In many ways travel can be good for the environment with many countries and tourist boards creating campaigns that are designed to give back to local communities and help wildlife thrive such as the ‘Drink Mountain Tap’ campaign in Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
Additionally, many places and hotels are committed to being sustainable and to reducing waste and energy consumption helping the environment where possible – The Brando, for example, located in The Islands of Tahiti, hosts its very own pioneering deep seawater air-conditioning system keeping the hotel cool.
If you are interested in eco-friendly travel, read on to see the top hotspots worth a visit in 2021:
THE ISLANDS OF TAHITI
The Brando is a luxury resort that relies entirely on renewable energy sources including solar power and coconut oil. All building materials used are of local or certified origin, renewable, or incorporate recycled components. A pioneering deep seawater air-conditioning system keeps the hotel cool and all guests are provided with free bicycles to get around the island, further reducing the carbon footprint. The owners also built an Eco-station gifting it to Tetiaroa Society; a non-profit organisation established to allow scientists to lead research into sustainable interdependence.
Hoshinoya Karuizawa preserves the exceptional natural scenery in which it is set; 90 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train, the resort sits on a lake beside Mt Asama and feels a world away from the neon capital. The river running down the mountain plays a key role in powering the property, generating hydroelectricity through a system simply called ‘Energy In My Yard’ (EIMY), which provides 70% of the resort’s energies. Guests can enjoy award-winning ecotours, acclaimed bird watching and healing hot springs during their stay.
Travelling by train around Japan
Japan is renowned for its excellent train transportation being exceptionally clean, quick and easy to use. Cut down on carbon footprint and take an unforgettable trip around Japan. Trains stop at both major cities’ and smaller villages allowing for visitors to get off-the-beaten-track and to discover many of the hidden gems that the country has to offer. Many areas in Japan have their own special, scenic railways on which visitors can take in the natural beauty and essence of the region. Travel to the lesser-known areas of the Tohoku region via the Gono Line and stop off in Hachinohe City where the Kabushima Shrine stands.
From here visitors can get the train down to Tokyo and explore the capital before venturing from from Shibuya to the Chubu region where visitors can explore the Three Star Road area. From Shibuya the Three-star Route will travel to Matsumoto, Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go, Gokayama and end up in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. This is an unforgettable area to explore, offering plenty of charming places that showcase a real Japan along with World Heritage sites and National Treasures such as the Kenrokuen Garden, Ishikawa. From here visitors can continue all the way down to west Japan to Kyushu travelling from Kanazawa to Fukuoka. Here, visitors can purchase JR Kyushu rail pass, this area pass covers travel on the Kyushu shinkansen between Hakata, in Fukuoka, and Kagoshima, via Kumamoto, as well as limited express trains around the island, including routes to Nagasaki and the onsen towns of Beppu, Yufuin and Ibusuki.
Ouirgane Ecolodge is an eco-friendly accomodation in the Ouirgane & Toubkal National park. Located 70 minutes from Marrakech, at the foothills of the Toubkal summit (4,167m) in Maghira village beside the National Taghrghourte Reserve. This ecolodge integrates sustainability, innovation, respect for the environment and the appreciation for the local Berber cultures.
A number of concepts are implemented at the lodge including the use of mixer taps, intelligent irrigation for the garden: well water, drop by drop system, use of biodegradable cleaning and bathroom products, use of renewable energy technologies and the implementation of the 3RV rule: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge, Morocco
Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge is situated ten minutes from Agadir and 2.5 hours from Marrakech. Atlas Kasbah is one the most famous sustainable tourism eco hotels in Africa, perfect for those looking for a well-being stay in Morocco to discover and recharge their batteries in the Berber country. The accommodation hosts a treatment centre that has been carefully designed to be ecological and responsible. Guests can enjoy a salt pool, Atlas mountain white quartz and wild flower bath, therapeutic salt cave, and energising massages, yoga and meditation. Each treatment and beauty product is based on exchanges and collaboration with ethical cooperatives sharing the philosophy of preserving the planet’s natural resources.
