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Top 10 Outdoor Activities That Promotes Sustainable Tourism + Travel Tips and Steps to Sustainability

If you want to take being an eco-conscious traveler to a higher level, there are several activities that you can try. These are outdoor activities that can directly help the environment or raise awareness of the importance of living and traveling sustainably.


Here are some outdoor activities which prove that traveling can be both fun and purposeful.


Clean-Up Hike

A clean-up hike is a perfect way to be active and get some exercise while helping out the environment. Choose a hiking destination and a trail based on your fitness level. Enjoy the hike and the scenery while looking out for trash that was left behind by past hikers. Remember to take along with you a reusable trash bag and a reacher-grabber tool to keep things hygienic.


If you’re taking kids along, this is still a viable option. Just set an easier route and make it a fun game.


Group of friends enjoying some outdoor activities at Masungi Georeserve.
Group of friends enjoying some outdoor activities at Masungi Georeserve. Photo by Rommel Bundalian courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




Clean-Up Beach Trip

A clean-up beach trip is similar to a clean-up hike with a different view. On your beach trip with friends and family, set an hour or even just 30 minutes to explore the area while looking out for trash to pick up. After that, reward yourselves with delicious food, drinks, and just lay in the sand and relax.


A lady walking along the shores of Amanpulo
A lady walking along the shores of Amanpulo. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




Tree Planting

Tree planting is a popular activity within the volunteer community and in schools. But this is also something that you can do in your spare time with some friends or family. You can plant trees in the garden or an open area nearby, or even during a hike. You can even mark and name your tree to go back to it in the future. Think of it as a time capsule. Each time you see the tree, you’ll be able to recall some meaningful memories.


Give back to mother nature today and start planting
Give back to mother nature today and start planting. Photo courtesy of Pexels.




Biking

Biking is another activity that is good for both your health and the environment. Many destinations in the country have set up bike trails that will allow you to take in the beauty of nature while biking.


Local governments have also made efforts to make their towns bike-friendly. Some of these areas have been cited in the Mobility Awards, a platform that recognizes acts of leadership promoting cycling as a reliable, efficient and sustainable mode of transport.


Here are some of the winners in the 2021 Mobility Awards:


Iloilo

The city of Iloilo has been named the Bike Capital of the Philippines due to the development of an 11-kilometer bicycle lane, which extends from Diversion Road to select localities within the city. The project includes a 4-kilometer protected bike lane marked with lines and plant boxes for safety. They intend to interconnect the bike lanes throughout the urban centers to ease travel and mobility, extending the system to 32 kilometers in total.


Mandaue City

Having over 20.31 kilometers of bike lanes, Mandaue is considered to be a bike-friendly city because the local government created a safe and concrete route for users. For bike riders’ safety, the bike lane includes bicycle symbols and concrete delineators as well as markings, bollards, and pavers in white and green. There are also bike repair stations in strategic locations across the city, particularly in Barangay Jagobiao, near Mandaue City Hall, Pacific Mall, and Parkmall, and another bike repair station in Oakridge.


Group biking at Camp John Hay in Baguio
Group biking at Camp John Hay in Baguio. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.



Camping

Camping is a great way to familiarize yourself with nature and disconnect from a fast-paced life once in a while. If you deal with a lot of stress at work or in school, it’s beneficial to take breaks and mini-vacations from time to time. Take a weekend out and get away for a bit. Find a nice camping ground and spend the next few days there. It’s an amazing experience to just be able to turn your gadgets off, unwind, and be one with nature.


Staying in a treehouse at Masungi Georeserve
Staying in a treehouse at Masungi Georeserve. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




Swimming and snorkeling

Take a trip to the nearest beach to go swimming. Swimming is a great low-impact but still intense workout that will burn off extra calories. To make the experience more fulfilling, go snorkeling to appreciate the beautiful life underwater. This is also an activity you can do with kids so they can learn more about marine life.


A thrilling expedition in Anilao, Batangas
A thrilling expedition in Anilao, Batangas. Photo by Evelyn Go courtesy of the Department of Tourism.



Picnic

Going on a picnic is a great way to relax, and enjoy nature and food. There are a lot of parks even in the metro that allow picnics. Go with your family or friends and bring homemade dishes or snacks. Don’t forget to bring only reusable plates and utensils, and make sure to clean up after. If you’re hanging out with friends, this is also a great opportunity to share family recipes and specialties with them.


One of the highlights at the Balinsay River Cruise
One of the highlights at the Balinsay River Cruise. Photo by Beautiful Destinations courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




Surfing

Surfing is not for everyone but if you’re looking for an adrenaline-producing activity, this is perfect for you. This activity requires your full focus and a lot of energy.


