Nature and Environment

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How to Make Your Summer Vacation Sustainable!

5/24/2011 1:43:19 PM

Tags: tourism, travel, sustainability, Rainforest Alliance, summer, vacation, Anna Clark, Rainforest Alliance

With the summer fast approaching, it’s time to make those last minute vacation plans. While it’s easy to get caught up in the bliss of tropical beaches and lazy days by the pool, it’s also easy to overlook the negative impacts travel can have on both the environment and local communities.

Summer Vacation 1 

Photo  ©  Rainforest Alliance

Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries with more than 235 million people working in the industry globally, generating 9.2 percent of the global GDP. While tourism is a vital source of income for many developing countries, it can also result in pollution, deforestation, inefficient energy use and cultural exploitation.

To curb these negative impacts, the Rainforest Alliance works with hotels, restaurants and other tourism businesses to help them improve their environmental, social and economic practices. Through training and technical assistance, the organization teaches them how to operate sustainably and verify their progress toward this goal. Those tourism businesses that meet the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainability requirements are eligible to receive promotional benefits, including the use of the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark.

But how exactly do tourism businesses operate sustainably? Examples of sustainable practices include conserving water and energy, supporting community conservation projects, recycling and treating wastes, hiring staff from neighboring towns, paying them just wages and providing additional training and sourcing locally-produced products in restaurants and gift shops.

As a traveler, you can make a difference by choosing tourism businesses that conserve the environment and support local communities. But how can you find sustainable tourism businesses? And how can you actually be sure that they are in fact sustainable? Easy – plan your vacation using This website will help you find destinations that are not only beautiful, but also benefit communities, flora and fauna. features hotels, tour operators and other businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean that have either been verified by independent, third-party sustainable tourism certification programs or recommended by reputable organizations.

By choosing sustainable tourism businesses you can lay back, soak up the sun and enjoy your vacation with peace of mind, knowing that you are playing your part in conserving the planet, supporting local communities, and ensuring that these treasures will be around for future generations to enjoy.

 Summer trip 2 

Photo  ©  Rainforest Alliance

Finally, check out this list of 10 things you can do as a tourist to help make a difference!

  1. Plan your vacation using to find sustainable tourism businesses
  2. At the hotel: Ask about environmental policies and practices. Does the hotel support communities developments and conservation projects?
  3. Language: Learn a few words of the local language and use them.
  4. Dress: Learn about local conventions and dress appropriately. In many countries, modest dress is important.
  5. Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, homes or private lands.
  6. Photographs: Be sensitive to when and where you take photos/videos of people. Always ask first.
  7. Environment: Respect the natural environment. Never touch or harass wildlife. Always follow designated trails. Support conservation by paying entrance fees to park and protected sites or making a donation.
  8. Wildlife or forest products: Never purchase crafts, clothing, furniture or products that are derived from protected or endangered wildlife or plant species. In many countries it is illegal to bring these goods back home.
  9. Pay a fair price: Don’t engage in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs. Don’t short-change on tips for service.
  10. Buy local: Choose locally –owned lodges and hotels, Use local buses, car rentals agencies and airlines. Eat in local restaurants, shop in local markets and attend local events. Hire local guides: Enrich your experience and support the local economy. Ask guides if they are licensed and live nearby. Are they recommended by tour operators?


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Post a comment below.


Anna Clark
6/28/2011 1:54:20 PM
Thanks for your comment, Jan. While the tips you mention are all valuable alternatives, it’s important to note that 900 million people travel each year, making tourism a major global industry and an important source of income for many countries and communities, many of which are located in extremely biodiverse and fragile areas. Therefore, it’s very important that the people who are already planning a vacation choose hotels and tour operators that are taking concrete steps to conserve natural resources and support local communities, rather than those that have a destructive impact. is a great tool to help travelers find those businesses. There's a lot of green washing in the tourism industry these days, and travelers are understandably confused about what “green” or “sustainable” really means, and which businesses are actually doing the right thing. That’s why the Rainforest Alliance created – to be listed on the site, businesses must be: 1) certified by an independent, third-party sustainable tourism certification program or 2) verified by the Rainforest Alliance. In countries where a certification program is not available or the Rainforest Alliance is not currently working, we accept recommendations from reputable organizations. These guidelines ensure that all businesses listed on have met rigorous environmental, social and economic standards and travelers can rest assured that they are truly "green."

Jan Steinman
6/19/2011 11:13:31 AM
Ugh. I can't believe this is a Mother Earth article! How about some alternatives, instead of indulging in "feel good" sustainability? 1) Take a "staycation." Work on the garden for two weeks, instead of traveling to some distant land. 2) Volunteer. Go build a house for Habitat For Humanity. Pull invasive plants in your area. Teach at-risk youth about growing their own food. 3) Get involved. Spend two weeks writing letters to congress critters, news papers, blogs, etc. about sustainability. 4) Implement some energy-saving project. Put in a wood stove. Make "warm window" seasonal covers for your windows. Or if in a hot-dry place, replace your air conditioner with a swamp cooler. I'm sure I could come up with a bunch more alternatives to taking a traditional travel vacation, then doing a bunch of pointless things to make you feel better about all the damage your vacation has already done.

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