The Earth’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest, is located along the Nepal/Tibet/China border, stands an astounding 29,035 feet, and grows a quarter inch every year. Garbage grows with the mountain; Mount Everest has become such a popular place that several decades worth of trash have accumulated. An estimated 50 tons of garbage, including a rusting helicopter, food waste, and enough abandoned camping equipment to house hundreds if not thousands of refugees, are up there. One Earth Day, the Nepalese took a break from operating as tour guides, switched gears to be garbage men, and hauled down about 4,400 pounds of junk off the mountain. In the true spirit of recycling, or upcycling, as some call it, the rubbish is finding a second life as objets d’arts thanks to Da Mind Tree.
Mount Everest epitomizes the dichotomy and complexity of travel; people explore the world, they litter, they move on, garbage piles up, soon marring the very beauty of what was there to explore in the first place. Yet travel can inspire thoughtful leadership and visionary stewardship when it comes to our planet, a belief espoused by The International Ecotourism Society. The very act of travel or tourism can be a vehicle for conservation. We’re all capable of traveling responsibly and minimizing our impact, from simple acts like reusing our towels at hotels to tossing our plastic water bottles into recycling receptacles instead of into trash bins to bringing a portable coffee mug around the world (as my husband actually does because he consumes coffee constantly) instead of filling styrofoam cups everywhere.
Next spring, we’re vacationing at the HQ of global conservation, Costa Rica, a model for green living. Costa Rica understands that green (also my favorite color) makes people happy. When animals and plants thrive, people thrive. America’s National Park Service upholds this concept every day. Think about some of the favorite places you have visited or camped at or hiked. Would you want a pile of trash blocking your view of Longs Peak Mountain in Colorado? Want to stroll along the Santa Monica beach kicking empty bottles and cans? What about snorkeling in Key West and having a tire float toward your face?
Below are some of my favorite places on the planet featuring animals and landscapes from the four continents we have had the privilege to see. I push my family to live green both at home and on the road (or in the sky) for somewhat selfish reasons; yes, it’s the right thing to do, but we want to keep traveling. We want to enjoy the land and the sea and all that Earth has to offer and keep it free of man-made junk interfering with our fun and our time on Earth. Mother Nature is the landlady here; we’re just tenants.