The Benefits of Sustainable TravelBret Love – Green Global Travel
What’s in a name?
Whether you call it sustainable travel, ethical travel, or ecotourism, travel that seeks to minimize the negative impact and maximize the positive impact our adventures have on the places we visit is growing rapidly.
According to the Center for Responsible Travel’s annual study of travel trends and statistics, growth of the sustainable travel sector is outpacing that of traditional “sun and sand tourism” by an increasingly wide margin. And as more and more people come to understand the substantial benefits of this approach, industry experts predict that sustainable travel will become even more prevalent in years to come.
In my eyes, sustainable travel must go deeper than the classic eco-friendly mantra of “take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Its roots date back to 1990, when The International Ecotourism Society was created. Founder Megan Epler Wood defined ecotourism then as “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”
So for me, sustainable travel must benefit both the ecology and the economy of a destination, contributing to the conservation of local flora and fauna and improving the lives of locals.
In short, it’s not enough to minimize our negative impact on the places we visit. As travelers, we must also do whatever we can to make smart choices that help improve things in some small way. In this regard, we do our part to ensure that the destinations we love to travel to are conserved for future generations.
Learning through doing
I learned about these concepts back in 2000, during a life-changing two-week trip to South Africa. I spent a week on safari in Kruger National Park, including several incredible days at a private game reserve that was dedicated to wildlife conservation. It was there that I first heard the term ecotourism, and witnessed its principles in action.
We learned how our guide/tracker, Solomon, was one of many employees hired from the villages that bordered the private reserve. We saw how passionate they were about protecting the Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, Wild Dogs, and other animals. We heard about educational programs funded by tourism revenue, teaching local children about the importance of wildlife conservation. We heard how tourism revenue could be used to support local farmers who were willing to stop killing predators that escaped from the reserve and killed their livestock.
This interconnectivity and interdependence between the tourism industry, local communities, and conservation blew my mind and completely transformed the way I traveled. Responsible, sustainable travel became my life’s driving passion.
Ten years later– after major changes that included the birth of my daughter and the death of my beloved grandmother– I finally found a way to fulfill what I came to see as my life’s true purpose.
Together with my wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, in 2010 I launched Green Global Travel, a website dedicated to sharing our deep love for ecotourism adventures, inspiring people to travel and live sustainably, and encourage everyone to do their part to make the world a better place. Thanks to the site’s success, we’ve been blessed to travel together to around 40 countries on six different continents, learning a lot more about sustainable travel and environmental conservation along the way.
We realized that being sustainable isn’t something that happens overnight, but rather a transformation in consciousness that we call “baby steps to going green.” Anybody can do it: all you need is an understanding of the basic principles of sustainability and a willingness to make small, gradual changes. From how we travel to where we stay, the foods we choose to eat to the places we shop, every little decision we make during our adventures can make a positive difference.
For me, experiencing sustainable travel transformed my life, and ultimately turned me into a more conscious, considerate, and progressive person. Understanding it deepened and enriched every single travel experience I’ve had in the past 17 years. And it made me passionate about proselytizing about the benefits of sustainable travel, for nature, wildlife, local communities, and travelers alike.
About Bret Love – Green Global Travel
Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 23 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Airlines to National Geographic and Yahoo Travel. Along with his wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, he is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media.