Impacts of Tourism on our planet
Travel and tourism has become an increasingly integral part of everyone’s lives. Whether people are seeking to make travel part of their daily lives, or taking a vacation from their daily lives back home, or even just backpacking around the world to see the beauty our world has to offer.
I would never recommend for travel to be banned like single-use plastic, but we do need to find the balance between what tourism is today and what we can change tourism to be, to preserve our environment’s natural beauty and our planet in the face of climate change. This is Eco-Tourism!
I know this blog’s purpose is to focus on the positive aspects, but in order for us to focus on the positive aspects, we must look at the negative impact of tourism first. This will help us be more mindful when we travel as well:
- Water Resources – Hotels, golf courses, swimming pools and even meeting the demand of water for an increased population of tourism can be detrimental to an environment
- Local Resources – Tourism comes with a high-season and a low-season. High-season can see such a huge jump in tourism numbers, that locals are scavenging ways to ensure the increased demand is met, whether it’s in terms of fruits, or food or even the quick and rapid construction of new properties to meet the demand.
- Land degradation – Increased tourism increases the pressure on natural resources and landscapes such as beaches, or mountain tops
- Air and Water Pollution
- Waste Management – I’ve done my share of travelling, and even though we learn all our lives not to litter, it is astonishing to see tourists enter foreign countries and treat it terribly in comparison to how they would treat their own home country!
- Deforestation and Beach Erosion
- Boating, Anchoring and Beach Development
- Trampling over rich vegetation and soil
When planning our travels, we MUST consider the environment and community we are traveling to!
My trip to Costa Rica
Personally, I have a huge passion for traveling – I love experiencing new cultures, foods, partaking in activities that certain regions offer (surfing, snowboarding), learning how specific communities operate and be open to various perspectives on global issues.
More recently, over the holiday season, I needed a break from my daily life which meant pursuing my passion and what makes me happy. So I decided to travel to a country I’ve never been to. The goal of my time off, when I first booked my tickets – was personal development, through surfing and yoga, and finding ways to simply learn about Sustainable Businesses and Individuals in Nosara, Costa Rica.
There was a sudden shift in my mindset. I wanted to get involved. While planning my trip, I realized that contributing a minimum of even one-hour of my day in getting involved with local, sustainable initiatives can help.
If I’m traveling all the way from Canada to Costa Rica to melt and indulge in their beautiful and lush environmental surroundings, then I must be responsible and respectful for my footprint as well
How I strived for sustainability during my trip:
- Nosara Beach Hostel – I decided to live in a hostel atmosphere rather than a personal room to myself. In addition to meeting new people and opening yourself up to local culture, a hostel allows you to use a smaller area as a tourist – decreasing your footprint, in comparison to me getting a personal room for myself
- Eco-Board for Surfing – Yes, I’m quite passionate about the environment and that led to me searching for eco-board rentals. I was happily surprised to find so many options and Safari Surf School provided me an Eco-Board manufactured by FireWire. It may not be a 100% sustainable option because it’s wooden, but it’s a step in the right direction!
- Transportation – While researching ways to get around Nosara, the highly recommended mode of transportation was an ATV. Being born and raised in a desert, my first reaction was, that’s perfect! But upon thinking of Eco-Tourism, I became mindful of my impact on local communities and environments, and decided to rent a bicycle or walk. Not only does this help preserve our environment, but it also allows you to slow life down and take in every aspect a local community has to offer – the sounds of nature, the various conversations in different languages, sightings of an amazingly diverse species, and even just meditation!
- Buying local – I ensured that while in Nosara, I will purchase fruits from local fruit stands, food from local restaurants of all kinds (street food or restaurants itself) and I ensured to purchase local products even when grocery shopping! This really helps the local communities thrive and earn a living for their families. With tourism being a seasonal occurrence, it is essential for us to not just take advantage of a country, but to give back however we can!
- Open my eyes and mind to learn what Nosara is doing to be a sustainable tourist destination – Locals are learning more and more of the negative impacts tourism is having on their livelihoods and their amazing nature. Just as tourists should, the local community came together to embed tourism and sustainability together. This led me to signing up for a free Sustainability Tour of a local hotel, Olas Verdes! As tourists, we book a variety of tours, such as aquariums, or ATV tours, but we can also spend just a little bit of our vacation time learning about what businesses are doing to become sustainable to preserve their environment. This experience really led me to gratification – I was thankful that locals were taking steps to curb the damage us tourists were having on their environment.