Surfing also allows one to create a connection with the sea, thus building that sense of responsibility to protect it. In La Union, a proactive community, largely led by surfers, is taking action to balance progress and preservation. They remind both locals and visitors of beach etiquette, the local government has banned the use of plastics, and communities are raising awareness on environmental sustainability.


Riding the waves of La Union
Riding the waves of La Union. Photo by Sherwin Ballesteros courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




Pet Play Dates

Spending time with your pets is a great way to destress. Since pets also need exercise and to breathe fresh air, set a day for outdoor frolicking with your fur babies. If you have friends with their own pets, you can ask them to bring their fur babies along with them as well. You and your pet will both get to socialize and do physical activities while enjoying your time outdoors.


You can also consider walking your pet over taking your car when doing an errand. That way, you get to bond with your fur baby, accomplish a task, while reducing your carbon footprint.


Girl walking with dog on pavement
Walk your pets more. Photo courtesy of Pexels.




Forest bathing

Study shows that forest bathing can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and boost overall well-being. According to Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li, trees release chemicals called phytoncides that protect them from disease. When taken by humans, phytoncides reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia along with boosting their immune systems.


If you are planning to go on a forest bathing, listen to your body. Let your senses guide you and take your time. Do not bring any gadgets to allow you to fully experience nature. Appreciate the sound of nature and let it be your source of comfort and relaxation. This experience will allow you to reconnect with nature and hopefully encourage you to take a more proactive role in preserving the environment.


Hiking and forest bathing in Baguio
Hiking and forest bathing in Baguio. Photo by Jacob Maentz courtesy of the Department of Tourism.



SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND STARTING TODAY


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges to the global tourism industry. Traveling has been redefined for everyone, and we have been forced to explore the world more thoughtfully.

While the vacation spots we once dreamed of going to are starting to reopen, we need to keep in mind the safety precautions and requirements to make the most out of our travels. With that said, the pandemic has hastened the idea of living a sustainable lifestyle, with people choosing to travel more responsibly and supporting local communities at the same time.

The question is, how do we practice sustainable travel? What does sustainability even mean?


According to the United Nations, sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It involves a major change in lifestyle that includes how we live, protecting our ecosystem, and preserving natural resources for future generations.

It starts with conscious efforts, many of which are already familiar to us, such as conserving electricity, turning off the faucet if not in use, and practicing zero-waste. Even in traveling, we can advocate sustainability, which will have an impact not only on the environment but also on the local economy and communities of the destination we are visiting.

Here in the Philippines, San Carlos in Negros Occidental was named as one of the ASEAN Community’s Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) and the ASEAN Clean Tourist City seal/award from 2020 to 2022. A few of the green practices they adopt include using pedicabs as a mode of transportation and creating people’s organizations (POs) and associations to enable residents to act as stewards of the destination, as well as establishing rules, policies, and ordinances to ensure that visitors know what is expected of them when visiting the city.

Aside from familiarizing ourselves with the destination’s sustainability efforts and policies, here are some eco-friendly travel tips to keep in mind starting today. 



Travel Light

Minimize your carbon footprint by packing light, especially when you’re flying. The weight of your luggage contributes to the overall weight of the plane–as it gets heavier, it burns more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide. It’s also easier to carry around a backpack than several pieces of luggage.

When you travel light, you have complete control of your belongings and you make the most out of your trip. Plan ahead of time and bring only what you really need.

A tourist taking a photo of the zebras at Calauit Safari Park in Coron, Palawan
A tourist taking a photo of the zebras at Calauit Safari Park in Coron, Palawan. Photo by Francisco Guerrero courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

 



Bring your own reusable utensils

Cafes and restaurants often serve food with plastic cutlery for easy takeaway. But these single-use plastic items produce a lot of waste, and with no proper solid waste management in place, these could pollute our mountains and oceans, posing threat to our ecosystems and the various species in them.

Bringing your own reusable water bottles, utensils, and shopping bags avoid the need for single-use plastics.  In a report by biologicaldiversity.org, it said that an average person could be ingesting as much five grams of plastic (similar to the size of a credit card) every week, through microplastics in food and in the air. It is also expected that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by the year 2050. Simple practices like avoiding single-use plastics can help reduce pollution in the environment.

Myriad of souvenirs found in Bicol, from woven baskets, bags, and keychains
Myriad of souvenirs found in Bicol, from woven baskets, bags, and keychains. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.



