When people travel, the issue of the environment usually doesn’t play a role, according to one study after the other.

But scarce water, pollution and poor working conditions are the biggest problems in many vacation destinations.

Here are five measures in which tourists can make a positive contribution to the countries they visit:

Getting there

Travelling by air is one of the most environmentally damaging ways to travel due to the high carbon-dioxide emissions. Those who are serious about the environment should therefore find a destination they can reach by rail or by car.

Those who do fly can pay a “climate compensation” – money for greenhouse gas-reducing investments in developing countries to make up for the carbon dioxide produced elsewhere.

In evaluating individual projects, consumers should look for the Gold Standard certification, environmental authorities advise.

Lodgings

The major hotel chains are not exactly the best choice in terms of sustainability. “With medium-sized and owner-operated hotels, there is a big chance that the money will benefit the local population,” says Antje Monshausen, head of the information service Tourism Watch.

Uckermark is a region in northeastern Germany is one of 2016’s Top 100 Sustainable Destinations . Photo: greendestinations.com

One of the biggest problems in the hospitality industry remains the poor working conditions for tourism employees – sustainability also has a socio-economic component.

To help assess the merits of a place, look for one that can boast a sustainability certificate such as TourCert or a recommendation by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

Local transportation

The bus and train produce much lower per-capita carbon dioxide than riding taxis or hiring rental cars.

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File photo of Rapid Penang’s Go Green concept bus. Photo; The Star

And public transportation has still further advantages: “You get a glimpse into the culture of a country and make contact with the locals,” notes Petra Thomas, managing director of the alternative travel company Forum Anders Reisen.

However, in some countries where crime is an issue, it is advisable to avoid public transportation and instead to take taxis.

Hygiene

In order to be sparing of resources like water, cut down on the changing of towels and bed clothing in your hotel room.

“If towels are nevertheless to be changed, you can talk to the hotel direction or employees at the reception desk,” Monshausen says.

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Taking showers saves more water than taking baths.

The best principle for hotel living is to live just like you would at home. Taking a shower is more sparing of water than a bath. The same applies for little things like turning off the water while brushing your teeth, or if you don’t need the air conditioner, turn it off.

If the country has a system of separating trash and collecting returnable bottles and cans, the traveller should do so as well.

Excursions and souvenirs

When going on excursions, think of the impact on the environment and animals. Motorised activities such as, say, driving quads is not great for the ecosystem.

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File photo of carved ivory in Beijing. Photo: AFP

Don’t even think about riding elephants – violence is used on the creatures to make them obedient, warns the Pro Wildlife organisation.

And hands off any souvenirs linked with endangered animal or plant species – you could face some stiff fines. – dpa/Jule Zentek