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News / Life / Lifestyles

Be kind to Earth in all your globe-trotting with family

By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, FamilyTravel.com
Published: June 1, 2024, 6:00am

As temperatures rise, tornadoes swirl and glaciers melt, the conversation about climate change and our role in it continues to intensify. And, with increased documentation about the environmental, economic and social impact of travel, families may be wondering how best to be a responsible traveler.

Here are five ideas to consider:

Choose wisely

Popular vacation spots like the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and many U.S. national parks have begun taking steps to protect their destinations from the effects of overcrowding by managing access, establishing visitor fees and sharing information about responsible practices. If you still plan to visit tourism hot spots, consider a shoulder or off-season trip when the impact may be less. When researching your next family adventure, review second-tier cities, parks with fewer visitors, uncrowded beaches or other locations not currently experiencing a high profile as your holiday possibilities. Consider visiting a location that is rebuilding after a natural disaster. Opt for a tour operator that gives back to their communities and makes a strong effort to tread softly in each destination. Companies like G Adventures, a small group adventure firm that helps develop rural tourism projects, Country Walkers and Lindblad Expeditions are among those striving to find a healthy balance in the travel equation.

For more: www.gadventures.com; www.expeditions.com; www.countrywalkers.com; www.nps.gov

Support locals

Before your trip, research the destination and discuss the importance of spending your travel dollars in ways that can support sustainable tourism. Hire a resident guide to introduce your family to the local ways and, when possible, explore on two wheels or on foot. Buy indigenous crafts, pull up chairs in neighborhood restaurants to sample fare from the region and peruse what’s possible at a farmer’s market. Take note that more hotels are offering meaningful amenities, aligning with a growing guest demand for sustainable options. At The Betsy, a family-owned boutique hotel in Miami’s Art Deco district, guests receive nightly bookmarks as part of turndown service. The bookmarks, made from recycled paper and wildflower seeds, serve as both a reminder of their stay and, if planted, a colorful contribution to the natural world. In Mexico, the Grand Velas Riviera Maya collaborated with a local artisan community to create beach bags from recycled plastics for the guests to use while on property. The handcrafted bags are also available for purchase in the resort’s boutique, with proceeds directly benefiting the artisan community.

For more: https://www.thebetsyhotel.com; https://rivieramaya.grandvelas.com

Opt for outside

A young person’s experiences in the natural world can strongly influence his or her view of the wider world and instill a desire to preserve and protect it. As you hike, bike and paddle, discuss the environmental changes that might be underway in your location. Share your knowledge and encourage kids to research areas of specific interest on their own.

Explain how small changes can have a big impact when enough people are in the mix. For example, using proper sunscreen can help protect important coral reefs around the world. Skin protection that contains oxybenzone or octinoxate washes off beachgoers, swimmers and divers and has been found to cause bleaching, deformities and potentially death to coral. Palau, Hawaii and other destinations are taking steps to ban these chemicals. Check for products that do not use these harmful substances and consider the use of clothing that blocks harmful rays from the body.

How will you roll?

Consider exploring close to home or plan trips that don’t require air travel. If you fly, limit emissions by taking direct flights. Travel by train, a boat or other forms of public or human-powered transportation. You might also research buying carbon offsets. In doing so, you would effectively pay others to plant or not cut trees or to embark on other projects that reduce greenhouse gases. Organizations like Cool Effect offer options with more than “90 percent of every dollar going to directly to projects” around the world. Combine your adventure with a local volunteer experience. Join a beach cleanup, read to kids at a local school or assist at a wildlife sanctuary.

For more: www.cooleffect.org; www.volunteeringsolutions.com; www.beaches.com

Conserve to preserve

Just as you might at home, keep water usage low and avoid unnecessary packaging, plastics and shopping bags. Recycle and turn the lights out when departing your hotel room or vacation rental. Reuse towels and other linens. Encourage each member of the family to bring their own reusable water bottle and refill from large containers if the local water is not safe to use. Hop on board local transportation, use bikes or walk whenever possible. Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact. When we all do our part, we stand a better chance of protecting our parks, keeping forests healthy and our wildlife strong.

For more: www.lnt.org