Soaking up the sun in a far-away locale is a great way to beat the winter blues. But with nearly 900 million tourists traversing the planet each year, eco-minded snow birds need to dig a little deeper to get the vitamin D they crave without tarnishing their green conscience.
There are a load of travel agencies and eco-tours ready to help you plan and customize a sustainable vacation for your winter escape. And while the terms “sustainable vacation” and “eco-tour” may conjure images of backpacking trips through lesser-known locales, the industry today offers more destinations than ever before, from exotic beaches and ocean explorations to 5-star luxury resorts and beyond. But how can you be sure that the travel agent, hotel, cruise or destination you dream about passes the green test?
Easy! Just be sure to ask these questions, provided by The Rainforest Alliance, before you book, and you’ll be a savvy sustainable traveler:
1. What is your environmental policy?
2. What percentage of your employees are local citizens?
3. Do you support any projects to benefit the local community?
4. Do you support conservation? How?
5. Is your business certified?
6. Have you won any eco-awards?
7. Are you recommended by any reputable NGOs or conservation groups?
8. What sorts of policies have you implemented to reduce water consumption, conserve energy or recycle wastes?
9. How do you educate visitors about local natural areas, wildlife, energy conservation, and local culture?
10. How do you monitor these practices?