Plan your travels, make an itinerary

Human activities like burning fossil fuels for transportation contribute to air pollution and the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The best way to efficiently travel while minimizing carbon footprint is by planning your trip in advance and including the goal of prioritizing walking as a mobility option – thus saving you money from transportation too.

If there are also other destinations that allow volunteers to plant trees and give back to the local community, consider including this in your itinerary.

As much as traveling is about enjoying the scenery, feeling the moment, and adapting to different cultures, it is best to also do your part to preserve nature.

Farmers planting at Costales Nature Farms in Laguna
Farmers planting at Costales Nature Farms in Laguna. Photo courtesy of Department of the Tourism.




Walk the Talk

It is a known fact that walking helps the environment better as compared to using cars, which contributes to pollution. Instead of hailing a taxi cab to go to and from the attractions you want to visit, join walking tours instead. However,  if the destination requires taking a motorized vehicle, consider carpooling or go for public transportation. This way, there will be fewer cars on the road and you can share the experience with other tourists as well.

A serene beach in Guimaras
A serene beach in Guimaras. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.



Choose eco-friendly accommodation

A major consideration when traveling is where to stay. You can choose a budget-friendly accommodation depending on your needs and duration of stay, or you can opt for high-end accommodation for a more serendipitous experience. But best to choose those that adopt eco-friendly practices. 

There are ANAHAW-awardee hotels and resorts here in the Philippines that adhere to certain standards and compliance based on environmental policy administration and management, electricity, energy services, water, building infrastructure and surroundings, waste, wastewater treatment and management, chemicals and detergents, fuel, and environmental protection and cultural preservation. To check the full list of both ANAHAW-awardee hotels and ASEAN GREEN HOTELS, head over to this link.

However, be mindful of greenwashing, which misleads travelers that they are sustainable when in fact, they are just using the green advocacy for marketing purposes. Research more to see if the accommodation that you are booking has sustainability certifications or if not, check if the way they manage their accommodations is environmentally-friendly enough. 

Amarela resort. One of the finest accommodations in Bohol
Amarela resort. One of the finest accommodations in Bohol. Photo courtesy of Amarela Resort.



Check your Skincare products

When traveling, we usually bring sunscreen and other personal skincare products. Make sure that the products you use do not contain harmful chemicals, especially if you want to go underwater as some ingredients on sunscreen may damage coral reefs. Use environment-friendly skincare products, such as oxybenzone-free sunblock and deet-free insect repellent, to prevent causing any damage to nature. 

Best to check first the ingredients of your skincare brand/product before using them – try switching to a more organic option
Best to check first the ingredients of your skincare brand/product before using them – try switching to a more organic option. Photo courtesy of Pexels.



Conserve water and energy

Conserving water and energy is a very simple way of starting an eco-friendly lifestyle. It’s easy to do in our homes because it will also result in lower utility bills. However, there’s a bigger chance we take these things for granted when traveling.

Keep in mind that water and energy are valuable resources that not everyone is fortunate to have access to. Turn off the light and other electronics when not in use. Turn off the air conditioning system when leaving your hotel room. Have quick showers. 

Traveling sustainably could be challenging at the beginning. But you can always start small, practice more until it becomes your lifestyle. Just keep in mind that by being a sustainable traveler, you help preserve our destinations and local communities.

Ariara Island, Linapacan
Ariara Island, Linapacan. Try going out more, put down your gadgets, and be one with nature. Photo by Al Linsangan courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

 

Be mindful of what you eat

Food production is also correlated to climate change as it contributes largely to greenhouse gas emissions, especially when the raw ingredients used to produce a dish are imported. Plant-based diet is also more eco-friendly.

Make your travel more meaningful by exploring the local cuisine of the destination. Heritage dishes use ingredients within the community. You can also choose local restaurants that serve homemade food, or those whose ingredients are sourced from organic local farms.

agri-tourism and facility in Candelaria Quezon
A DOT accredited agri-tourism and facility in Candelaria Quezon. Photo courtesy of Uma Verde Econature Farm Inc.



Support local

Traveling will never be complete without pasalubong. Even in this aspect, you can practice sustainability by supporting local businesses and communities that make pasalubong products. In every province, there’s a local delicacy or a handmade product made from indigenous material that you can bring home with you. This way, you do not only contribute to the environment, but you also promote local artistry and uplift our artisans.

Here’s a suggestion if you’re traveling to Tiaong. Visit Ugu Bigyan Potters Garden – a famous place where you can learn a thing or two about pottery. Through this kind of detour, you’d get to learn a new activity while appreciating local goods at the same time.

