The world’s changing fast. The climate is warming. Wildlife migration patterns are changing. Some of our natural resources are dwindling. And sometimes it feels like the people with power have no interest in doing anything about it. Sometimes, it seems, the rest of us – those without a lot of political or philanthropic sway, but who do want to do something about it – are powerless to stem the literal rising tide of ecological disaster.
But it’s important to know that we’re not powerless – and every little thing we do, no matter how seemingly small, can and does help. Whether it’s recycling cans and bottles in your own community, or participating in fundraisers, or even spreading awareness of environmental news on social media – if we all pitch in, all those “little things” can add up to a whole lot of momentum.
Probably the most impactful way you can show your support for the environment is with your wallet. Buying fair trade and organic food supplies, reclaimed or recycled furniture and toiletries, and clothing made with sustainably farmed and manufactured materials are all ways you can make a difference.
You can also help protect the environment while traveling (for fun!), without needing to participate in a volunteer program, to some of the world’s many sustainable travel destinations? You can indeed have an amazing vacation in an exotic locale and do it responsibly, sustainably, and in a way that supports local conservation and education initiatives. Every year our favorite sustainable travel destinations change, but here’s our list of the top 5 destinations (in no particular order) for 2016!
Happy travels, and we hope you have a fun and responsible journey!
This growing African country played second fiddle to the likes of Kenya and South Africa for decades, but in the last few years, it’s quickly grown into one of the world’s most popular safari destinations. That’s because a Botswana safari is a true wildlife lover’s paradise, as the country boasts more protected and endangered animals in their natural habitat than any other country on the continent. It’s also extremely ecologically diverse – from enormous red sand deserts to lush and watery deltas, Botswana’s geography will constantly keep you on your toes.
This year, Botswana is celebrating 50 years of independence. Within those 5 decades it has progressed from a wild, impoverished country into a thriving, economically stable, politically progressive, and conservationally-focused society that concentrates resources on the development of its infrastructure alongside the protection of its natural environment.
In fact, over 17% of the country is protected as National Park land, and your tourism dollars get funneled directly into conservation programs therein. The famed Okavango Delta became UNESCO’s 1,000th World Heritage site in 2014, and is a major focus of wildlife rehabilitation initiatives in the country. A major 2015 initiative helped rehome over 100 endangered rhino from South Africa through a program called “Rhinos Without Borders” – the rhino were at high risk of poaching, and the undertaking was the largest of its kind, but every rhino was successfully rehomed and they are now protected in Botswana’s huge (and extremely poacher-unfriendly) parks.
The stunning Pacific island nation of Palau is one of the world’s foremost snorkelling and diving destinations – and it’s fighting to stay that way!
The President of Palau – Tommy Remengesau Jr. – famously stated in a 2014 UN oceans conference that “The economy is our environment and the environment is our economy.” He said this on the eve of his declaration that 100% of his nation’s territorial waters would become a marine sanctuary – there would be no commercial fishing tolerated in any of Palau’s waters. No other nation has a 100% protected marine ecosystem. This decree came just a few years after Remengesau created an enormous shark sanctuary in those same waters.
Since Palau’s waters became protected conservation territory, they have come to be known colloquially as the “Serengeti of the Sea.” The sanctuary itself is roughly the size of Texas.
The nutrient-rich waters are home to countless beautiful and exotice marine wildlife, and for this reason there are few places in the world more thrilling and wondrous to.dive or snorkel. Some proceeds from a Palau snorkeling expedition go to protect the ocean habitat.
When it comes to environmental protection and conservation, few countries are as forward-thinking as Uruguay. The nation has fully embraced the idea and implementation of green energy. In fact, they have some of the most progressive green energy policies in the world – 21 wind farms were in development at the beginning of 2014, and the country’s environmental cabinet made a goal back in 2005 to have 90% of the country’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015; instead, they actually hit 95%.
The country hasn’t always been this way. As recently as 15 years ago oil made up almost 30% of the country’s imports, and a gas pipeline between Uruguay and Argentina was under construction. The turnaround has been fast, dramatic, and effective. The country has made a commitment to green policies rarely seen in the modern world, and any travel dollars spent there will inevitably make its way back to green development in some way.
If that’s not enough to tantalize you, Uruguay is home to several beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it also earned extremely high scores from Freedom House in the categories of Political Rights and Civil Liberties.
Greenland is home to the world’s smallest population density, but a comparatively high concentration of wildlife. Polar bears, humpback whales, musk oxen, sea eagles, walruses, and reindeer all call this vast and untamed wilderness home. And while the human population is relatively sparse, there are plenty of Greenland safaris you can undertake!
As for sustainability, Greenland is big on climate change. Global warming is a huge concern for Greenland, as they stand to see waters rise as much as 20 feet if warming goes unchecked. Therefore, the country’s scientists are working hard researching the problem and trying to come up with ways to reverse or at least slow climate change. Greenland doesn’t have a huge tourism income – they’re not the flashiest, trendiest country to visit, after all – so your tourism dollars make a big difference in funding environmental research.
Another cool thing about Greenland: the country’s tourism board encourages travellers to experience Greenland “like a local”, even going so far as to suggest tourists actually stay in local homes and eat dinner with their hosts. Part of this is due to the fact that the island has very little agriculture and public transportation, so eating locally and spending time touring local hotspots is almost a necessity.
Klemtu, British Columbia
Located in the Great Bear Rainforest in the northwest coast of British Columbia, Klemtu is a small Kitasoo First Nation community you can only access by boat or plane. The community focuses on natural and cultural tourism, with a conservation model of international significance with the community’s Spirit Bear Lodge playing a central role in the conservation economy.
Kitasoo “Spirit bears” are fascinating animals that for the most part do not exist outside of the Klemtu island. Kitasoo spirit bears are white-colored black bears – but it’s not albinism that gives them a beautiful and ghostly (hence the name) coat, but a rare recessive gene. Isolated from mainland black bears, Kitasoo spirit bears keep their white-furred genes in the family.