Eco-tourism in America's National Parks

What's the Relationship Between Green Living and Eco-tourism?

Though I have always tried to live my life to a green living standard, I have made a much more conscious effort to maintain a green lifestyle during the last decade. In my mind, the basic premise to living a green lifestyle is to consider the impacts of your actions on the Earth's fragile environment and to work to improve our mutual sustainability.

So with the summer rapidly approaching, it seemed fit to consider the different ways we can maintain our green lifestyle as we plan our vacation travels. Since our intended travel plans include visits to a few national and state parks, I decided to look a little deeper into ways that maximize our experience and still preserve these fragile environments. As I dove deeper into my research for our pending trips, I kept running into the term and concept of ecotourism.

Our "Norm" in Green Vacationing

We have always tried to be considerate anytime we planned and went on our vacations. There are numerous steps we take to insure we maintain our green lifestyle as we travel around the countryside and enjoy all the World has to offer. Some of the practices we employ include:

  • Preparing our vehicle for the trip making sure the fluids are changed, tires inflated, etc.
  • Use our own digital cameras rather than older film or disposable varieties;
  • Pack our own edible materials in bulk to minimize waste materials;
  • Whenever possible, use lodging that has a recycling and conservation program;
  • Maintain our recycling efforts on the road;
  • and the list goes on .....

What is Eco-tourism and How Does it Differ?

The formal definition of Eco-tourism as provided by The International Eco-tourism Society is:

"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)

Though somewhat similar to the basic principles we follow when green vacationing, the principles employed by those practicing ecotourism go even deeper and involve:

  • efforts to minimize any impact to the environment and its inhabitants;
  • sustain an effort to build local cultural and environmental awareness;
  • work to support the local people and their economy; and
  • work to insure people's awareness of the region's environmental, political and social atmosphere.

It is easy to see where those considerations apply when traveling to other parts of the world with distinctly different overall environments (natural, social, political) and really not too hard to envision how those considerations are important in different regions of this country as well.

Eco-tourism & US National Parks

Status of Eco-tourism in Our National Parks

When visiting any of our national parks, it doesn't take long to see that many of the principles of Eco-tourism are at work. Prevalent examples include the plethora of signs identifying sensitive areas and need to stay on approved paths and roadways; warning not to disturb or feed the local wildlife, don't litter or "take out what you bring in", etc.

Even though the presence of those practices today are both warranted and beneficial, it hasn't always been that way as Sam Waterson (of "Law and Order" fame) tells in the accompanying video.

So the next time you travel to any national park or distant region, take care to practice the basic principles of Eco-tourism. I know we'll be "kicking it up a notch" this summer as we visit different parks and regions of our country.

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Comments 2 comments

bohemiotx profile image

bohemiotx 5 years ago from Tyler, TX

I enjoyed your definition of ecotourism and your norm in green vacationing. Costa Rica seems to be a Mecca for ecotourists.


Thanks for this article gave me a way out.

definition of ecotourism is very useful for me, as a college thesis I was doing

I found the same thing in

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