration of new places.
Sustainable Travel International, a global leader in outreach and education for travelers and providers, believes “sustainable tourism embraces environmental conservation, social responsibility and economic viability.”
So, how do we ensure our personal traveling experience does not contribute to the destruction of local communities and vulnerable environments?
Well, it’s actually pretty easy.
Choose to support businesses whose ethics and values align with your own.
- Does that restaurant buy locally produced food, helping to reduce fuel burned in transport?
- Which hotel washes their linens with biodegradable soaps, reducing the amount of toxic chemicals released into vital waterways?
- Which company provides incentives for employees to use alternate transportation to and from work?
Before you get overwhelmed with additional research before your trip, take a look at resources like STI’s Responsible Travel Partners. Also, look at websites for proof of a business’ commitment to sustainability. Third-party certifications like STI’s Sustainable Travel Eco-Certification guarantee that a business isn’t playing a fast one on you and simply calling everything ‘green.’
When traveling closer to home, check out events like the Gorge-Owned Network’s Green Drink events, a monthly meet-up for people and businesses in the environmental field. Green Drinks events happen everywhere, in cities throughout the U.S. and all over the world.
In the Columbia River Gorge, the Gorge Owned Network (GO) has hosted Green Drinks featuring local wineries, films, projects and more.
On Thursday, June 9th, come on over to Wet Planet for GO’s June Green Drink event. We’ll describe our sustainability efforts as well as hear updates on the removal of Condit Dam directly from the source: PacifiCorp’s own Todd Olsen.
If that wasn’t enough to bring you in, maybe the Full Sail beer will seal the deal.
Everyone is affected by the travel industry. Don’t forget to put your travel dollars toward building a sustainable economy in the places you want to explore the most.
Susan Hollingsworth, writer and whitewater kayak instructor, greatly appreciates working with a company that invests so much into the local economy.