While green building and eco-friendly practices as varied as farmer’s markets and gas-free commuting have been important priorities to the inhabitants of many of the world’s top cities, the impetus to be eco-savvy doesn’t stop there. In fact, as communities and individuals around the world become more conscious of the need to protect our environment, eco-travel has become a bigger priority than ever. The importance of preserving natural resources, limiting pollution and resource usage, and finding renewable sources of energy are all issues that matter to the tourism industry.
Green travel can mean a lot of things, too. It can refer to eco-conscious hotels and other lodging options, sustainable or green attractions, and even farm-to-table dining experiences. A truly green vacation should take all of these factors into account, so it’s important to do your research in advance to determine which places to stay and things to do really represent the best in sustainable, eco-friendly practices.
For travelers in search of eco-friendly destinations for their next big vacation, it can be hard to separate real responsible tourism from those merely paying lip service to ecological ideals without really being green. Here are a few of the world’s greenest destinations, separated by region.
While we may not think of eco-tourism as something we can enjoy in our own country, it’s very much the case that the United States has worked for the last few decades to improve their green policies and promote sustainable practices. You’ll find many of the initiatives and improvements undertaken by local governments in cities like New York, Portland, San Francisco, Honolulu, Seattle, and more. Keep an eye out for things like bike lanes, protected park land, buses that use renewable energy, hotels and museums with green building awards, and even sustainable dining options. Of course, then you also have the wealth of National Parks across the country, from the Joshua Tree to Acadia, which reflect the national commitment to green tourism and responsible stewardship of natural resources.
Canada has been increasingly ambitious in their attempts to be greener in the last few decades. With their abundance of national parks and vast tracts of protected wilderness, their commitment to conservation and preservation in nature is already commendable. You can find eco-friendly attractions in nearly all of the big parks and outdoorsy destinations, from Banff to Whitehorse. Even their big cities are making major strides in working to be more eco-friendly, with places like Montreal and Vancouver introducing things like eco-friendly transit options, progressive city-wide recycling policies, and even the world’s first “solar highway.”
The natural resources of Latin America are key to understanding this part of the world as a green destination. Many countries, including Costa Rica, Brazil, Bolivia, and others have invested significant financial and cultural capital into moving forward for a greener future. This means things like preserving natural resources and protecting biodiversity, working towards complete reliance upon renewable, clean energy, and more. You’ll also find a wealth of natural attractions to enjoy in these countries, including eco-friendly activities like tours, cruises, or hikes.
This area of the world is a major destination for eco-tourists, simply due to their amazing commitment to reducing the impact of human tourism on the environment. You can find a green version of everything from lodging and dining options to transit and activities in several places across the Caribbean, including National Parks in Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, and more. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands is also an especially eco-friendly destination all on its own. Visit these places to enjoy cruises, hikes, photography adventures, historical tours, and many other green activities.
Europe has been a leader in green policies, sustainable building design, and eco-friendly attractions for a long time now. Here you’ll find a wide variety of award-winning green buildings, innovative housing design projects that emphasize recycled materials and renewable energy, and very eco-friendly social spaces. Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are among the greenest nations, with their longtime commitment to inventive eco-design, but you’ll also find Spain, Portugal, and France among the top nations. These countries are recognized for their dedication to preserving natural resources and biodiversity, as well as for their wealth of eco-friendly historical and outdoors attractions.