Sustainable travel—and its close cousin, responsible travel—are important issues in Australia, and you’ll find plenty of places that claim to be ecofriendly. So how do you find the places that will truly help you make as little impact as possible on the fragile environment, while still enjoying your holiday? When planning your trip, look for Australian tourism operators who have their tour, attraction, or accommodations accredited under Ecotourism Australia’s Eco Certification Program (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Eco Certification logo is carried by those businesses that are recognized as being tours, attractions, cruises, or accommodations that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. The program assures travelers that these products are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices and provide high-quality nature-based tourism experiences. The website allows you to search for companies that are accredited. Ecotourism Australia also publishes the online Green Travel Guide, which carries a list of all accredited businesses.
Like people in developed nations everywhere, Australians are becoming more and more aware of their environmental responsibilities. Recycling is common practice, with local government areas providing bins for general household refuse, for paper and glass, and for vegetative material such as prunings.
Because of frequent and prolonged droughts, people have become more aware of where their water is coming from, too, and you might be very surprised at how water conscious the average Australian is these days.
That said, what you gain on one hand, you often lose on the other. Gas-guzzling four-wheel-drives are popular, four-wheelers zip around the Outback and on some beaches, and air travel within Australia is generally necessary.
If you are keen to offset the large carbon footprint created by your flight to Australia, use public transport where you can, turn electronic gadgets off at the wall when you aren’t using them, and recycle batteries if possible. Don’t throw cigarette butts on the ground—as well as risking a possible hefty fine, your butt might end up polluting Australia’s waterways.
Resources for Responsible Travel
In addition to the resources for Australia listed previously, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel.
*Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravel.org) promotes ethical tourism practices.
*Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Cool Climate Network (http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu) provide info on “carbon offsetting,” or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
*Green Hotels Association (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company’s stringent environmental requirements.
For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.goabroad.com/volunteer-abroad and www.idealist.org.
There are hundreds of tourism operators and hotels that use the eco-friendly banner when promoting themselves. Choose a hotel designed to reduce its environmental impact with its use of non-toxic cleaners and renewable energy sources. The hotels may be reducing their emissions further by utilizing local food, energy-efficient lighting, and eco-friendly forms of transport. Most hotels now offer you the choice of using the same towels for more than one night—and of course, you should, because laundry makes up around 40 percent of an average hotel’s energy use. Some accommodations offer you the same choice regarding your bed linens if you’re staying more than one night.
Choose tours that are eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable, and preferably employ local guides. Choose a sailing boat rather than a giant motor cruiser to discover the Barrier Reef or the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, for example, or an Aboriginal guided walking tour above a large coach excursion.
If you are looking for a way of “giving something back’’ on your holiday, several organizations offer the opportunity to do some volunteer work in Australia, such as helping to save endangered wildlife. Often there is a fee involved, to cover transportation, accommodations, meals, and so on.
If you want to work with sick or injured native animals, then you can work in a volunteer capacity at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (tel. 07/5534 1266; www.cws.org.au), on the Gold Coast, just south of Brisbane in Queensland.
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (tel. 08/9380 9633; www.australianwildlife.org) offers the occasional option for volunteering on animal projects.
Real Gap Experience (tel. 1800/985-4852 in the United States or 1300/844 270 in Australia; www.realgap.com) offers you the chance to volunteer in Australia, including in a koala sanctuary.
The various official state tourism websites, such as visitvictoria.com, visitnsw.com, and queenslandholidays.com.au, can also recommend responsible local travel companies and green hotel/lodge options. Go to “Visitor Information,” for each destination to find the appropriate visitor’s bureau.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.