Ugu Bigyan Potter’s Garden
Ugu Bigyan Potter’s Garden. Photo by Kim Ventura courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




Push for sustainable tourism

Doing all the abovementioned ways to help fight climate change and environmental degradation will only be effective through collective efforts. As tourists, one of the best ways to combat negative environmental impact is to voice our concerns and participate in ecotourism activities that help the Earth.

When traveling with family and friends, encourage them to practice these suggestions. Post reviews of the eco-friendly hotels and resorts you have been to so others would patronize them as well.

By living sustainably and encouraging others to do the same, we become one step closer to the goal of reducing carbon emissions and providing a safer home for future generations.

Aerial view of Coron, Palawan
Aerial view of Coron, Palawan. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.




SIMPLE STEPS TOWARD A MORE SUSTAINABLE WORLD


Tayid Lighthouse in Batanes
Tayid Lighthouse in Batanes. Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism.


In 2015, the United Nations launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) wherein for the next fifteen years, or until 2030, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change.

A number of SDGs are geared toward the protection of the planet–clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, climate action, conserve and sustainably use of the oceans and marine resources, protection and restore terrestrial ecosystems, and make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Achieving these goals may seem daunting for an ordinary person, but making the world a more livable place requires the cooperation of every individual. Start with simple practices that are easy to sustain but have an impact on realizing sustainability goals.

Here are five impactful actions that have less harmful effects on the environment, based on the UN campaign for individual action.

Conserve energy

This is one of the easiest ways you can help the environment. Use energy-efficient appliances and LED light bulbs. Turn off and unplug appliances when not in use.

As simple as turning off unused lights has a big impact on energy conservation. In 2021, during the Philippines’ participation in Earth Hour–when Filipino households and commercial establishments put off lights for an hour–the Department of Energy (DOE) registered a reduction of more than 73 megawatts in electricity demand. It’s proof that simple actions when done collectively produce big results.


Choose eco-friendly transport

To help reduce air pollution and keep cities breathable, always opt for eco-friendly mobility options. Drive less by walking or biking for short trips, and sharing rides or taking public transport for farther destinations. Choosing these modes of transport also help reduce carbon emissions.

Electric vehicles are also a better alternative to fuel-powered cars. Electric shuttles have been deployed in some parts of the metro, providing environmentally sustainable transportation options for citizens.


Throw away less food, reduce waste

According to WWF-Philippines, in Metro Manila alone, about 2,175 tons of food waste end up in trash bins daily. Food waste in landfills produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

We have to be mindful of our food consumption practices. But only what you need and prepare food that you can finish. If there are any leftovers, composting is an eco-friendly option rather than throwing it in the garbage.

The WWF-Philippines has “The Sustainable Diner” project that aims to reduce food waste and improve the implementation of sustainable consumption and production processes in the food service industry. A key objective of the project is to encourage sustainable dining practices and to make the Philippines’ food service industry more environmentally friendly by engaging the government, food service businesses, and consumers.

But aside from food waste, we need to reduce overall waste. Do away with the disposable stuff, especially single-use plastics that only end up in our oceans and land. Always opt for reusable things, like tumblers and metal or bamboo straw and cutlery. Opt for towels and cloths instead of tissues and cotton balls. Always bring cloth bags when shopping or doing your grocery to avoid the need for plastic or paper bags.


Support sustainable, local businesses

Wherever you are in the world, it’s always best to support your local businesses and boost the local economy. You will always find a local business that makes something that you need–whether it’s furniture, beauty and grooming products, clothing, or accessories.

InUN’s ten actions to help limit climate change, buying fewer things, shopping second-hand, and repairing what you can, are small steps that can help the environment. In clothing, for instance, there are best practices on how to avoid fast fashion, such as clothing swap, donation, and even learning how to upcycle their clothing.

Look for brands that practice sustainability, or those that give back to the environment and source their materials ethically and sustainably. This way, the earth has time to heal and renew its resources rather than getting exhausted and polluted.


Speak up, volunteer, and lead

Let your voice be heard by appealing to local and national leaders to act now on the climate crisis. Make sure to vote for leaders who advocate for the environment and will implement changes that allow society as a whole to work towards sustainability.

Encourage your family, friends, and your community to take action as well. You can participate in or organize activities like tree planting, cleanup drive, crafting with recycled materials, and educational events for the youth.

Imagine everyone you know converting to a sustainable lifestyle and helping to save the planet–that’s collective action.  Just by recommending a few eco-friendly, sustainable products that you love or ways that people can save money and be environment-conscious at the same time, you can already have people slowly changing their lifestyle for the better. Eventually, they will also have influence over the people they know, and the chain of good deeds goes on, until each one of us is contributing to a better, more liveable world.






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