Embracing sustainable tourism doesn’t necessarily mean you should never get on a plane again or ignore crowded places. It can also mean that you fill in your trip in such a way that you tax the environment as little as possible.
In many ways, travel is a positive force, so make your trip eco-friendly with one of these destinations that do their best for sustainability; from hotels that consume as little energy as possible to tours designed to give back to local communities or support nature.
In Arosa is Hotel Valsana, the first hotel in Switzerland to be heated by an “ice battery” – a system in which an excess of heat energy that would otherwise have been absorbed into the environment is collected and reused. This charming Alpine village also helps the environment in other ways; a number of hotels have charging points for electric cars, and in the center of the city there is also one, which can be used for free.
The area has been granted “Alpine Pearl” status, due to its environmentally conscious customs and green mobility. The eponymous EU-backed organisation was created to reward communities that make extra efforts to promote sustainable tourism.
Lake Garda, Italy
Italy’s largest lake not only has a direct train connection to Milan, allowing visitors to leave their cars at home (or at the rental company) – you’ll also find the greenest hotels in the country.
The beautiful Lefay Resort and Spa compensates 100 percent of its CO2 emissions, and 60% of the energy used comes from renewable sources. The design and materials ensure minimal waste of heat and energy, and the roof is covered with vegetation to blend more into the environment and support local flora and fauna. A guilt for the flight to Milan you took lets you massage away at the spa, the first in Italy with an Ecological Spa certificate.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
A visit to the Galapagos Islands is high on many bucket lists. Exactly the location that makes the place so attractive unfortunately requires a lot of kerosene to get there. The good news is that there are a number of places on the islands themselves, such as Pikaia Lodge, that do their utmost to protect the fragile environment and compensate for the emissions of the trip there.
This innovation CO2-neutral hotel is made of steel, because it can be easily recycled. The hotel also has its own reforesting programme (they have already planted 10,000 trees.
Many touring organizations on the islands also hold sustainability in high regard, but remember to do good research before booking, and travel in small groups, for as little impact on the environment as possible.
In the Bahamas, they have a proactive approach to environmental protection. For example, Kamalame Cay on the island of Andros, where guests are presented with coral devil (an invasive fish species that feeds on native fish and disrupts the local ecosystem), or the hotel The Other Side, which runs entirely on solar energy.
At Tiamo Resort, all products are carefully chosen for as small a footprint as possible, and solar panels on the roof are used to heat the water. And to support the local community, only people from the Bahamas work.
Catalonia is the first complete region to be awarded the Biosphere Responsible Tourism certificate, one supported by UNESCO and the GTSC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council). It is easy to travel green here; look for companies with an EU Ecolabel, an award that showcases environmentally friendly services and products.
Sustainable highlights in the area include the former coal, lead and salt mines, which have been converted into cultural and environmental hotspots. Walk in the petrified footsteps of dinosaurs in the ancient open-air coal mines of Fígols-Vallcebre Fumanya, now a paleontological site. The Cardona Salt Mountain Cultural Park is also recommended – after the mine closed in the 1990s it became a place to teach visitors about the unique natural geology of the region.
Costa Rica wants to become the first country in the world to be completely carbon neutral, and it looks like it will succeed in 2021. Almost all electricity comes from renewable sources, and the UN was so impressed with the country’s conservation that they made the former president, Luis Guillermo Solís, a special ambassador of their World Tourism Organization.
His next project is an eco-friendly makeover of coffee. It is Costa Rica’s main export product, but also one of the major CO2 culprits. The Coffee Institute of Costa Rica has joined forces with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a process in which the gases released from the rotting coffee waste are caught and used as fuel in internal combustion engines.