uliet Kinsman celebrates the destinations setting new benchmarks, spotlighting specific environmental issues and helping to make the world a better place for people and planet, while also promising the best possible holidays for the conscious traveller – in no particular order.https://www.youtube.com/embed/T5hNZn7LyCk
- SLOVENIAPerfectly preserved landscape and landmarksThis compact Central European country, with its chocolate-box mountain scenery and medieval fairy-tale villages, punches above its weight in the conservation stakes. Its walkable, welcoming capital, Ljubljana, has long been a hit for eco-minded city breaks. And more than a 10th of its rolling countryside is formally protected, spanning Alpine peaks, ancient forests, Karst plateau, the Pannonian plains’ vineyards and thermal waters and the 29-mile stretch of Adriatic coast. Consult the tourist board’s Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism to navigate your way to the greenest hosts and camping sites.Slovenia is one of our top holiday destinations to visit in 2021The best holiday destinations for 2021
- COSTA RICASprawling, UNESCO-protected natureHere between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, more than a quarter of this Central American nation is set aside as protected parks and reserves, which are a precious safeguard against deforestation and logging. Three of the country’s national conservation areas and parks are UNESCO-protected, and much of its electricity is renewably sourced. Home to almost six per cent of the world’s species, Costa Rica is a world-leading protector of biodiversity, and it’s a dream holiday destination where you’re sure to encounter a dazzling cast of wildlife at every turn. Find out more from the Costa Rica Tourism Board.GETTY IMAGES
- FINLANDClean energy, freshest airAlmost 80 per cent of Finland’s land is forest; its lakes are among the clearest and its air the cleanest in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. Well done to Visit Finland for launching its Sustainable Finland programme. The tourist board’s guide maps out a blueprint to help visitors plan the most eco-friendly escapes and engage with nature and local culture, knowing every step of their stay has been looked at through an economical, ecological, social and cultural lens. Finland also ranks as a hero on Yale’s Environmental Perform Index, which assesses 180 countries on environmental health and ecosystem vitality; plus the capital, Helsinki, is the city credited with making the biggest commitment to sustainability when it comes to public transport, which runs on electricity produced by water and wind power.GETTY IMAGES
- GREECELocal and seasonal food that leaves a good tasteOffering honourable provenance and a supply chain that’s made up of small local producers is, and always has been, the Greek way of doing things. We definitely need to keep raising the issue of their single-use plastic consumption, but when it comes to organic farming, small producers and family-run food and drink providers, this appealing Southern European holiday destination has always followed local and seasonal principles. Few global beach resorts are in destinations where people are able to grow and graze their own ingredients, and consequently many often have menus that rely on long-distance importing of fossil-fuel-dependent farmed goods, which then require significant processing and storage – all this deducts points in the sustainability stakes. Agriculture, as a sector, is one of the biggest contributors to the climate emergency, and often what we eat while we’re away is overlooked when judging our carbon footprint – so the fact the Greeks naturally serve dishes that help keep our foodprint low earns a thumbs-up.
