Eco-tourism in Bolivia has boomed in the last decade. There are many valid eco-lodges that have little to no negative effect on the environment and help you truly appreciate Boliviaâ€™s natural beauty. However, many hotels claim to be eco-lodges (many simply by adding the prefix "eco" to all goods and services) without following basic steps to guarantee ecological protection. All good eco-lodges should follow a few basic guidelines.
1. Minimal environmental impact should be the fundamental goal of every eco-operator. How a hotel or tour operator manages its impact will tell you immediately if it is truly ecologically minded. Ecologically responsible businesses recycle, conserve water and energy, manage waste properly (i.e. implement composting and gray water projects), and allow guests to choose whether or not to change linens or towels daily. These simple efforts make a huge difference in the long-term environmental impact of tourism.
2. Conservation may be practiced in many different ways. Habitat preservation is one of the principal forms of conservation. Habitats may be preserved by establishing private reserves, supporting established national parks and reserves, or funding native tree reforestation projects. Although protected areas may be visited by tourists, it is important to recognize that their primary purpose is preservation. Whenever visiting a protected area, your visit should be made with minimal impact.
3. Sustainability is vital to the long-term success of eco-tourism. The majority of products consumed at an eco-facility should be locally produced. Furthermore, construction should be done using local materials and methods, and local organic gardens should be the source of the majority of the food served. Ultimately, sustainability means that a lifestyle that is in balance and that can be maintained indefinitely without depleting the earth's resources.
4. Community involvement is a crucial aspect of eco-tourism. Eco-tourism should generate revenue for the local economy without harming the environment. Ideally, the community should own the establishment. If this is not possible, the operation should at least employ local labor. Moreover, in addition to generating revenue and providing employment, eco-establishments should sponsor community development projects.
5. Environmental education teaches others to be ecologically responsible. Every guest should leave an eco-facility having learned something about environmental preservation and cultural sensitivity. This ensures the continued growth of environmental and cultural awareness.
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