As the world continues to battle the climate crisis, many have brought to light how much of a negative impact travel can be. From the carbon footprint of air travel to the constant waste accumulated during trips, exploring the world can become extremely dangerous to the environment. However, there is a way to consciously plan and execute trips which allow adventurers to see the world without wreaking havoc on it: sustainable travel. Just like sustainable fashion, sustainable travel refers to acting and investing in ways which do not harm the planet or its people. Eco-friendly blogger Charlie on Travel defines it as travel which should “minimise the negative impacts of tourism and ideally be beneficial to the area in which it takes place.”
Here are 6 countries that are already taking steps to create exciting and low-impact travel sites. From country-wide initiatives to individual businesses, these destinations make sustainable travel simple:
The Kingdom of Bhutan takes an interesting approach to sustainability in the form of a tourist tariff. Every tourist entering the region must pay a minimum of $200 which covers all taxes during a stay, as well as a $65 “sustainable tourism royalty”. The royalty money helps to combat the negative effects of over-tourism by going helping to provide free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, and infrastructure building. However, the travel tariff not only supports Bhutan, but covers the costs of accommodations, all meals, transportation, and a tour guide during the trip.
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica as photographed by Drink Tea & Travel
2. Costa Rica
Well known for being one of the pioneers of sustainable travel or “ecotourism,” Costa Rica makes a fantastic choice. Through the country’s Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism program a pathway for strong and responsible tourism to thrive remains strong. The program aims to foster travel to the region which respects and supports Costa Rica’s land, people, and culture. In addition, the Essential Costa Rica website boasts that the country utilises renewable resources to produce 93% of its energy, as well as protecting 25% of the territory’s natural land through the National System of Conservation Areas . If a visitor is looking to become even more involved in local communities, there are volunteer opportunities on sustainable coffee farms and in sea turtle conservation within the area.
This Nordic country has been internationally recognised for its efforts towards providing tourists with sustainable travel essentials. Green travel blogger Every Steph wrote that in Finland, “all tourism is ecotourism.” From 70 Green Key certified sites and a railway system committed to sustainable improvement , to the slow living mentality infused into the entire culture, Finland makes travelling with the environment in mind incredibly easy. When looking to narrow down where to visit within the country, 6 of its most populated cities recently banded together to create sustainable urban development programs throughout each metropolitan area.
As the winner of Green Destinations’ 2019 Sustainable Destinations Top 100 “Best of Ecotourism” category, Guyana deserves some time in the spotlight. This small and lesser-known country, located southeast of Venezuela, takes a holistic approach to sustainable travel. By creating collaboration across communities, programs, and ministries, Guyana is building a strong foundation for tourism which benefits socio-economics and conservation in the region. For example, in the villages of Rewa and Surama, indigenious communities own and operate eco-lodges themselves . These types of efforts create jobs, raise environmental awareness, and encourage education of the country’s origins.
Slovenia, photo by Eurail
Another 2019 Sustainable Destinations Top 100 winner, Ljubljana snagged the award for “Best of Cities.” Situated between Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, Slovenia has been recognised as one of the most sustainable countries in the world. Ljubljana, the capital, has garnered its own attention since adopting eco-friendly initiatives several years ago and being named Europe’s Greenest Capital by the European Union in 2016. Some sustainable highlights in the city include an almost exclusively pedestrian city center, free electric buses , and the implementation of locally and seasonally grown food in many of their restaurants.
6. Republic of Palau
This small but mighty island found in Micronesia is committed to building a sustainable travel sector in order to protect its rich biodiversity from over-tourism. Not unlike Bhutan, Palau involves visitors in their eco-friendly through a pledge each tourist must sign before enjoying the island. The agreement asks visitors to promise to “act in an ecologically responsible way on the island.” Keeping that pledge is painless with the help of hotels which provide eco-friendly experiences, local food, and an entire island ban on reef-toxic sunscreen.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance content creator and manager. Audrey is incredibly passionate about conscious fashion and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.