It's sunny outside, Spring is finally here and many of us are thinking about our summer getaway. What to do if you're an eco-conscious traveller? The IUCN has released their top ten tips for tourists who want to explore without damaging the environment.
Tourism, if managed properly, can raise funds to protect vulnerable natural areas, raise awareness around conservation issues amongst locals and tourists and encourage local people to conserve their environment.
So what does the IUCN say we should be looking for when we go on holiday? Here are their tips:
1. Visit destinations which are protected or World Heritage sites. Make sure you include visits and activities related to conservation projects. This will continue to generate revenue for these conservation projects. www.protectedplanet.net has lots of information about global protected areas and World Heritage Sites.
2. Travel light: limit the packaging you bring with you. This will only become waste in your holiday destination. Plus, it means more room for souvenirs!
3. Before you go, learn as much as possible about your destination. This will help to make your journey more enjoyable and you can make informed choices about what you do and buy once you're there.
4. Only use reputable local tour operators - preferably those who contribute to local conservation efforts.
5. Pick nature-friendly accommodation. Don't be fooled by a hotel proclaiming its eco credentials on its website - ask hotels what their environmental policy is. Have they implemented energy and water saving measures? Do they contribute to local conservation efforts?
6. Try to get to your destination by train or coach - you'll see more of the country you're travelling in as well as reducing your carbon emissions. The Man in Seat Sixty-One is a fantastic source of train information and timetables across the world. Consider offsetting your travel using a Gold Standard supplier.
7. Whilst you're eating out on holiday, choose your food wisely. Wherever possible, choose locally sourced produce that is in season. Be aware that endangered species may be on the menu without your knowledge - ask local conservation organisations for a list of what to look out for.
8. Never buy souvenirs made from endangered species - this includes turtle and coral, amongst many others. Check out WWF's travel guide for more information. Also, be careful if you're bringing back plants or seeds from your travels - ensure they won't become invasive species in your native country.
9. If you're going wildlife watching, choose a reputable operator and don't disturb the wildlife - for your safety and theirs! Angry bears, anyone?
10. Make friends! Become a member of local conservation organisations in your destination.
There are loads of options if you actually want to get involved with conservation whilst you're on holiday. You don't have to go with a large company, do a bit of research and contact a grass-roots organisation which is making a difference. If companies are able to take people on short-term, they're often grateful for an extra pair of hands!
For green travel ideas and inspiration, have a look at The Guardian's green travel list - 75 eco-conscious travel companies. The 2011 list is due to be published soon. Right, I'm off to book my holiday...href="../../../environment/eco-friendly/index.html">Eco-Friendly