Tourism can have a positive impact on the environment in terms of preservation, volunteer groups, activism, and awareness to local issues. Many tourist destinations around the world will more than double in population size with the increase in visitors. This places a strain on the population and generates a significant environmental cost.
Tourist destinations need a sufficient infrastructure built to manage the increase in waste produced. Plastic, paper, aluminum, and glass need a reliable collection system for recycling. Many times local governments have no infrastructure for dealing with this kind of waste. Recycling is not yet a global norm and in many developing nations this waste is found disposed of along the rivers and oceans.
“80% of plastic bottles used are not recycled.”
Air pollution and energy use also increases with tourism. Tourists are an added input to the local community. Renting cars, riding buses, and taking taxis add an additional pollutant to the local environment.
Although in many places the infrastructure for green travel does not exist, there are still ways of avoiding plastic waste, decreasing vehicle pollution, and protecting ecological/cultural heritage sites while you travel. You must be willing to give up some of your preconceived habitual activities associated with travel. Some people will operate in a green environmentally friendly way at home, but while on vacation, tend to give up those habits in the name of convenience. You must realize you have an added impact on the new environment when you travel and act responsibly.
You can help by using refillable canteens and cloth shopping bags, shopping at markets and places that do not sell goods sold in packaging. You can rent a bicycle or participate in the local collectives to get around rather than relying solely on taxis or rented vehicles. Walking is truly the greenest form of transportation.