The last few years have proven true the theory of global warming. The weather and climate of Kenya and the world generally has significantly changed. It has also become very sporadic and unpredictable. One of the reasons for this is the environmental degradation thanks to harmful human activities. Pollution, reckless emission, deforestation, and over-exploitation of natural resources are just some of the ways we participate in environmental damage.
That is where sustainable tourism comes in. As a sustainable tourist, you aim to conserve and preserve the environment and everything in it as you travel. Not only do sustainable tourists save the environment, but they also benefit the communities they will meet. Here are a few ways of putting this into practice in 2020.
1. Do not Litter
The simplest way of being a sustainable tourist is by avoiding littering. One of the common points degraded by traveller’s lack of environmental respect is at the Gilgil Weighing Bridge. The place carries litter from years of accumulation with plastic water and soda bottles being the main culprits. Most Kenyans seem to have the littering habit deeply embedded in them. Once you finish your drink or snack, the next default action is to throw out the empty packaging. However, as a sustainable tourist, you should only throw away your litter into correctly designated points. It will cost you very little, if any, to carry an empty bottle in your bag up to your next stop. Thankfully, most public transport vehicles now have dustbins for their passengers.
2. Do not Waste
Whether it is food, water, or money, a sustainable tourist is called to higher levels of responsible usage because overexploitation of resources, natural or otherwise, leads to environmental damage. Therefore, if you are staying at a hotel, for example, make sure you do not leave the water taps running or the electricity on if you are not using them. Order food that you are sure to finish and spend money on things you are sure to need and enjoy.
3. Reuse and Go Green
As you already know, plastic is the biggest land polluter all over the world. Even with the plastic ban in Kenya, you will still see so many places littered with plastic from decades ago. Plastic takes over a century to decompose, and some kinds remain intact for longer. Therefore, as a sustainable tourist, you can choose to go green and use eco-friendly and reusable items. For example, carry a woven basket for your shopping needs. Buy water in bulk in a reusable plastic bottle as opposed to buying dozens of smaller ones. Eat foods on plates instead of buying them in plastic packets etc. You might think your efforts are not significant to the overall outcome, but every great journey starts with just one small step.
4. Buy Local
Sustainable tourism is not only about the physical environment. Helping the people in it is just as important. You can choose to be a sustainable tourist by supporting local businesses and initiatives. For example, when you visit lakes Naivasha or Victoria, do not leave before buying some fish from the local fishermen or eating at the local vibandas (eateries). In Narok, buy the curios and Maasai shukas. Buy honey and charcoal when in Baringo and sweet watermelons in Marigat. If you are in Kericho, buy some tea and enjoy some coconut down at the coast. By promoting the local communities as you travel, you sustain their livelihood while promoting the local economy at large.
5. Preserve the Wild
One of the common temptations most Kenyan and global travellers fall into is the desire to carry pieces of their experience back home with them. For example, carrying shells from the sea or rocks from Rusinga Island. While to an extent this is okay, there is still a limit. A sustainable tourist must make an effort to preserve the environment in its natural and healthy state. You must avoid any actions that jeopardize the state of the environment. Try also to avoid killing or carrying plants or animals from their natural habitats. Disapprove and stay away from the trade of illegal things such as items made out of ivory. Do not purchase products made from endangered species, as enticing as they may be. Imagine if every traveller chose to have a piece of a beautiful plant or animal for themselves. There would not be any left to see.
6. Protect Local Culture
Another way of being a sustainable tourist is through cultural preservation. Travel has transformed the world into a global village, and we want to leave an impact where we go as much as we want to experience some. However, you should know and respect that every community has its own culture and traditions. Therefore, just because you are a Luhya visiting Pokot land, does not mean you should force your way of doing things on them. Sustainable tourism requires you to appreciate and adapt to different cultures as you go. You have all the room to enjoy new customs as long as you do not threaten their existence.
7. Travel Offseason
You might wonder how this contributes to sustainable tourism. The truth is that during high seasons, most destinations are at capacity. Meaning all their resources are performing at overtime mode. The animals at the parks face maximum disruption, and fishing rates stretch significantly. As a sustainable tourist, you can help ease off this strain by visiting these areas at low peaks. The beaches are still as beautiful and more peaceful. The parks are less crowded and serene. Moreover, sometimes, the prices are lower, which works to your advantage.
Sustainable tourism is essential to you as an individual and to the country at large. If we do not take care of the environment right now, we should not complain later when it all goes up in ashes in the future. You do not have to work at the United Nations to be an environmentalist. You can conserve while doing what you love through sustainable tourism. Therefore, be a sustainable tourist and see how coming generations will thank you.