Even before the coronavirus pandemic struck and brought travel to its knees, sustainability was becoming a major focus in the industry. With our travel options now gradually starting to widen again, people around the world are eager to explore with a more ego-conscious mindset.
According to climate activism site Carbon Brief, the tourism industry accounted for 8 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions on earth between 2009-2013. With flights grounded for most of the year, it is therefore not surprising that there were record falls in carbon emissions in 2020.
Of course aviation alone is not responsible for the 8% figure. Quite the opposite in fact, the report from Carbon Brief shows much of the emissions were caused by travellers indulging when they arrive at their final destination; staying in expansive hotels and eating out at fancy restaurants while paying for other luxurious goods and services such as private transport.
The Air Transport Action Group is keen to defend the aviation industry and says air transport is responsible for only 12% of CO2 emissions from all transport sources, compared to 74% from road transport. Additionally, the world’s airlines have purchased 12,000 new fuel-efficient aircraft at a cost of $1 trillion since 2009.
One may question whether you can combine a passion for travel with a passion for sustainability. We believe the answer to that is yes. Destinations around the world are investing heavily to bring their emissions under control, from carbon-neutral cities in the making to nature reserves offering a blueprint for sustainable wildlife tourism.
You can travel to the following destinations, confident that you will be having a minimal effect on the environment.
1. Costa Rica
Sustainability was a strategy in Costa Rica long before the world caught up with the demand to do so and it is now considered to be the pioneer of sustainable tourism.
Given the past year, we’re all due an escape and you couldn’t pick a better destination to do so than this one. This is a country that’s one-quarter national park, where you can hike through a rainforest one minute and surf tropical waves the next. It’s an adventure Eden.
With 2021 being the bicentennial of its independence, Costa Rica is looking to celebrate by becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country. A process it started in the 70s with drives to safeguard areas, close zoos and reverse deforestation.
Rather incredibly, 2.5% of the Earth’s biodiversity is squeezed into 0.0001% of the Osa Peninsula’s surface area. A region accessible only by boat, horse, or hiking trail.
Activity options range from swamp tours, whale watching, snorkeling, or diving. Though we think a hike through the wilderness would be our first port of call.
Costa Rica has spent decades laying its green foundations and seems ready for its moment in the spotlight in 2021.
The Danish city looks set to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.
“In Copenhagen we insist on green solutions because they pay off,” says the city’s mayor. Indeed Denmark’s capital has long targeted sustainability options, starting with an efficient public transport network. All of its buses are switching from diesel to electric.
Meanwhile the city is committed to providing clean energy for families with CopenHill, a waste-to-energy power plant, providing heat for 120,000 homes.
In 2019, more outdoor play areas opened to the public ranging from rooftop green spaces to climbing walls.
Copenhagen has five times more bicycles than cars and cycle paths covering the city are used by over 60 percent of residents every single day.
Denver is moving forward with its plan to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2023.
Among countless other initiatives, the city plans to fulfill its target by creating 125 miles of new bike lanes over the next two to three years while also placing solar gardens on municipal parking lots, rooftops and vacant land.
In addition to producing clean energy for public buildings, vehicle charging stations and local communities the investment in these solar gardens will also generate jobs and a paid training program.
Through Certifiably Green Denver, almost 2,000 business owners in Colorado’s capital are creating greener, more efficient operations that are more kind to the planet. Such businesses include Chook; a Certifiably Green restaurant that advocates sustainable food and dining.
The United States isn’t known for it’s eco-friendly credentials but if cities like this continue to introduce and champion sustainable practices, it may be possible for the green conscious traveller to enjoy a post-pandemic trip.
The Finnish capital has promised to be carbon neutral by 2035 and it part of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance.
Helsinki’s tourist board have launched a campaign to ‘Think Sustainably’, their microsite allows you to put together your once-in-a-lifetime trip with eco-friendly options.
You’ll find a whole host of green accommodation and activities, even from those you wouldn’t expect. The Löyly sauna for example has worked out a sustainable wood-burning system to heat the saunas.
There is no shortage of environmentally friendly dining options. Juuri provides ‘Finnish cuisine with attitude’ all within a sustainably wrapped package; working with small, organic producers for over 15 years.
For those who want something a bit more instant, innovative burger bar Bun2Bun has swapped beef mince for a vegan alternative and uses biodegradable cutlery and wrappers.
With 13 national parks encompassing 11% of its land, Gabon is an African Eden. Here you’ll find a whole host of animals, some endangered, roaming in their natural habitat.
Wildlife lovers are sure to enjoy Loango Lodge where they’ll have the opportunity to encounter stunning western lowland gorillas. This is an exclusive and sustainable wildlife experience with only one group of four people per day allowed to venture deep into the forest to find the endangered species.
Global investment in Gabon’s transportation networks will soon make this haven easier to reach and further expand the eco-tourism sector.
Are you an eco-conscious traveller? Tell us how you feel about exploring the world over on our LinkedIn page or Instagram feed.
Other relevant blogs:
The Top Travel Trends for 2021
The Best Travel Destinations for US Nationals in 2021
Best Destinations in January 2021 for UK Nationals