- Get Involved and Help the local community – I realized that during my time off, between writing, surfing, yoga and learning from various initiatives, I still had so much time. I wanted to get involved! Just like how we research for things to do when we travel, I google searched for initiatives to get involved in, grass root level, and I came across Costas Verdes.
As soon as I came across Costas Verdes, I immediately emailed Gerardo, a wonderful local who is so passionate about preserving the beaches from erosion and preserving Nosara’s biodiversity. It was amazing to learn from Gerardo who was extremely knowledgeable in plant biology and how we can take advantage of plant strengths to protect our beaches.
Gerardo let me know that, typically, they work off donations and plan tours for children, local schools, and tourists to come together and plant just one tree. You can then adopt this tree and name it! Not only does this help protect our environment, it makes everyone participating feel empowered and accountable for the footprint they are leaving behind. It helps us become even more mindful of what our nature is going through and why we must do whatever we can, even small steps, to save our environment.
What really stood out to me is the positive impact this was having. Gerardo let us know that since they began planting these trees and plants across the entire beach, Playa Guiones (the name of the beach) was actually increasing in area. This was because of Gerardo’s local expertise and knowledge of the Costa Rican plants and how specific types of plants can absorb large amounts of water rather than letting it seep through and contributing to erosion. This is why it’s so important to interact with local communities when we travel, because there’s so much to learn!
After planting my tree and concluding the tour, I was hooked and couldn’t stop there. I loved Costas Verdes’ vision and how they involve people of all backgrounds, economic status’ and generations to help. I decided to dedicate an hour of my day daily to help with whatever needed to be done! I participated in so many different tasks, getting the soil ready with natural fertilizers, learning about the right type of plants that need to be planted for this cause and the importance of maintaining a greenhouse!
Costas Verdes aims to plant more than 5000 trees in 2019! I wanted to help them get ready for such a phenomenal year! With the help of Gerardo and Rolando, I was given the opportunity to help in so many ways while learning and becoming more knowledgeable myself!
That’s not where Costas Verdes’ positive impact stops – they empower future generations, one of the most pivotal areas that require improvement today. Nowadays, technology is taking over and fewer number of children are wanting to learn or interact with nature itself. Costas Verdes invites local schools, and even children of tourists to plant and adopt trees! I was lucky to have witnessed such a tour and it truly humbled me to learn that there are children out there who are already completely ready to save our environment and open to how beautiful our natural surroundings are.
What can we learn from all this: Eco-Tourism
- When you’re planning your travel – we plan all the things to do as a tourist – it takes an extra 5 minutes only and just a fraction of your vacation day, to participate and get involved in local initiatives. We must learn to not abuse and take advantage of our beautiful nature. We must be grateful, mindful and contribute however we can
- Our travels start with airplanes – Be mindful of how much single-use plastic is used on an airline. More recently, a recently launched airline is testing plastic-free flights! Until this becomes widespread, there are ways to decrease the amount of waste you generate, hence pushing for faster implementation of more plastic-free flights:
- Bring your own water bottle and fill it before you board the flight
- Drinking coffee might be more sustainable than tea as it eliminates the use of tea bags
- Bring your own headphones – airplanes provide headphones that are packaged in single-use plastics
- Bring your own blanket or dress warm rather than the one offered in an airplane
- Transportation from airport to destination – Research public transportation – not only does this make it cheaper for you, but it also helps decrease our carbon footprint in comparison to everyone taking a cab/taxi
- Buy local foods (fruits and ingredients) and avoid packaged foods
- Dine at local restaurants to help support the local communities
- Do not use single-use plastic items like plastic bottles, cups and straws!A lot of us are too shy to do this or too lazy – but think of the positive impact this can have if we all take this one small step
- Carry your own toiletries while travelling to avoid wastage
- Order what you can finish – decrease food wastage!
- Conserve water and electricity – turn off your lights and fans or air conditioners – it’s amazing how much of an impact this can have considering the number of tourists during high season
- Respect the environment and culture of the places you travel to – be open-minded to interacting and learning from local communities how best to interact with the environment
- Communication – Raise awareness to other people you meet when travelling. You’ll be surprised at how many people are not aware of such initiatives and will join you!
- Our world revolves around social media now – use these platforms to its strengths and raise awareness of initiatives, projects, businesses and local foods so future generations and tourists can learn and contribute through their travels!
BE OPEN-MINDED | INTERACT | COMMUNICATE | IT’S A VACATION, BUT LET’S ALL CHOOSE TO LEARN A LITTLE BIT DAILY! | BE MINDFUL OF YOUR CARBON AND WASTE FOOTPRINT