What is Sustainable Tourism?


The mountain peaks of Montana, wildflowers waving in the wind, clear rivers and streams packed with trout, all are more than enough to inspire a conservatism spirit in visitors. Sustainable tourism, at its core, is simple. According to the Travel Foundation, an organization that has made it their mission to take on the social and environmental challenges of global tourism, sustainable tourism is about maximizing the benefits of tourism and travel while minimizing the downsides.

But while it may have a simple definition, the reality of sustainable tourism can be much more complicated. It’s something that comes with research, time, and a commitment to sustainability. So how can the average traveler incorporate sustainability into their vacation?

This is a hot-button issue in our world today, and for a good reason. With 1.4 billion people traveling now, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, it’s crucial to think about the impact we have when we travel. Here are a few ideas on how to make your travels more sustainable.

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Purchase Carbon Offsets

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the high environmental impact passengers have on commercial flights. So what should you do if you need to fly to reach the wide and wild spaces of Big Sky Country?

Well, you may consider purchasing carbon offsets. According to Wired, a flight from Chicago to LA generates 1,000 pounds of carbon emissions per passenger. When you are buying carbon offsets, your money goes to projects that help reduce CO2 emissions. Thanks to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)—a bit of a mouthful—airlines that fly internationally will be required to purchase carbon offsets for their flights as of 2021. Until then, you can buy them yourself.

Put Your Money in the Local Economy

Sustainability isn’t all environmental. Some of it is also about improving local economies. So try buying souvenirs at locally-owned shops, or dining out at mom-and-pop places rather than at big chains when you travel. Making sure your lodging is family-owned (like the Highline Adventures hotels) is another excellent way to keep your money local. Putting your dollars back into the local economy while you travel can do a world of good.

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Go Wild in the Right Ways With Wildlife

Any time you interact with animals on your travels, you want to consider their well being. Are you interacting with wildlife through a for-profit group or a registered nonprofit? Do they promote research and understanding, or do they offer animal rides or harmful encounters?

In Montana, nothing beats viewing wildlife in the wild. Groups like Yellowstone Forever offer wildlife-viewing tours that are safe and responsible, and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone lets you see rehabilitated bears and wolves in captivity.

Ditch the Single-use Plastics

Making room in your suitcase for a reusable grocery bag and an insulated coffee mug and water bottle can make a big difference when it comes to your impact. Being away from home makes it seem so much simpler to use plastic utensils and single-use containers when you’re grabbing food on the go, but with a little bit of thinking ahead, you can cut out a lot of that waste.

For more travel tips to help you plan your visit to Montana, check out the rest of our blog here.