The Sustainable Traveler

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. We speak with a green travel expert about what sustainable travel means and how you can vacation with less impact on the environment.

Featured in this Show

  • Tips For Choosing Greener Getaways

    How we choose to travel has consequences on the environment, and sustainable tourism is gaining traction by not leaving behind a heavy footprint, says Liz Wessel, who founded Green Concierge Travel in Madison 10 years ago.

    Tourism is big business and a pillar for many countries. Every year almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad. The tourism industry accounts for 5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and it’s growing bigger, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Moreover, the UN’s World Tourism Organization has dubbed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

    Wessel notices an uptick in her ecotourism business as sustainable travel catches on in the United States. She plans trips that minimize the environmental impact, respect the natural wonder, and pump money into the local economy.

    Here are her tips for planning a sustainable getaway:

    Farm-to-table experiences are growing in popularity, Wessel said. Whether in Wisconsin or a far-flung destination like Italy, she suggests staying at a local inn, taking a cooking course, meeting with local chefs and foraging for ingredients – like truffles – to create a unique cultural experience.

    “You are actually diving into that bowl of pasta, learning how it was made and where all the ingredients come from,” Wessel said, who also described a trip called a “station stay” in which she took with her children to Australia’s outback where they lived on a farm with a family.

    Look for hotel chains or bed and breakfast destinations that have a “green policy.” Wessel said the choice of where you stay can make a difference on the environment. Many hotels have changed the way they treat their swimming pools and wash their bed linens, she said. Wessel also suggests staying at a small, locally owned hotel to give the local economy a boost.

    Just hoof it with a local guide on the first day of vacation. She recommends a walking tour to get an overview of all that’s around, opening the way for more independent exploration on the following days of a trip.

    Wessel appreciates train travel and tries to incorporate it into her itineraries. “You see more of the countryside, meet more local people and it’s cleaner,” she said.

    She suggests tapping into a worldwide resource on ecotourism: the International Ecotourism Society, a clearinghouse for excursions that promote responsible tourism practices. Closer to home in Wisconsin, Wessel recommends Travel Green Wisconsin to find authentic environmental stewardship and business practices.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Jill Nadeau Producer
  • Liz Wessel Guest