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10 Tips For Becoming The Ethical Adventurer

The world is a complex place, and it can become difficult to know your impact. Nobody wants to have a large carbon footprint, or disrespect the locals, but with all the information out there, it is hard to cut through and know what you should really do.

While going on adventures and travelling is some of life’s greatest joys, for the environment or locals, when done wrong, it can be hell. So, in this article, we will share some tips and tricks for how you can be conscious of becoming the ethical adventurer.

Ethical Adventurer

What is the ‘Ethical Adventurer’?

Ethical adventures, very simply, aim to minimise the negative impact you have on the planet, places, and people without compromising much on the adventure. Or, if you’re up for the task, even creating a positive impact on the planet, places, and people.

In practice, the ethical adventurer can be very difficult to quantify; after all you don’t get a list of your harms and benefits to the world after a trip. So, it is quite easy to get lost in the desire to be an ethical adventurer.

Pragmatically, following simple ethical checklists when deciding on your adventure and when actually there should mean you already know you are the ethical adventurer.

So, here are the tips…

Support Social and Local Business

You are on your adventure and you want lunch. There is either a world-wide fast-food chain or a local café. The ethical adventurer here would go to the local café. But why?

Local and social businesses help empower communities in that area. They often pay more in taxes to support a community and they are part of culturally diversity and heritage in that place. This allows for flourishing and different communities, rather than a cardboard cut out world.

Extra points go to supporting places that are social enterprises. These are businesses which directly give back to the community, either in terms of fairer wages or reinvesting funds. Moreover, supporting people from disadvantaged backgrounds has an added effect of increasing their quality of life and their ability to make informed choices.

Seeking social and local businesses also can benefit you. The places are often more authentic and traditional, allowing you to glimpse other cultures and different worlds than your own. The people are often extremely friendly, offering more advice and understanding about their area, further increasing your mutual respect and solidarity.

Go Down The Road Less Travelled

Over-tourism can become disastrous for places and people. Places suffer the strain of more people, resulting in rushed and poorly planned infrastructure, destroying the natural eco-system. Moreover, more tourists can lead to more litter and other pollutants in the area.

For people, local residents may become priced out of the area in a process known as gentrification. This can displace people from their homes, culture, and family. In addition, the local culture can become diluted which disrupts cultural diversity.

So, avoiding the road most travelled is often the most ethical thing to do, that is provided it is safe and possible to do so.

Avoiding the beaten path also benefits you! Have you ever been disgruntled when the dream setting was crowded with people, not so much natural beauty and more Dave, 45, with a sun-burnt beer belly.

Personally, like all of us, I have experienced this first-hand. While Ben Nevis is a fantastic experience, it feels more like a city pilgrimage in summer due to the masses of people. So, the experience I wanted from Ben Nevis was instead found on any one of the over 200 other Munro mountains in Scotland. Going from hundreds of people climbing a mountain to just you and your backpack can be magic.

So, take the time to find the road less travelled, you’ll likely be more ethical and uncover some real hidden gems.

Be careful when seeing Caged Wildlife

Wildlife is a must see for everyone. We all love Attenborough for a reason after all, besides his voice that is. And the change to see wildlife up close and personal can be a once in a lifetime experience. But, sadly, all too often the wildlife is subject to cruel conditions.

So, as a rather obvious tip, being conscious of where you go is highly important. World Animal Protection offers a way to check if where you want to go is ethically run.

If it is ethically run, you get the joy of seeing genuinely happy wildlife, without the guilt of supporting places that do animals harm. These ethically run wildlife sanctuaries often reinvest money back into ecosystems and wildlife protection, just as an added win for the world.

Try To Eat Ethically

Ethical eating can be a minefield. Meat, NO! Fish is now bad? Also don’t eat plants, and starches can be predicated on slave labour…?


In all honesty, it is difficult to eat ethically as there will always be a carbon footprint and, due to the system we currently live in, global supply chains and wages can devastate people and place alike.

But, when you’re on an adventure, you can be in a unique situation. The best way to eat ethically is to eat food that is as local as possible, while cutting down on some meats if possible. When you are on an adventure, while supporting local business, there is often increasingly locally sourced food. This greatly limits several of the least ethical aspects of eating.

As with all ethical behaviours, there is also a direct benefit to you! Trying local food is healthier, culturally richer and often tastier. It really is a win-win…win.

Respect Local Culture

Being the ethical adventurer also means respecting the local people. Different places have unique customs and beliefs that should be appropriately followed where possible, even if you don’t have that tradition.

Respecting local culture also extends to having a go at their language. Even if it is just ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, the people you speak to will greatly appreciate your effort.

So, part of being an ethical adventurer is researching the history and geography of an area to make sure you are respectful.

An added benefit of understanding more about the place you are going to is that you have a deeper and richer sense of the place, so you can truly appreciate the beauty and culture in ways the normal traveller wouldn’t.

Take photos with Sensitivity

Everyone wants to remember their adventure, and photos are a great way of doing so. But, it is important to be mindful when taking photos, especially they are of people.

It would be annoying for you if tourists constantly took photos of you on the way to ASDA, or on a run, or going home from work. And it works the same for the people where you have travelled to.

As a rule of thumb, always get permission when taking a photo of someone and, if there are certain photography rules such as no flash or no photography at certain times, you should follow them.

Watch Out For Voluntourism

Volunteering can be a great way to help a place and give back to the community on your adventure. You can forge deeper connections to place and people, and it can be a fun and rewarding thing to do. So, it may make you feel like the ethical adventurer.

However, voluntourism can become unethical quickly, both to you and the place you are going to.

For you, companies can use your labour as a way to make an easy profit without helping the local community. So, it is important to make sure those you are volunteering for are ethical and the project they are partaking in is sustainable and beneficial.

For the people of the place you are volunteering at, they may lose their jobs. This can disrupt the local economy which can have disastrous results. Also, when local people do not do the work, the project may not reflect the lived experiences and understanding of that culture. As such, the project may be unsuccessful, a waste of time, money, and resources.

There is many an example of volunteers building block schools in the hottest regions of Sub-Saharan Africa without air-conditioning when, if a local was building it, they would simple add natural vents into the building…

Carbon Offset If You Can

Travelling, will always release carbon. Sorry. There is just nothing you can do about it in our current society. However, there are ways of travelling more ethically.

Firstly, travelling by public transport saves carbon. It is also often cheaper and, while not necessarily quicker, can give you a chance to explore more of an area and the people there.

But even public transport releases carbon. So, if it is financially viable, carbon offsetting is a great way to become the ethical adventurer. Carbon offsetting is where you support projects that reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere, these projects often including things like planting trees.

The most efficient way to carbon offset is by reducing marshland. However, any carbon offsetter that is verified independently is good. A carbon offsetter we use is Native Energy.  

Find Ethical Tour Operators

Finally, it is important to seek ethical travel companies. These will be operators who also practice being an ethical adventurer. They will care for the environment, support local businesses and hire local people.

So, it is important to use your money for good and be conscious of the business you buy from. Often, a company will highlight their ethics on their website, like we do by being carbon negative.

By supporting ethical operators, hopefully it will encourage all travel companies to follow suit, so we all live in a more ethical world!


You won’t be the perfectly ethical adventurer, and that’s okay! Nobody can do everything ethically but, trying to follow as much of the checklist as possible, and prioritise the ones you can most easily manage is a good start.

So, don’t worry about being perfect, just try to make easy steps to become the ethical adventurer.

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