Montenegro offers visitors multiple opportunities to explore the natural landscape, connect with locals and experience its regional cuisines and customs. Home to five national parks, each one offers outdoor lovers multiple hiking and biking opportunities through forests, lakes and mountains, many of which remain untouched.
Skadar Lake National Park is the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula – ideal for kayaking and SUP in the summer. The emerald coloured lake is a bird lover’s paradise; home to over 280 species and the only pelican habitat in the south of Europe for the endangered Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant. UNESCO World Heritage site, Durmitor National Park is famed for its sky-scraping peaks, black pines, glacial lakes and the Tara River Canyon. At over 1,300 metres, it is the longest and deepest gorge in Europe.
Its powerful river, known as “The Teardrop of Europe”, is a favourite for white water rafting and is framed by forests, alpine fields and towering peaks that rise over 2,000 metres high. Furthermore, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, one of the last primeval forests in Europe (1,600 hectares) lies in the Biogradska Gora National Park.
With four national parks, eight national monuments, 41 state parks, 960 wildlife species and 6,000 miles of rivers, the numbers don’t lie: the great outdoors is Colorado’s calling card, and residents and visitors alike agree it’s worth protecting. In 2017, the Colorado Tourism Office and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics formed a ground-breaking alliance and introduced the jointly-created seven Care for Colorado Principles which encourage consideration when travelling. As part of this partnership, they also developed a “Are you Colo-ready?” responsible travel guide for visitors. Some examples of eco-friendly travel in Colorado include:
Enjoying the geothermal energy in Pagosa Springs – home to the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring aquifer that powers local businesses, craft beer making as well as recreation (of course!).
Staying at Badger Creek Ranch – an off-the-grid property, relying solely on solar power for its energy use. The ranch composts all organic materials including manure from the animals and scraps from the kitchen. This compost is then reused as fertiliser for the ranch’s garden and hay meadows.
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
Not only is Aspen Snowmass one of the world’s best ski resorts, but it’s also one of the world’s leading sustainable travel companies, so guests can rest assured that a holiday to the mountains also gives back to the environment and local community. Every year the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies educates 6,400 youth about climate science, creating a new force of committed, ecologically literate activists. Additionally the City of Aspen and Aspen Skiing Company have set aggressive goals to reduce emissions, and now run their electric utility on 100% renewable power. Aspen Skiing Company has also been an avid supporter of the Protect Our Winters campaign and has helped create a movement to lobby US Congress to take action on climate change.
For eco-friendly hotel stays, visitors should check out The Little Nell. Previously rewarded with the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association’s Hospitality Green Award, the hotel uses energy-efficient lighting throughout, has cut CO2 emissions by 300 tons a year and powers its largest suite by a 5,000-watt solar panel system. Guests staying at the hotel can help protect and sustain the local environment with a nightly $2 donation to their Environmental Foundation, which is a nonprofit employee organisation dedicated to protecting and preserving the regional environment.
Florida’s Paradise Coast
A cultural gem located in Southwest Florida, the Paradise Coast sits on the Gulf of Mexico’s sparkling waters where 30 miles of pristine, soft white, sandy beaches, meets outdoor adventure and natural wilderness. Home to some of the greatest parks and nature preserves in the world, Everglades National Park – a designated World Heritage Site, is just one of these. The Everglades offer visitors multiple opportunities to explore and navigate the unique environment made up of tropical jungle, mangroves and cypress swamps. This vast wetlands wilderness is an ideal environment for marine life to thrive and the area is famous for its rich birdlife and endangered species. The best way to visit this part of the park is with professional guided eco-tour company, Everglades Area Tours.
Sustainability also crosses over into the local cuisine. The harvest season runs from October to May and fishermen detach claws at the joint and throw the crustaceans back. Stone crabs have the ability to regenerate their claws every one to two years, making this Florida’s most coveted sustainable food source.
