There are a multitude of tour companies and hotels that have now taken green initiatives, but in most cases, these are simply steps toward reducing the impact they have already made or will continue to make in the future. There are, however, some organizations that have started aiming to avoid creating any tourism impact at all or that actually aim to leave a positive impact on the locations that tourists visit.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in Zimbabwe deserves to be mentioned first. Not only does the lodge provide employment to a vast number of locals — including lodge staff, entertainers, chefs and more — but the lodge itself also has actually being built into the rocks that surround it.
You’ll also notice a lot of the materials used in the building’s construction are from local sources. One feature of the hotel that uses local and renewable materials are the lights at reception, which were made with porcupine spikes that then cast interesting shadows on the surrounding walls. You can’t get much greener than repurposing what is essentially an animal’s hair into interesting and functional art pieces.
The biggest addition to the area is the manmade watering hole, which provides an additional place for the local wildlife to drink. It’s also extremely popular with the visitors at the lodge who are able to relax in comfort while watching anything from elephants to hyenas coming down for a drink. Anything that supports the local wildlife and the country’s tourism simultaneously is a real bonus.
There are green tours that minimize your travel impact, and then there are the truly green tours that either remove your impact or actually allow you to leave a positive impact.
One example of this is the South African tours run by Geckos Adventures, which uses local suppliers wherever possible. This means eating at local venues, staying in locally owned accommodation and hiring the locals to run the tours. All of this results in a positive inflow of money to small local groups and families, which benefits their own lives and the lives of the people in their communities. Not only that, but your tourism impact is effectively zero by taking the local public transport that would be operating anyway.
One of the greenest cities in the world to visit is Reykjavik in Iceland. The city hasn’t just improved the way it handles energy consumption and wastage; it actually has practically zero negative impact on the environment. In fact, only 0.1% of the electricity used in Reykjavik is from fossil fuels. The rest of the electricity and heat produced by the city come from renewable geothermal and hydropower sources.
By 2050, they plan to be completely fossil-fuel free. Even visiting as a tourist, you’ll be helping the green industry over there if you jump on one of their hydrogen-powered busses.
Next time you’re planning on traveling, take the time to look into the companies you plan on using and see if you can find out how they may be benefitting the local communities and if the materials they consume during their service, or in order to provide a service, are particularly green.
By doing so, you’ll be able to find those organizations that not only minimize the impact they have on their surroundings as a result of tourism, but also whether or not they take steps to avoid leaving an impact in the first place.