Environmentally Friendly Travel Tips
Central America might not make up much of the world’s land mass, but it accounts for around 7% of the world’s biodiversity. Many people visit this part of the world to experience the stunning, and varied natural beauty, from mountains and volcanoes, to rainforests and beaches, to the unique plants and animals. But a number of pressures such as unsustainable land practices, and climate change are threatening these precious natural features. Tourism can also negatively affect the environment, so it’s wise before any trip abroad to be well-informed on how you can lessen your impact. I’ve put together some tips for environmentally friendly travel through Central America, so read on if you’re planning some travel through this amazing part of the world.
Before you leave, buy a water bottle with a built in filter. These are usually fairly lightweight, so won’t add too much bulk to your luggage. If you forget to buy one before you leave, they’re now becoming increasingly more available in major supermarkets in Central America. Be aware that these filters may not rid the water completely of toxins, so it pays to check the status of water safety in the country (or countries) you’re travelling to, and determine if these bottles are appropriate. Alternatively, water bottles made from recycled plastic are now becoming more of the norm in Central America, so these are the next best option.
Avoid eating from local restaurants that use Styrofoam to serve food. Styrofoam is unfortunately used extremely widely throughout Central America (and you thought we stopped using it sometime in the 80s!). However, I do still recommend eating locally because it’s a unique experience, and usually delicious, but will importantly lower the carbon footprint associated with your meal, as ingredients are locally sourced.
Take a ‘green bag’ with you everywhere you go, and say no to plastic bags. Shop keepers in Central America will give you a bag for everything, even if you buy a packet of gum! Slowly people are catching on to the need to reduce plastic, however, there is still a massive amount of plastic being used. This is unfortunately usually dumped in the streets, and then makes its way to landfill, and/or surrounding waterways.
Take public/shared transport where ever, whenever you can. In Central America this type of transport is cheap, easy to find, and can be a lot of fun! You’ll be likely to see, hear, and do more interesting things on these types of transport, as they’re used by locals. Depending on where you’re headed, you may travel through some fascinating ‘off the beaten path’ places. Just be sure to take a few extra safety precautions with your baggage, and valuables: make sure you keep an eye on everything at all times, and store valuables well out of sight.
If you decide to join a tour, do a bit of research, and look for tours that are eco-friendly. You’ll also find more, and more eco-friendly hostels popping up in Central America too (particularly Costa Rica). As with all operations claiming to be ‘eco-friendly’, if you can, do the homework into exactly what backs up their claim. Unfortunately some operations like the label more than the premise behind it.
Volunteer with Volunteer Latin America (VLA) on some environmentally friendly projects! VLA has so many worthwhile projects on offer throughout Central (and South) America, the hardest thing will be choosing which ones to apply for. If you haven’t already, jump over to the volunteer projects page now and take a look.
Have you travelled through Central America? What are some of your tips on being environmentally conscious in this part of the world?