As Earth Week wraps up, we take the time to remember that stewardship of the Earth should be in our thoughts always. By introducing us to other lands and cultures, travel gives us a deeper appreciation for our planet and all it contains. Our visits make an impact on the destinations and on the Earth as a whole, and we strive to ensure we leave places better than we found them. Several destinations are particularly adept at making their tourism offerings eco-friendly.
This land of extraordinary biodiversity contains 29 national parks, 19 wildlife refuges and eight biological reserves in less than 20,000 square miles. With coasts on the Pacific and Caribbean, volcanoes in the interior and forests throughout, the land of pura vida is full of life everywhere you look. The country’s tourism board maintains a strict set of sustainability certifications lodgings must attain, and Costa Rica is renowned for its ecolodges set among the beauty of nature.
The geothermal activity that sustains Iceland’s volcanoes and hot springs also supplies much of the country’s electricity. As tourism has become an integral part of the island’s economy, the official quality and environmental certification Vakinn recognizes businesses that operate in an ethical, professional and sustainable way. While summer is the high season, there are awesome adventures to be had in Iceland year-round, with winter providing the best opportunities to see the Northern Lights, along with a vast array of outdoor activities. Visiting in the offseason can help put less pressure on the environment.
Visit Norway has designed an official Sustainable Destination label for destinations that have committed to work systematically towards a more sustainable tourism development, preserving local communities and cultural heritage, and reducing the environmental footprint from tourism. Many of the west coast’s stunning fjordlands have achieved the designation, including the UNESCO-recognized Geirangerfjord. “With their unique stories and local culinary specialities, these destinations will give you a lovely combination of culture, activities and tasty dining,” Visit Norway says.
Qualmark is New Zealand tourism’s official quality assurance organization, and it uses three tiers of sustainable tourism business accreditation. Welcoming visitors while preserving the island nation’s fragile environment and Maori heritage is vital to maintaining all the best things about New Zealand and keeping it one of the world’s outdoor adventure capitals. Qualmark evaluates businesses on their economic, social, environmental & cultural and health, safety & wellness impacts. “Qualmark works to protect and deepen what makes New Zealand an attractive and welcoming holiday destination,” the organization says.
The White Continent is one of the most fragile places on Earth and one of its last frontiers. Seeing such a pristine place can inspire visitors to take better care of the natural environment at home. The Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty designates it as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science, and sets in place strict rules for human activity on Antarctica. Any tourism companies operating in the area must follow carefully designed protocols to ensure they mitigate any potentially negative environmental impact.