2014-03-23

How to be a more sustainable tourist

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Argentina boasts a variety of nature like no other country on Earth.  It stretches from the tip of Antarctica in the south to the border with Brazil in the north and is home to many different natural attractions, from the glaciers of Patagonia to the salt flats of Salta and the waterfalls in Iguazu.  As a result it is one of the most unique and incredible countries in the world to travel to.

However it is important that we don’t take these places for granted.  Sadly, the Argentine region of Misiones, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls, is under serious threat from mass deforestation and has already lost as much as 40% of its original rainforest.  At the same time, more than 30% of the land in Patagonia (in the south of Argentina) has been heavily degraded from its natural condition.  As tourists we have a responsibility to ensure that by visiting a country we don’t have a negative impact on its environment.  Of course this is not all the fault of tourists.  Many of the natural challenges facing Argentina have arisen for reasons completely beyond our control, but it is also the case that tourism can make the situation worse.  One of the ways we can try to avoid this is by choosing carefully which companies we use.  The Responsible Tourism Network (RTR) is one of the organisations in Argentina which aims to make this easier.  The network accepts members from the tourism sector who have a real commitment to sustainability and is a great resource for those wanting to travel sustainably.  In their words, “the world requires our active participation to achieve the urgent transformation necessary to enjoy tourism and a world for each and everyone.”  

For those wanting to do even more, volunteering is a great option.  Sustainable tourism isn't just about conserving our natural environment but also integrating with the culture of the place we are visiting and creating a relationship with the local people.  In this sense there is no better way of travelling sustainably than volunteering with the local community in a worthwhile project.  It allows you to experience a new culture and country, while also having a positive impact on your environment – whether it is by helping out in a local orphanage, soup kitchen or even community radio station.  So for an unforgettable, and entirely sustainable experience, why not consider volunteering?

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