Embarking on a journey that embraces both wanderlust and environmental consciousness is a trend that’s gaining momentum. If you’re seeking to explore the world while minimising your ecological footprint, look no further.
Taking a proactive stance in response to the evolving environment, Scotland took the remarkable step of hosting COP26 in 2021. Pioneering change, it was the first country globally to endorse the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency initiative, encouraging the tourism sector to minimise its carbon footprint. With everything from commercial solar panels to offshore wind and much more, Scotland is one of the greenest places you can visit.
The spotlight on rewilding has attracted visitors to the breathtaking grandeur of the highlands, with the nation’s Green Tourism certification scheme serving as a guide to recommended destinations.
Nestled in the heights of the Himalayas, Bhutan, an isolated Buddhist kingdom, stands out for its unique pursuit of measuring gross national happiness. This small nation’s carbon neutrality is unparalleled worldwide, and its cautious approach to controlling visitor numbers stems from a concern that an influx of tourists could mar its pristine landscapes. The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature safeguards the integrity of the stunning glacial valleys, aided by a network of ecotourism farmhouses that contribute to funding conservation efforts.
Although often overlooked in the realm of European travel, Slovenia boasts a wealth of natural beauty, from the Julian Alps to Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled. To fully leverage these assets, the country has invested in creating new trails, enhancing signage, and digitising maps for the convenience of hikers and skiers.
Rwanda’s allure as a tourism hotspot primarily revolves around its rich natural landscapes, notably the mountain gorillas. The government’s emphasis on conserving their habitat in Volcanoes National Park reflects its commitment to preservation. Additionally, community tourism in the Great Rift Valley is championed by establishments such as the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, which aids the local population while transforming former poachers into partners in conservation.
The majority of Finland’s northern landscape is blanketed by forests, with the nation’s air and water being celebrated for their exceptional clarity. Through the establishment of the Sustainable Finland program, the government has reinforced its appeal to eco-tourists. The program steers travellers toward destinations like Lapland’s northern forests, where glimpses of the Northern Lights through the trees are possible.
Much like in the UK where various employee benefits schemes reward cycling and travelling via sustainable means, Finland has good infrastructure and incentives for cyclists and those undertaking more sustainable modes of travel.
Boasting a diverse range of natural attractions, from mountains to rainforests to coastlines, Costa Rica captivates visitors with its abundant offerings. The nation has strategically embraced ecotourism, encapsulated in the motto “Pura Vida” or “Pure Life.” Over a quarter of its land is dedicated to national parks, and the country claims around 17% of the world’s animal species. Noteworthy is Costa Rica’s reliance on hydropower for a significant portion of its electricity needs.
Leveraging its remarkable natural beauty to draw tourists, New Zealand has become a global exemplar of sustainability. Geothermal energy, an environmentally friendly power source, accounts for more than a fifth of the nation’s energy consumption. The government’s two-decade-long commitment to prioritising sustainability has solidified its reputation as a leader in green practices.
Like other island nations, Barbados confronts the front lines of climate change. Prime Minister Mia Mottley, a speaker at COP events, is acutely aware of the nation’s vulnerability and is championing a transition toward greener practices. As part of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, Barbados is actively ensuring that tourism enterprises receive the necessary resources to uphold sustainability.
As an island nation, Madagascar has experienced firsthand the dire consequences of climate change-induced challenges, including a famine in its southern region. Its unique ecosystems and wildlife make the country a compelling attraction. There are also initiatives that contribute to awareness by offering volunteerism-focused trips that support conservation efforts.
San Diego, California
Amidst its stunning beaches and reputation as an ecological pioneer, it comes as no surprise that a Californian destination secures a spot on this list. San Diego, situated in the southern part of the state, is leading the way with its Climate Action Plan and burgeoning clean tech job market. The city proudly boasts a zero-waste plan with the ambitious goal of diverting all waste from landfills by 2040. Not only this, but San Diego is on the verge of achieving a remarkable milestone—becoming entirely powered by renewable energy. The city is particularly known for it’s solar capacity, having the second most solar panels on roofs in the entire United States.