About: We prefer variety over conformity, debating over dictating, and constant improvement over holy infallibility and finger pointing especially on the not so well off. These guidelines are not ground in stone, and we aim to continuously improve them with the assistance of our members and readers. The guidelines are broken into three main sections: "Before", "During" and "After", back home. Eco is originally derived from 'ΟΙΚΟΣ - OIKOS' (Greek for Home) and our journeys start and end at home, our private home and our common home, Earth.
(Before setting out on your journey)
- Study before you travel: local politics, history, culture, environment, basic phrases, health precautions. Learn at least how to say hello, thank you, good morning, good night in the local language.
- Plan your itinerary to maximise enjoyment and minimise unnecessary transport.
- Seek eco-friendly hotels, community-owned hotels, family-owned hotels and ecotours online.
- Discuss with fellow eco-enthusiasts who have been there or live there, online or offline.
- Try to locate locals and organisations who share your passions and worldview through social networks and arrange to meet them during your trip.
- Try booking directly with local providers so as to minimise leakages and save money to spend at your destination.
- Pack appropriate items for your destination, travel light. Lighter luggage helps save airline and car fuel.
- Do not forget a couple of reusable shopping bags and a refillable water bottle, so as to avoid plastic disposable items.
- Choose eco-friendly items and in particular sunscreen as it affects coral reef health.
- House - check utilities, remove power plugs, cords, water the plants drip irrigation, empty fridge - foods to relatives, friends, neighbours.
- Consider bringing gifts for people you are planning to meet - gifts that promote cultural exchange, eco-products (organic, vegetarian, non-violent, appropriate for destination). Do not bring items that may offend, such as clothes, unless you are visiting a destitute area. The chances are that money is more useful.
- Go to your airport, train or bus station using public transport. Travel economy, save money to spend locally.
- Think twice before carbon-offsetting your journey. Consider if the offsetter is a reputable one and investing in transparent, relevant social and environmental projects. You could pay this money directly to a cause or project of your choice in your destination, or by making an extra effort to use eco transport and eco accommodation.
- If you cannot avoid flying, choose a direct flight and a fuel-efficient aircraft such as Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787-9. Bring your own food or choose vegetarian and vegan meal options.
- During epidemics and pandemics, cancel your travel plans if you are unwell so as not to endanger others.
(During your journey)
Prefer public transport. Share private transport with locals (rides) and other travellers - be aware about personal safety but not in an excessive way.
- Choose to walk or to rent a bike if available. Do not ride animals, from donkeys to elephants, it is abuse.
Instead of immersing yourself in your book, try to interact, in a respectful and not pressing manner, with other passengers, it may prove the most enjoyable and educational part of your journey.
Do not show off expensive items, avoid generating jealousy. Consider not taking any flashy items with you on your journey.
- Consider giving up your seat on public buses to older passengers. The sight of foreign tourists, especially young ones, taking up seats reserved for senior citizens is unfortunately not so uncommon.
IN YOUR ROOM / HOTEL
Conserve electricity: excessive environmental impact is NOT really included in your bill! There is no real reason to use the air-conditioning, which is also unhealthy, prefer electric fans if available. Make sure all doors and windows are closed when air conditioning is operating. Close curtains/shades/blinds during the day to keep your room cool, open windows during the evening. If using the a/c do not set it lower than 25 degrees Celsius. Do not leave the lights open, or any electrical appliances connected when leaving the room, some appliances and chargers consume energy even in standby mode.
- Conserve water: prefer short showers over baths. Do not leave the tap running when shaving. If the toilet has a dual flush mechanism use the shorter option. If you detect a leakage let the management know!
Your towels and sheets do not need to be washed every day. On the other hand hotel workers usually prefer that you let them clean the room on a daily basis so that it is kept in a good condition, their work is steady and predictable and they do not lose pay.
Avoid chemical anti-mosquito insecticides, opt for natural products, and nets.
- Do not use chemical-based sunscreen if swimming in the sea, and no sunscreen at all before using the pool.
Explain to your hosts why you chose their accommodation (if due to their ecological & socially just principles) and consider offering them, in a polite manner, realistic ideas on how to improve the guest experience, especially if they asked you or seem eager to listen. If you discovered a gem, review it in online review sites and inform major guidebooks.
- Recycle (paper, plastics, glass, aluminum cans, batteries) if your room, hotel or destination has suitable facilities, or take your recyclables back home with you.
- If the hotel provides free toiletries, please use only as needed and do not take them home with you.
- If there is a mini-fridge make sure the door is closed. If there is nothing inside, ask a staff member if it should be shut down.
- Do not waste food: do not take more food than you can eat from a buffet and choose local, organic, seasonal produce. Avoid meat dishes.
IN NATURAL/CULTURAL SITES
Remain on designated trails, respect and keep far from wildlife, do not chase animals to photograph them, be silent, wear natural colours, do not take or introduce anything to the environment, do not stack rocks (cairns) along paths.
In protected or archaeological areas, do not disrupt scientists at work.
Be appreciative and genuinely interested in learning new things, do not try to outsmart local guides or impress them with your vast knowledge and travel experience.
Stop your guide if they try to do something inappropriate to wildlife for your amusement, and politely explain why tourists are no longer interested in such gimmicks. Do not insist on watching wildlife in case your guides go overboard to satisfy you.
Do not constantly compare your country with your destination in your mind and especially to your hosts, relax!
Try to immerse and pace yourself - keep a balance between Museums, cultural events, meeting people, visiting protected areas, monuments.
- If you find an ancient artifact, leave it where you found it, take a picture/video and notify the appropriate archaeological authorities.
- Know your physical limits, do not underestimate nature, listen to local advice about weather and suitable trails.
