In the spirit of Thanksgiving, it’s a great time for us to think about what we do to give back to the people and places we love. Here at Team Green Adventures, we love getting outdoors, exploring new locales, and taking advantage of all the natural wonders our world has to offer. Whether we’re canoeing our local rivers, backpacking the Smokies, or skiing the slopes of Vail, we find ways to get out and appreciate the world around us and are incredibly thankful for those opportunities. We understand, however, that our travels aren’t without consequences, and we try to do our best to make sure we’re adventuring responsibly, which is why we’ve brewed up our very own brand of ecotourism and embedded those ideals into all of our adventures.
According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” The definition of ecotourism is fairly broad, allowing for those who practice it to put their own spin on how they implement it, which is great for the environmentally- and socially-conscious traveler. In further defining ecotourism, TIES says that travelers should follow the following six principles:
1. Minimize impact on the local environment.
2. Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
3. Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
4. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
5. Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
6. Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.
While we try to keep all of these principles in mind on any of our events, we focus on implementing some more than others, which is why I say that we’ve come up with our own version of ecotourism. Since most of our trips are local and free, we focus less on principles 4 and 6, and more on some of the other ideals that we can have a greater impact on. Here are a few ways we do it:
– We do all we can to minimize our negative impact on the local environment. We practice Leave No Trace guidelines, meaning that anywhere we go, we try to leave our campsite or hiking trail as clean as we found it, or cleaner. We take this one step further on our summer canoe floats, hosting river cleanups and giving out prizes to boats that pull the most trash out of the river. This allows us to enjoy the beauty of our local waterways while also doing our part to make sure we keep them clean for future groups to enjoy. Working with Bridgestone’s Tires 4ward Program this summer, we pulled 55 tires and more than 110 bags of trash from our local streams and rivers, and can’t wait to get out and do it again next summer!
– On all of our events, we try to educate our groups on how their actions impact the local environment. Working with great groups like the Cumberland River Compact and Hands On Nashville provide a great educational experience, as their staff members are well-versed in environmental issues. Our trip leaders are also great resources on many of our events, as they often have a deep knowledge about the places we travel and the impacts we have on those places. We also work with Urban Green Lab through our Engage Green workshop series to educate our audience on issues of sustainability, providing a great complement to our more traditional outdoor adventures and ensuring that education remains part of our core mission.
– We use local outfitters for nearly all of our events, allowing our trips to benefit businesses (which are oftentimes family-owned) in whatever area we are traveling to. Working with these local companies helps us support a vibrant outfitter community, and going back to these businesses year after year allows us to develop strong relationships with the outdoors community in Middle Tennessee and beyond. These working relationships are vital to letting us continue to provide great events for all of our trip-goers, and are always rewarding for us to maintain. Plus, local outfitters always have the best stories, and are never shy about sharing them!
Like what we’re doing? Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like us on Facebook to stay up to date on our upcoming adventures! Next week, we’ll head to Costa Rica for 8 days of ecotourism, where we’ll have the chance to work with the World Wildlife Fund Sea Turtle Project on an exclusive (and adorable) volunteer opportunity. And please don’t forget, next time you’re traveling near or far, make sure you’re doing your part to be a responsible steward for whatever environment you might find yourself in. Happy Thanksgiving!
– Matt (Team Green’s Event Coordinator)