9 of the most beautiful sustainable destinations around the world
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When daydreaming about or planning your next dream trip, the options are endless. The world is filled with so many beautiful destinations that it may be difficult to decide where to start — especially after a few months at home.
But some of the most world’s most pristine destinations have stayed that way because they’ve introduced sustainable measures — things like banning reef-toxic sunscreens, using renewable energy or limiting tourism. So consider adding one of these stunning eco-friendly spots to your bucket list — and for now — enjoy some travel inspiration from the comfort of home.
1. El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain
It doesn’t take much to convince us to take a vacation in the Canary Islands. But El Hierro, the archipelago’s smallest island, is often overlooked in lieu of Tenerife’s party atmosphere or Gran Canaria’s all-inclusive hotels. The island, scattered with volcanoes, hiking trails and black sand beaches is almost entirely run using renewable energy (wind and hydro). Regulations limit construction to two floors, ensuring nothing will block that perfect sea view from your hotel, and both the land and waters of the island are classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Related: 15 of the best beaches in Spain
With an uptick in sustainable tourism agencies creating responsible itineraries that include things like kayak trips with beach cleanups, plus a state goal of moving to 70% clean energy by 2030, Hawaii is a destination on the forefront of sustainability. In order to protect its waters and reefs, a bill was signed in 2018 to ban reef-toxic sunscreen (containing oxybenzone and octinoxate) taking effect January 1, 2021.
3. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
This tropical paradise charges tourists a preservation fee to enter and limits the number of visitors that can enter per day, ensuring the island maintains its rugged, wild beauty. The preservation fees benefit projects like promoting the island’s solar energy and providing information on mandatory recycling programs, electric car rentals and more. Similar to Hawaii, Fernando de Noronha has a plan to reduce emissions by 2030 and has banned single-use plastics.
Related: The best times to visit Brazil
4. Lisbon, Portugal
This Portuguese city is the winner of the 2020 Green Capital of Europe. With one of the world’s largest electric vehicle charging networks, a widespread electric bike-sharing system (a must for conquering the city’s hilly streets), ample public transport options and plenty of trees and various green spaces, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most eco-friendly capitals for both visitors and locals alike. And, the city has made significant strides in reducing C02 emissions, energy and water consumption in the past several years.
5. The Maldives
Tourists will pay a green tax, which is charged per night and per person at most resorts in the Maldives. Proceeds go to things like renewable energy and reef conservation. Many resorts take their in-house reefs seriously (such as the W Maldives) with marine biologists on-site to advise how the local reefs can be enjoyed but still protected. Other resorts also have their own recycling plants or have banned single-use plastics such as the Conrad Maldives. Some Maldivian islands are home to rescue centers for marine animals like turtles.
6. Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s emphasis on protecting its incredible natural landscapes and wildlife is recognized worldwide. Much of the country already uses renewable energy sources, and Costa Rica is hoping to eventually be carbon neutral. But the country’s dedication to renewable resources and protecting wildlife isn’t just at a national level. In even the smallest hotels and family-run restaurants, you’ll encounter sustainable practices like bamboo straws, compost heaps, single-use plastic bans, solar panels or recycling initiatives.
7. Vancouver, Canada
Known as the most sustainable city in North America, Vancouver has one of the greenest building codes and some of the lowest levels of air pollution in Canada. With 93% of its energy coming from renewable sources, this urban hub has a “Greenest City” action plan which includes efforts to prioritize walking, cycling and public transport and eventually become carbon neutral.
Palau is the first nation (made up of about 200 islands) where tourists must sign a pledge of eco-responsibility to enter the country. Drafted by the local children, the Palau Pledge includes a checklist of things that you, as a visitor, promise to either not to do, like collect marine souvenirs, feed marine life or litter or to do, like support small businesses and learn about local culture. Some locals, such as politicians, public figures and teachers have even signed the pledge in order to set a good example.
Bhutan’s tourism has been tightly controlled since it opened its borders back in 1974. The country’s motto is high-value, low-volume when it comes to tourism, charging visitors a high tourism tax each day they’re in the country. The government measures the success of the country by its inhabitants’ happiness, working on cultural and environmental preservation as well as social development. Those who visit can relax in knowing Bhutan is not only one of the happiest countries but also the world’s only carbon-negative country.
Even if you can’t visit these destinations just yet, you can admire them from home and add them to your bucket list for future travel. Remember, if you decide to eventually visit these spots, do so the most responsible way possible in order to keep these destinations idyllic.
Featured photo by Biletskiy_Evgeniy/Getty Images.
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