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Don't get scammed by the new 'eco-tourism'

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Eco-tourism is quite a buzzword these days. With the threat of global warming finally looming over our heads enough to awaken consciousness, the compass is shifting towards greater interest in ecological tourism.

Great.

But as good as we’d love to feel about ourselves for the eco-trip we stumbled upon – "Which we’re even spending more for!" - we’re solely rejoicing in our own abject ignorance.

In fact, the term ‘greenwashing’ was coined specifically in referral to the travel industry.

Although it could be seen as somewhat respectable that major tour operators are taking baby-steps for the environment, with recycled toilet-paper and low-consumption shower-heads, in reality changing a couple of lightbulbs is just saving on bills.

When major resorts ask guests to re-use their towels to help “save the environment”, without encouraging recycling anywhere else, wasting tonnes of food at every buffet, or implementing changes on how they build their future resorts, they’re just trying to make us feel better about ourselves for the sake of their cash-savvy branding and saving a shed load on their laundry.

This isn’t the die-hard-greenie view that, to help the environment, you should never set foot out of your country ever again. Rather, it’s about understanding that although the tourism landscape is improving, there are still too many trips unrightfully wearing a "ecotourism" tag. Blindly following what companies sell you is doing more harm than good, undermining the work of the companies that are actually trying.

Although eco-tourism doesn’t have stone-set parameters, it’s promoted by independent non-profit-organisations with strict rules to enable a sustainable style of travel. Travellers should adhere to these international markers, rather than ones cynically used by large chains.

Most importantly, it’s first and foremost our own responsibility to travel conscientiously, by consistently making changes in our every-day life and re-framing our mind-set, rather than gullibly thinking petting that captive dolphin is helping animal conservation.

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