- SCOTLANDGet close to nature, close to homeReconnect with wilderness and savour all things hyperlocal in a country that was the first to sign up to Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency – an initiative launched at the beginning of 2020 to encourage the tourism sector to reduce carbon emissions. All eyes deserve to be on the Isle of Eigg for being the first community to go entirely off-grid, thanks to wind, hydro and solar energy, back in 2008. Huge swathes of the country are also being rewilded. On the mainland, the European Nature Trust is behind the conservation of 23,000 acres of the Scottish Highlands at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, while Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Ann, owners of H&M, are letting more than 200,000 acres across Sutherland and the Grampian mountains run wild. The Scottish National Health Service not long ago began to prescribe time in nature, recognising the benefit to mental health and physical wellness, and Scotland has a Green Tourism certification scheme to badge the eco-friendliest accommodation providers.GETTY IMAGES
- PALAUWhere tourists sign an eco pledgeBack in 2017, this Pacific Ocean island was the first destination anywhere to insist visitors sign a mandatory eco pledge promising to be good environmental stewards for the duration of their stay, via a passport stamp. Until all countries introduce this, they’ll always have a top place in our hearts for setting this benchmark. Paloma Zapata runs Sustainable Travel International, an organisation dedicated to protecting destinations and preserving natural environments, and she praises Palau for its conservation of land and sea. Zapata makes a comparison with other island destinations that have followed old-fashioned tourism models and back in the 1980s allowed high-rises to be built by beaches, causing coastal erosion and destroying precious carbon-absorbing mangrove areas. We salute Palau for being considerate of local communities and making it easier for travellers to treat their home respectfully.GETTY IMAGES
- MALAWISupport small, locally owned businesses in this small African countryEnjoy full, rich experiences with the most warm-hearted of hosts knowing your traveller money is staying in local pockets. Tourism in Malawi, as in many places in Africa, is a vital financial lifeline for a country that lacks the prop of a domestic market during these tourist-starved times. Sandwiched between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, Malawi is a small, landlocked nation, and one of the world’s poorest. By investing in a holiday there through the Responsible Safari Company your experiences, including home stays, support on-the-ground initiatives and provide direct support for the local economy. Malawi also has the benefit of an efficient road network, so you’re not reliant on internal flights to get around – as is the case with many other African destinations.GETTY IMAGES
- PORTUGALWhere a commitment to positive tourism is mandatedThis westernmost swathe of Europe is proving to be one of the most forward-thinking in demonstrating how tourism can be a force for good. As well as having the come-hither appeal of a compelling coastline, history and culture, the fact that four years ago Portugal mandated that 90 per cent of tourism businesses would comply with rules governing water, waste and energy use by 2027 gives the country a green halo. It’s not as sexy as hearing about its many fantastically stylish boutique hotels, but it’s what we need more governments to do. With a 10th of its population employed in tourism, Portugal invests significantly in educating its people about sustainability. And its tourist board provides tools to ensure it delivers high-quality, low-impact tourism while keeping visitors who arrive post-pandemic as happy and healthy as can be.Melides: the secret Portuguese beach spot to know
- HAWAIIA ban on coral-killing sun creamsSince 1 January 2021, the sale or distribution of over-the-counter sunscreens containing UV-filtering oxybenzone and octinoxate has been banned in Hawaii. Typically the US island state has been in the bad books of eco warriors for its high overtourism profile. By over-catering to foreign visitors it compromised the quality of life for locals and put a strain on infrastructure and natural resources. But now that the volume of tourism has dropped, it’s inspiring to celebrate how Hawaii is truly setting standards when it comes to supporting marine conservation, by making sun lotions that contain those coral-killing chemicals, which also go by the names benzophenone-3 or BP-3 and Octyl methoxycinnamate or OMC, a thing of the past on its beaches.GETTY IMAGES
- BHUTANLight-touch, high-value tourismThe last remaining Buddhist kingdom, up in the Himalayas, Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country and models a less-is-more approach to hosting visitors. As tourism is so carefully regulated, those who are prepared to pay the premium to stay are among the lucky few to be welcomed into a compassionate, inclusive community, where there are few barriers between the Bhutanese and foreign guests. Amid emerald-green forests and glacial valleys, there’s no straying from the country’s authentic, epoch-old way of living, and you have the comfort of knowing your environmental impact is minimal.GETTY IMAGES
- ALSO WORTH CELEBRATING FOR THEIR GREEN AND ETHICAL WAYS…Rwanda gets high-fives for saving the wild mountain gorilla from extinction as does Seychelles for its work boosting biodiversity. All hail Switzerland for its super-slick waste management – it might not sound sexy, but 900 wastewater treatment plants and a recycling rate of 53 per cent is impressive. In the Netherlands, Rotterdam is another winner when it comes to exemplifying circular-economy ways. New Zealand gets points for announcing it intends to have a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025. Thanks to Norway for being the first to put climate neutrality on a parliamentary agenda, and now the Spanish city of Valencia, for declaring it is measuring and monitoring emissions from tourism. Copenhagen is on track to be the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025 and, in Sweden, a big whoop for Gothenburg for having held the number-one spot in the Global Destination Sustainability Index for the past four years in a row.