“Sustainability goes beyond what we often think of as ‘green’,” said Megan Epler Wood, executive director of the Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program at Cornell University’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise and director at EplerWood International. “It’s about how we take care of our planet, sharing our resources and doing so in a way that is just and fair for all.”
In 1990, Epler Wood founded the International Ecotourism Society, the first non-profit organization dedicated to using ecotourism to promote sustainable development. Since then she has worked in more than 30 countries on the development of tourism guidelines. Her 2017 book “Sustainable tourism on a finite planet: solutions for environment, economy and politics‘ describes the increasing pressures and hidden costs of travel – and offers recommendations for reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, culture and human health.
Books like Epler Wood’s can help us understand our possibilities. Case studies highlight how management can have a negative or positive impact on travel destinations. Conservationists’ autobiographies take readers on journeys to amazing and endangered places. And guidance includes specific pointers on reducing negative impacts, experiencing conservation and community-focused travel destinations, and distinguishing sensible action from fraudulent greenwashing.
Is my airline or hotel greenwashing? Here’s how to say.
Published while the climate crisis has given us a clear view of the harms of tourism, these books describe the urgency and opportunity to bring travel back to being more conscious, more sustainable, better managed and even beneficial to local people – which together a good definition for green travel.
“The Last Resort: A chronicle of paradise, profit and danger on the beachby Sarah Stodola
In this page-turning travel narrative, Stodola, founder and editor of Flung Magazine, explores the history and appeal of seaside resort culture and its impact on the environment and local communities. Taking readers to destinations such as the Jersey Shore and Bali, she looks behind the facade of this “major global industry that has spawned economic and social inequalities in many places and contributed to the climate crisis while threatening its very existence – a paradise that is both menacing and threatened.”
Why you should pack physical books when you travel
“Sustainable Travel: The Essential Guide to Adventures with a Positive Impact‘ by Holly Tuppen
After traveling the world without flying in the late 80’s, Tuppen became a travel expert who sees sustainability as essential to protecting our planet and communities. In this book, she gives an overview of sustainable travel and its relationship to the climate and biodiversity crisis. “The travel industry is volatile [a] abyss,” she writes. “She can choose the long-term sustainable path or take the self-destructive one.” Packed with tips on where your wanderings are taking you, her book also inspires with stories of regenerative travel from around the world.
“horizon‘ by Barry Lopez
Across six regions, including the Oregon Coast, Galápagos Islands and Antarctica, Lopez uses his unique literary voice and experience of traveling in more than 70 countries to create an autobiography filled with wonder, urgency and concern. “Our question is no longer how we can exploit the natural world for human comfort and gain, but how we can work together to ensure that one day we occupy a proper, and not a dominant, place in it,” he writes. (Each of his 13 other books is similarly stunning, including his most recent, the posthumously published Embrace Fearless the Burning World: Essays, and the National Book Award-winning classic, Arctic Dreams.)
“The Sustainable Travel Guide: Practical advice and inspiration for the conscientious traveller‘ by Lonely Planet
The Lonely Planet guide to greener travel provides readers with tips on reducing carbon emissions, avoiding waste, and planning activities like hiking and volunteering. Featured lists of destinations further afield and well-known help readers brainstorm ideas, including electric car and train rides and more responsible wildlife viewing. (If you’re looking for more lounge chair daydreams, Lonely Planet’s Sustainable Escapes features about 180 places and experiences. And for those interested in more sustainable eating, the Vegan Travel Handbook celebrates plant-based adventures around the world.)
“Overtourism: lessons for a better future“ edited by Martha Honey and Kelsey Frenkiel
Honey and Frenkiel, the responsible travel authorities, present more than 20 case studies that include perspectives from tourism experts, including The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs. They outline sustainable management options for destinations such as historic cities, parks, World Heritage sites, beaches and coastal communities.
Eight new travel books to read on vacation this summer
“A Life on Our Planet: My Testimony and a Vision for the Future“ by David Attenborough with Jonnie Hughes
Since joining the BBC in 1952, explorer and conservationist Attenborough has taken hundreds of millions if not billions of people around the world through dozens of documentaries, TV series and books. In this will, and accompanying the Netflix documentary, he reflects on his amazing global career and the ecological destruction he witnessed over seven decades. He names “the true tragedy of our time: the spiraling decline in our planet’s biodiversity,” and he offers bold, much-needed hope.
“Destination unknown: Sustainable Travel and Ethical Tourism‘, edited by Carolin Lusby
By including case studies examining cruise tourism, conservation, volunteer tourism, and other issues, Lusby points to the role of travel in promoting cross-cultural understanding and economic development, while also critiques the impact of overtourism on local environments and cultures. The book argues that the pandemic presents an opportunity to create travel that is more environmentally and socially responsible.
“Travel: Simple Tips for the Eco-Friendly Traveler (The Green Edit)‘ by Juliet Kinsman
Journalist and hotelier Kinsman offers travelers a quick guide to making practical, effortlessly sustainable choices. Whether it’s booking less-visited destinations, choosing more eco-friendly transportation and accommodation, packing mindfully, or respecting wildlife, Kinsman offers beginners an accessible starting point to reduce negative impacts.
“Beyond Guilt: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World‘ by Anu Taranath
In this award-winning book, Taranath, a professor and consultant specializing in diversity, social change, and racial justice, offers guidance on how to balance our expectations with the cultural differences we encounter when travelling. While not a green guide per se, the book provides an indispensable social justice framework that can inform our sustainability efforts and bring more respect to our travels.
Williams is a writer from Oregon. your site is erinwilliams.com.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning a trip. For travel health advice information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interactive map of travel advice by destination and the CDC’s travel health advice website.