When responsible tourism can be implemented, indigenous people are more likely to stay in their village or region rather than flee to cities, where jobs may be more plentiful. If you’re not used to recycling, conserving water, or generally being kind to the environment, I urge you to take this opportunity to incorporate some Earth-friendly habits into your life. Even innocently running water in a sink for a short period of time can have a detrimental effect on a water-stressed area.

Some North American communities have recently been forced to close their businesses for short periods of time in the summer due to water shortages. Independent travelers face opportunities every day to slow the progress of environmental erosion. To do your part, please consider the following:

Carry water filtration tablets, a filter, or a water purifier with you instead of buying bottled water. Clean up your trash. Never leave it behind, especially if you’re backpacking or hiking. And recycle whenever possible. Reuse towels and bedding in hotels to save on water consumption. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, and take short showers instead of baths. Choose fresh, locally grown foods over imported foods.

When offered a choice, go for non-mechanized recreation: Nordic skiing instead of snowmobiling, sailing instead of jet skiing. Whenever possible, take a mode of transportation that causes the least amount of pollution (a bicycle instead of a motorcycle, public transportation instead of a taxi). If you are on a wildlife tour, please do not disturb (or feed) the wild animals; stay at least 200 feet away from whales and other marine life. Don’t buy products made from endangered animals or plants. Stay on maintained trails when hiking.