Earth Day: A Time to Reflect on Sustainable Tourism

— Written By Maude Dinan

April 22 marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day in 1970 gave voice to an emerging awareness of society’s impact on the environment and catalyzed the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Soon after, the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were passed.

Earth Day provides an opportunity to reflect on and promote sustainable tourism, to travelers and tourism businesses alike. Tourism supports the visitation to unique natural and built places throughout the world, inspiring the celebration and protection of our shared natural and cultural resources. At the same time, we need to reflect on how to reduce the negative impacts of our travel in the environment, such as seeking alternative transportation modes to reduce carbon emissions or supporting initiatives to offset them.

For business owners, sustainable practices not only protect the environment, but are especially profitable. Implementing green technologies (e.g., LED light bulbs, low-flow faucets) and green practices (e.g., recycling, local food procurement) provide opportunities for businesses to help the environment, attract traveler’s seeking sustainable options, and save money. Tourism businesses in North Carolina can earn recognition for their sustainable efforts and be certified free of charge through NC GreenTravel. Businesses interested in low-carbon practices can visit outstanding implemented around the globe highlighted at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly Sustainable Innovation Expo held in Kenya this March.

For travelers, a multitude of ways exist to explore responsibly. Direct environmentally-friendly actions include, for example, opting for traveling by train, carrying your own reusable containers for water and food, and reducing waste. Several other indirect practices can support sustainable tourism as well. For example, purchasing local goods (e.g., handcrafts) and opting for local providers (e.g., restaurants, shops) as they can multiply the social and economic benefits in the host communities.

Whether you are a tourism business, a traveler, or just a planet citizen, celebrate Earth Day this Monday and every day, continuing the momentum of its visionaries and the protection of our cherished places.