Traveling Sustainably in Alaska
Whether you’re a seasoned eco-friendly traveler or just being introduced to the concept of sustainable tourism, here are some tips to keep in mind before, during and after your adventures to ensure you’re doing your part to keep Alaska, and all destinations, as green as possible.
Do your research – Find out as much as you can about the climate, communities, history, culture and activities offered. The better prepared you are, the more you will be able to soak in all of your surroundings and enjoy yourself. A great resource for this information can be found at TravelAlaska.com.
Pack light and pack smart – A rule of thumb in Alaska is to ‘dress in layers’. Depending on where you’re traveling and the activities you have planned, the weather and temperatures can vary greatly. And while it may be tempting to over-pack just to be safe, it is also important to know that some tour operators and businesses have limits on the weight and size of luggage they are able to transport, so be sure to check these companies beforehand. Plan to re-wear items throughout your trip. You can also lighten your load, and carbon footprint, by disposing of any unneeded outer wrapping of new items (e.g. toothpaste box) prior to your trip.
Lodging and excursion options – Do the lodging and activity companies you’re choosing from support sustainable tourism? Look for hotels, inns, B&Bs, lodges, guide services, tour operators and the like that have a written policy explaining their commitment to the environment, community and local culture.
Immerse yourself in the local culture – Whether you’re in one of the larger cities in Alaska, or a small rural community, take the time to get to know the locals. Many cities and communities have museums and/or cultural centers where you can learn in depth about the history of that area, the entire state and about the indigenous peoples of Alaska and their ways of life.
Support locally owned and operated businesses – There are many restaurants, shops, art galleries, large and small tour operators – to name a few – that are owned and operated by local Alaskans. When you support these businesses, not only does the money go back into the community, helping it to thrive, but you get a unique and authentic Alaska experience. When purchasing local goods, look for the following symbols:
“Made in Alaska” – This symbol is used to promote products made, manufactured or handcrafted in the state. Alaska’s businesses manufacture high quality products for markets in Alaska, domestically and internationally. Products range from small gift items to large industrial modules.
“Silver Hand Program” – This program was created to enable consumers to readily identify Alaska Native artists’ work. The black oval tag with a silver hand and the phrase “Authentic Alaska Native Art from Alaska” certifies that the artwork: 1) was created by an Alaska Native artist, 2) created in Alaska, 3) is an original contemporary or traditional piece, and 4) is not manufactured. This seal ensures that the artwork you are purchasing is authentic.
“Alaska Grown” – The Alaska Grown program markets fruits, vegetables, meats and aquaculture that were grown in Alaska to help support the state’s agricultural industry. As more and more residents, visitors, chefs and foodies embrace the local food movement, the Alaska Grown certification has earned a reputation as the easiest and most consumer-friendly way to support local agriculture in Alaska.
Leave No Trace (LNT) – Of Alaska’s 365 million acres, only about 1 million of those acres are private. This means there is A LOT of wilderness and land to explore. The LNT Principles were developed as a means to help preserve Alaska’s pristine and wild environment for generations to come. By following these guidelines, you can help to keep Alaska a prime destination for sustainable tourism.
Reduce, reuse and recycle – There are many ways you can help to preserve the environment. A few suggestions: bring your own water bottle and/or coffee thermos to refill, rather than purchasing bottled water and/or coffee in paper cups. Reduce your shower time to not waste water, especially in remote areas where water sources may be limited. Bring your own reusable shopping bags. Do not litter – when you’re exploring the great outdoors of Alaska, remember if you pack it in, you must pack it out.
Follow best practices – Keep yourself safe and wildlife wild by being a responsible wildlife viewer.
Share what you learned! – Along with the memories you made, telling others about the ways you were a sustainable traveler can inspire them to do the same in their trips throughout the world.
Get out again – The experiences of traveling can open your eyes to a whole new world, literally! Continue to travel, explore and learn more about new destinations, or even places you’ve already been but can’t wait to go back.
Donate – Consider giving back to a community you visited by making a donation to an organization or charity you may have learned about on your trip.