Supporting Local Economies and Communities on Your Green Vacation

Whether your eco-friendly vacation takes you to a bustling city in Japan or a tiny village in Patagonia, make sure that your green principles show by spending your money to support local businesses and communities. Do your part by

  • Eating in local restaurants that buy their food locally: Eating local produce reduces the distance that food has to travel and supports the local farmers and economy. And besides, there’s nothing more delicious than dining on fresh fish straight from the fishing boat (at some beachside restaurants, you can even watch the boats come in) and meat and vegetables from the local farmer.

    Go for local cuisine instead of eating at fast food chains.
    Go for local cuisine instead of eating at fast food chains.
  • Getting around using local public transport, walking, or renting bikes instead of vehicles (when possible): If you’re energetic and you love the outdoors, you can even base your entire trip around a favorite self-powered activity, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, or kayaking. All these options — from the fare you pay on the local bus to the cost of your bike, horse, or kayak rental from a local supplier — support the local economy.

    If you need to drive, rent a fuel-efficient hybrid car (many of the major rental agencies have them in their fleets), or choose the car that has the best fuel economy rating (this is often the smallest possible vehicle that suits your needs). Always try using a local rental agency first.

  • Using local guides: Many areas have local training or certification programs, so always look for qualified guides. Locals also provide great insider information about the place you’re visiting.

    Let local guides show off their hometowns.
    Let local guides show off their hometowns.
  • Buying locally made crafts and products: Avoid large tourist shops that make cheap copies or that sell products imported from elsewhere. Try local marketplaces instead. Although it can be fun to barter (once you get the hang of it!), avoid being too aggressive — and always retain your sense of humor!

  • Supporting local projects: Devote either funds or some of your time (or both!) to projects such as health clinics, schools, or other appropriate causes.

  • Buying food from local markets and shops: If you see a line of local people outside a shop, find out what it’s all about, and join in. (The only caveat here is to refrain from buying certain commodities that are in short supply locally; you don’t want to further restrict supply, which can drive up the price for local people.)

    Find souvenirs and trinkets made by local artisans. [Credit: Corbis Digital Stock]
    Credit: Corbis Digital Stock
    Find souvenirs and trinkets made by local artisans.
  • Visiting the local cafés and bars rather than remaining in the hotel or tourist areas: Just be sure that the local areas are considered safe for visitors before you go wandering into them. (Being mugged is a definite downer when you’re on vacation.)