Over the last 50 years, Pittsburgh has undergone one of the most extraordinary urban environmental transformations in modern history. Once referred to as the “Smoky City,” Pittsburgh is now recognised as one of the top destinations in the U.S. for housing green certified building space, and is a hub for sustainable design and green technology. Bike, walk or rollerblade over 24-miles miles of riverfront trails and soak in urban views from one of 165 parks within the city. Wrapped in rivers, intertwined with trails and packed with green spaces, Pittsburgh is an outdoor city in close contact with its surrounding countryside reaching Butler County and the Laurel Highlands.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in the Oakland neighbourhood encompasses 15 acres of land, including a 14-room glasshouse and 23 distinct gardens. Situated in this green oasis is the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), an education and research facility described as ‘one of the greenest buildings in the world.’ The CSL generates all of its own energy and treats all storm and sanitary water captured on-site for reuse. It is also the first and only building in the world to meet four of the highest green certifications. Downtown, the 4-star Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel received a Gold LEED certification in 2010 and one of the country’s largest green mixed-use buildings. Throughout the construction process, recycled materials were used and 99 percent of the construction waste was recycled.
Yosemite’s Tuolumne County, California
Just 2 ½ hours east of the San Francisco Bay Area, Tuolumne County is easily accessible year-round for all-season fun, adventure and memory-making moments. Comprising the High Sierra, Gold Country and the lion’s share of Yosemite National Park, families can enjoy endless outdoor recreation and sight-seeing, explore state and national parks, get up and close with wildlife and more.
In 2021 and a California first, Under Canvas Glamping Resort will open in Groveland. With 99 seasonal glamping units, the business prides themselves on its sustainability practices. Nearby attractions in Yosemite National Park include the mighty Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias for multiple hiking opportunities and chasing waterfalls, not to mention proximity to the High Sierra and historic towns in the Gold Country. During the summer, family-friendly activities here are a must. A visit to Pinecrest Lake opens up opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming and boating and further into the mountains budding cowboys will find Kennedy Meadows – a living ranch that offers hourly, daily and overnight weekly tours.
California’s High Sierra’s
The Golden State continues to innovate in the sustainability space, from mitigating environmental impacts and promoting cultural preservation to educating visitors about responsible travel. Below are just a few ways to sleep, play sustainably on your next California road trip.
Start in the Sierra Nevada mountains at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. Located on the north side of the stunning azure Lake Tahoe, this is the perfect spot for hiking up to incredible views or getting out onto the lake for clear-bottom kayaking! Through their campaign called “Drink Mountain Tap,” Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows were the first resort in North America to ban the sale of single-use plastics, and instead offer reusable bottles for the same prices as most single-use bottles. After a few days of breathing in the lush forest air it’s time to get back on the open road and head south on Highway 395 to Mammoth Lakes.
This summer adventure playground is perfect for fishing and mountain biking with the kids. Visitors to the area can practice responsible recreation by signing the Mammoth Lakes Promise to ensure that everyone can experience the beauty and protect the mountains and wildlife that call the Eastern Sierra home. Just an hour’s drive away is Yosemite National Park and the wonders of Mariposa County. One of the world’s most iconic spots, the park offers guided ranger hikes to see magnificent waterfalls, photography and art workshops and the chance to rock climb amongst legends whilst protecting one of the world’s most famous parks. Stay in the eco-friendly Autocamp Yosemite and use the YARTS bus service, which will shuttle you in and out of the park everyday, meaning you don’t have to drive.
Major sustainable remodel for eco-luxe resort Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur California
Post Ranch Inn is a stunning eco-luxury property perched on the 1,200 ft above the Pacific ocean on the cliffs of Big Sur. Each structure on the 100-acre property represents an innovative green building approach, featuring bio-structure architecture and using natural materials of glass, wood, stone and COR-TEN steel, and, when possible, passive solar heat. Other green initiatives include using hybrid Lexus vehicles to transport guests around the property; water is pumped onsite and bottled into renewable glass bottles; landscaping uses native plants and is drought-resistant. In addition, the grounds provide a habitat for the endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly, California Red-Legged Frog, Western Pond Turtle and California Condor.
The resort’s Ocean Houses have undergone a recent sustainable redesign, featuring recycled and sustainable materials including reclaimed denim insulation, redwood interior paneling from vintage wine barrels, high-performance windows, glazing and shades, and the living roof system with new native, low-water landscaping embracing the Post Ranch Inn sustainability ethos.