Young Vietnamese travel enthusiasts shared tips on minimizing the environmental impacts of travel and tourism with peers at a recent dialogue in Ho Chi Minh City.
Many of the world’s natural wonders are being threatened by pollution and negligence from careless travelers, according to speakers at “Travel to love more”, a discussion hosted by the Gaia Nature Conservation Organization.
Established by the Vietnam Union of Sciences and Technologies Associations in 2016, the organization aims to create a future where humans live in harmony with nature through research, conservation campaigns, eliminating negative behaviors, and mitigating the effects of climate change in Vietnam.
Overexploitation and littering
Gia Man, an environmentally friendly traveler who spoke at the event, described Penang, a state in northwest Malaysia, to her audience.
Despite the state’s elderly, conservative population, Penang’s ancient town is one of the most environmentally friendly cities the young traveler says she’s ever seen, thanks to the scarcity of plastic bags and dedication its residents have to sorting and recycling waste.
“In order to protect the environment, everyone, including visitors, needs to be aware of their actions and contribute to sheltering the area from litter and pollution,” Man said.
Litter is one of the most pressing issues affecting well-known natural areas in Vietnam, according to Ho Nhat Ha, another speaker at the event, who shared about his firsthand encounters with environmental destruction during a 113 day journey he took by foot through Vietnam.
“I realized that nature is being completely destroyed, like in Thanh Hoa Province [in central Vietnam], where mountains are being overexploited,” Ha said.
Ha added that the contrast he was allowed saw between untouched areas and once-green forests destroyed in the pursuit of ‘development’ was beyond description.
“Nature, once lost, cannot be restored,” he warned.
A simple solution to a big problem
“Traveling green is not just one man’s business. It is something we have to start doing now,” Do Thi Thanh Huyen, director of Gaia Nature Conservation Organization, emphasized at the event, adding that the solution lies in education, not in closing down natural tourist destinations.
After all, travel helps people fall in love with nature, Huyen says.
With 18 years of experience working for nature-preservation organizations, Huyen said that tourism results in a great amount of plastic originating from single-use products such as cups, plastic bags, and lunch boxes.
To help solve this problem, Huyen suggests that tourists bring their own utensils and lunch boxes.
She also underlined that travels in natural areas, such as forests and caves, carry all their trash with them and leave nothing behind, including any trash they spot left by other visitors.
Green travelers should also pay close attention to the places they are visiting to guarantee that their actions have no negative impacts on the environment and do not interfere with the ecosystem’s development.
“There are natural sceneries which can be harmed by tourist,” Huyen said, adding that it is also important to take nothing from the natural touristic destinations as it sets a bad example for others.
“When I traveled to Ta Nang [a commune in Lam Dong Province, Central Highlands of Vietnam] I witnessed people collecting wild lilies in the forest,” Huyen shared with the audience, condemning the action.
“The residents of the region collect lilies to sell, so the visitors collect lilies as well, but purchasing these lilies from these residents also encourages the action and therefore encourages environmental damage.
“Hence, don’t take anything home, except photos,” Huyen she said.