- Stay only in designated campgrounds/accommodation. Be extra careful with cooking near or inside a forest, use only designated fire pits and grills.
- Do not forget your reusable water bottle, avoid purchasing plastic water bottles.
Prefer the local family shop to the multinational chain.
Buy local products for necessities. Don't carry everything with you from home.
Do not buy any items made from endangered plants or animals, such as turtleshell, however attractive or traditional they may look.
- Avoid markets that have a wildlife meat section - this is widely considered as the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if bargaining is tolerated or even anticipated, do not bargain excessively. If you made a counter-offer, keep your word when the price falls!
Support local publishers and bookshops, buy locally-produced guides and maps.
Support traditional, locally-made arts, including music, and crafts when buying gifts for loved ones back at home.
- Use the reusable shopping bags you brought with you, politely refuse plastic disposable bags.
- Do not forget your reusable water bottle, avoid purchasing plastic water bottles.
EATING, DRINKING & ENTERTAINMENT
Always prefer local food to international cuisine and locally owned family restaurants to international chains. Choose in-season dishes, vegetarian and vegan, they have a lower impact on the environment.
- If there is a worker-owned cafe or restaurant run by a local cooperative do not miss the opportunity to support it.
- Avoid beverages and other products produced by multinationals.
Pay attention to hygienic conditions but do not overdo it, treat food as part of your exploration, without wasting it either. Taste is one of the five senses through which you will perceive your destination.
Prefer fresh local juice to imported condensed one.
- Politely refuse plastic straws and other single use plastic like plates and cutlery if you can.
Respect local alcohol-related & smoking laws and customs, especially in public.
Use your refillable water bottle (& purifying tablets if needed), avoid buying plastic water bottles.
- Choose cultural performances carefully so that they are respectful and inclusive of authentic local tradition and benefit the local community.
- Do not go anywhere near red light districts and sex tourism destinations, even out of "curiosity" or "concern" as you could indirectly contribute to human misery and exploitation, even by posting pictures from these sad destinations online.
Wear appropriate clothes at all times. Your goal is to feel comfortable, in terms of the local temperature and culture. Specific sites, such as religious ones, usually have stricter dress codes, so always carry with you some extra clothes to cover up.
Avoid insulting local sensitivities relating to morals, politics or traditions, especially in public.
Share experiences, information and rides with fellow travellers but not only with them, interact with local people, seek ecological organisations and movements.
Pay a visit (and money...) to local projects that support local society, environment, economy.
Do not treat poor areas and slums as human zoos, if visiting choose very carefully that your guide or tour operator is a community-based effort that helps the neighbourhood with its full consent.
Observe violations of environmental laws, human rights (abuse to women, children, minorities) and animal rights (cruelty to animals) by guides, locals or travellers. Do not look away! Speak up and report to appropriate local authorities and international organisations as soon as it is safe to do so. Take a picture or video, if possible, to substantiate your claims.
- Avoid attractions and activities that (ab)use captive animals, such as riding elephants, swimming with dolphins and any shows where animals are expected to perform.
- If a fellow traveller behaves inappropriately address him politely but definitely.
Do not correct locals when using your language incorrectly unless they ask you to do so.
Similarly, do not barge into the homes of locals in tourist sites, respect their privacy.
Do not photograph locals without asking, and don't over do it when they accept. Offer to delete a photo you have taken if the person was for some reason offended or changed his/her mind. Be sensitive about religious, cultural or security sites.
If the destination you are visiting does not have any or adequate recycling facilities, take your rubbish (plastic, batteries) with you. For the same purpose prefer reusable items - razors, rechargeable batteries, thermos instead of plastic bottles.
Do not encourage children to expect sweets, money or presents from foreigners, nor their parents to use the children so as to sell products or services to tourists. Child labour in Tourism is not a sacred local tradition or custom that you necessarily need to respect.
If you promise something to people you meet (sending a picture, a letter), make sure you can keep your word!
- On longer journeys, contact your relatives and close friends on a regular basis giving your exact location.
(Ecotourism starts and ends at home!)
Consider organising a slideshow for good friends and relatives to increase interest knowledge and dispel misconceptions about the wonderful place you have just been to.
Keep your promises, whatever these may be, to local people you have met and fellow travellers.
Send a thank you note by email or a postcard to your hosts.
If you were satisfied, recommend these hosts to your friends.
- Consider posting a favourite review in social media or review websites.
- Do not badmouth the whole country, region, city/destination based on a negative encounter or experience.
Try linking up with people from the country you have just visited and happen to live in your city. Visit an ethnic restaurant, a cultural centre, a shop. Tell them how much you liked their home, and they will love yours.
Keep up to date with news developments in that country, and check to see if news reports in your country correspond to what you have just observed. If not, protest!
Re-read the guidebooks and contact authors to correct errors, especially those about cultural and environmental issues.
Practice Green Living: keep reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, sharing, donating, using public transport, being kind to your fellow citizens, neighbours, immigrants and refugees. Switch from single-use/disposable to reusable products. Prefer small, local independent shops to chains and supermarkets and local non-gmo, organic products to imported ones. Become vegan or vegetarian or at least reduce your consumption of meat. Refuse unwanted giveaways and products that create waste due to their packaging. Do not use a fireplace. Do not burn cuttings from your garden, use a garden shredder or a wood chipper. Conserve energy and natural resources. Insulate your house, water heater and water pipes.
Finally, unlike bureaucratic & know-it-all documents, we end these guidelines with a poem, "Ithaka (Ιθάκη)" the famous C. P. Cavafy poem that advises travellers far more eloquently:
C.P. Cavafy - " Ithaka " (1911)
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her, you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.