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6 Ways Tourists Harm the Environment

6 Ways Tourists Harm the Environment

Traveling broadens one’s horizons, enriches the mind with new experiences, and thrills the soul with the pleasure of immersing in other cultures. However, unbeknownst to most, tourism has grave repercussions on the environment. The seven points listed below all boil down to one idea: supporting unsustainable tourism practices. Travelers need to be more conscious to avoid actions that are detrimental to the environment.


1. Solid waste and littering

I don’t need to go into much detail here as I think we can all agree how heaps of trash can really tarnish the beauty of any tourist sight we visit. Several hiking destination favorites in the Philippines are being trashed because of irresponsible mountaineers who leave a flurry of trash in their wake along mountain trails.

"Water Pollution with Trash Disposal of Waste at the Garbage Beach" by Epsos
“Water Pollution with Trash Disposal of Waste at the Garbage Beach” photo by Epsos via Flickr Creative Commons


2. Supporting unsustainable land use

Since travelers patronize big hotel chains, large infrastructures continue to be built along coastlines and scenic routes. This over development can be destructive not only to the environment but also to the local economy. Support hotels and resorts that are constructed cost effectively and preserve local culture, all the while minimizing the disturbance on the environment.

"Just say NO to over Development" by Peter Blanchard
“Just say NO to over Development” photo by Peter Blanchard via Flickr Creative Commons


3. Disrupting natural ecosystems

“Know before you go” again is an important tip to remember when engaging in activities that have something to do with interacting with wildlife. It is not advisable to get into very close range with animals, such as whale sharks, in their natural habitat as it can frighten them or make them feel uneasy in their own turf.

"Whale shark" by Quinn Dombrowski
“Whale shark” photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr Creative Commons

4. Buying wildlife souvenirs

This is another practice that can disrupt natural ecosystems: purchasing souvenirs made from materials taken exotic animals. If tourists would continue to buy these items, then locals will continue to supply for this demand by hunting down animals and making, God forbid, wallets and bags out of them. Do not, under any circumstances, support this trade. We’re not just talking about furs form endangered animals here. We’re also talking about items made from shells, coral, and more.

"Bengali" by Stefanie Kraus
“Bengali” photo by Stefanie Kraus via Flickr Creative Commons


5. Depleting local resources

Tourism can create immense pressure on local resources like energy, food, water and other raw materials that may already be in short supply. Because tourism is a seasonal industry, many destinations have more visitors and higher demand for resources during peak seasons. The best way to mitigate this high demand would be to conserve local resources, or maybe take the road less traveled.

"Just a face in the crowd" by Scott Cresswell
“Just a face in the crowd” photo by Scott Cresswell via Flickr Creative Commons


6. Staying uninformed

Before packing your bags, make sure you are well versed and informed about the place you’ll be visiting. A lot of tourists have no idea how seemingly harmless actions can already pose grave threats to local economies and to the environment when these little actions are done collectively. It pays to know before you go.

"Butterfly taking a lift" by Deni Williams
“Butterfly taking a lift” photo by Deni Williams via Flickr Creative Commons

The driving force of businesses and hotel chains with unsustainable tourism practices is consumer power. We have a choice in whether or not we support their businesses by paying them for their services or demanding authentic environment-friendly policies and practices. On your next adventure, be a more conscious traveler and avoid these actions which can be harmful to the environment, to your next destination, and to the local communities residing there.

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