Eco-trekking Minimizes Environmental and Cultural Impacts of Travel
Tourism can act as a positive force. It has the potential to heighten awareness of new lands and cultures and drive change for the better. However, when it is not responsibly planned it can act to exploit both the environment and culture of the destination, leading to destruction of sensitive habitats and pollution, as well as being inconsiderate to local customs and disturbing communities. As a growing number of travellers are appreciating the impact that their holidays can have, more people are seeking to choose a trip that will be eco-friendly and culturally sensitive. The tourism industry is taking note, with many sectors seeking to become more ecologically and culturally sound, so now airlines, hotels and cruise lines are taking steps to demonstrate their commitment to the Earth and its people. In fact, whole holidays are available that embrace the ethos of eco-tourism. For anyone seeking adventure, eco-trekking provides an ideal opportunity. It not only combines outdoor activities amongst captivating scenery and diverse wildlife, but ensures the environment and local people benefit. Here we consider how eco-trekking provides a more responsible choice for travel to minimize the environmental and community impact.
Key features of eco-trekking
Eco-trekking sets out to ensure that it isn’t just the traveller who benefits from the experience. The neighbouring communities are considered highly and steps are taken to involve them as much as is appropriate to ensure their well-being is maintained; local people are involved in decision making if any aspects of tourism will have an impact on the way they live. Tours will often be locally owned and operated to help support those in the area through the use of accommodation and purchase of goods, providing employment opportunities; good working conditions are provided for those working in tourism locally. The extra income and the donations given by eco-trekking operators can help to benefit those living there through the development of services such as schools and medical care. The locals don’t just benefit financially though. Visitors can learn about traditional art, history and culture, helping to instil a sense of pride and confidence amongst local communities. However, the exchange is two way and the indigenous people may be able to learn more about modern methods and adapt them to fit in with their way of living. The natural environment is also conserved as a result of eco-trekking. Its low impact prevents the habitat disturbance and destruction that would otherwise be caused through careless trekking and pollution. Money is also invested in schemes that protect sensitive areas and their wildlife, helping to ensure their success in preserving endangered species.
Practical steps to minimize impact
Those who run and are involved in the companies that provide eco-trekking opportunities are concerned for the locals and the environment. They are well-educated regarding these matters and follow guidelines that relate to responsible trekking and tourism. Travelling as part of a group can help eco-tourists get the most out of their trip and allow them to tap into the knowledge of their guides to help reduce their impact. The following are amongst the steps taken during eco-trekking to help preserve the natural surroundings and respect the locals:
- The motto “Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints” is observed to help maintain the environment in its natural state. No plants or wildlife are disturbed and even on the coast, shells are left on the beach. Biodegradable waste is disposed of carefully and all other waste is taken with you; all members of the group are aware of their responsibility regarding this and are encouraged to avoid bringing packaged items where possible to reduce waste.
- Greener fuels are used for cooking and to heat water to limit pollution and wood is avoided as fuel to help reduce the need for deforestation.
- Resources such as water are used sparingly, allowing them to be sustained; visitors are encouraged to use biodegradable soap to preserve water quality.
- Treks avoid culturally important sites and sensitive habitats out of respect and for their preservation. Popular areas of trail are also avoided to prevent overcrowding and erosion of paths; the loss of soil and nutrients can have a huge impact on plant growth and the communities they support.
- Local services are used and those operating these are encouraged to use eco-friendly measures.
- Religious beliefs and customs are respected – travellers are advised to consider the way they dress, the goods and substances they bring with them, to respect local practises and to ask before taking pictures.
Eco-trekking provides a rewarding opportunity for travel, adventure and cultural enrichment, whilst ensuring there is minimal impact to the natural and local community. However, the quality of the trips along with the safety and enjoyment of travellers remain paramount, and they still offer very good value for money to those taking part. Eco-trekking therefore makes a great choice for those seeking to travel responsibly.