The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines eco-tourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." Therefore, eco-tourism activities can take an unlimited number of forms, provided that they support both local people and wildlife. Both organisations and businesses exist to promote eco-tourism, selling packages and providing information to aid the ecotourist in enjoying travel responsibly.
Select a Responsible Tour Operator
You might seek out a tour operator who specialises in eco-tourism. TIES provides an international directory of eco-tourism resources including tour operators. For example, if you wish to go boating in Ecuador, you might select one of TIES' listed tour operators who operate small catamaran cruises. Unlike a typical tour operator, this company uses only local suppliers and opts for family-run and locally-managed independent hotels when making reservations for clients. Such companies pay fair wages to their employees and to the local guides they hire. They recycle all non-organic waste and use only biodegradable soaps and cleansers. Their catamarans are designed for minimum fuel consumption. Finally, on tours they lead to the Galapagos Islands, the £65 park fee goes directly to conservation.
Select Responsible Accomodations
TIES' eco-tourism directory also lists worldwide lodging facilities that follow eco-tourism practices. If, for example, you're looking to camp in the Virgin Islands, you can patronise one of their listed campgrounds. You don't need to live rustically to be an "ecotourist," either. One eco-tourism campground offers wood-frame and canvas cottages with beds, linens and electrical sockets, plus a view of the ocean. The campground follows responsible practices such as using composting toilets, solar heaters for showers and hot tubs, grey water to flush toilets and water-saving faucets.
Become a Volunteer or Intern
Eco-tourism agencies can also place you in internships or volunteer positions in countries around the world. The placements are thoroughly researched to allow you to experience another place while helping to sustain it culturally and economically. One of the agencies listed through TIES offers placement in a variety of industries, including environmental conservation, medicine and veterinary medicine, media and journalism, human rights law and nongovernmental organisation management. The agency facilitates the connection, offering e-mail support and discount on travel expenses. To provide full transparency, they put the ecotourist directly in contact with the organisation or company.
Do Your Research
Besides engaging the services of eco-tourism providers, you can make your travels dramatically more eco-sensitive by researching all the factors of your trip. Consider the "carbon footprint" of your chosen means of transportation. Learn about the culture and the environmental concerns of the place you will visit. Investigate news stories of local exploitation. On arriving, respect local customs in dress and behaviour. Give your business to locally-owned restaurants, hotels and transportation instead of larger chains. Do not purchase products made from endangered animals.