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Calling all eco-conscious consumers, plant-based eaters and sustainable fashion advocates! Are you the type of person who has made it a priority to reduce your impact on our precious mother earth through your everyday choices? Have you swapped your SUV for a Tesla? Are you always bringing canvas tote bags to the supermarket? Do you even collect rainwater for your at-home garden? While all of these efforts help in the fight against climate change and reducing your carbon footprint, there is one more angle of sustainability that is often over-looked. Travel has a direct impact on the environment and the people who live in the interesting and beautiful locales we are called to visit.
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Eco-friendly travel includes the ecology of a place and the local economy. Making more sustainable travel choices can be as simple as taking the train or driving a car in lieu of a long-haul flight. Going deeper, it also means ensuring that tourism dollars stay in the local community while also adding a philanthropic element to a journey.
Some hotels have embraced sustainability in their own unique ways that go far beyond asking guests to reuse their room towels. The Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa on Grand Cayman island is one of 200 LEED Silver certified resort-residential properties worldwide, due to its sustainable design, building practices and operations. The resort collects rainwater and harnesses solar power from the sun. The Seafire team has also launched Seafire Guardians to help protect, develop and regenerate the ocean’s coral reefs. At the newly reopened Cooper Island Beach Club in the British Virgin Islands, guests can help catch, tag and collect information on native turtles to add to the BVI’s database. The resort promotes eco-friendly travel practices by produces their own beers at its solar-powered brewery.
The new ORIGINS, a luxury lodge in the north jungle of Costa Rica, has also embraced many sustainable practices. The resort doesn’t use pesticides and is completely plastic-free, and all of their organic waste is turned into compost for the hotel’s vegetable and herb garden. The on-property lagoons are stocked with tilapia, and the hotel has partnered with the local community to help protect the surrounding land.
Vermont-based Country Walkers is taking sustainability even further. This travel company specializes in domestic and international walking tours and adventures (both guided and independent) and has made sustainability a part of their ethos since they launched in 1979. Country Walkers is committed to having their guests engage authentically in each destination. So, why the extra focus on eco-friendly travel now?
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“It’s clear to us that, if we don’t do something now, there won’t be much of a world left to travel to,” says Timo Shaw, president of Country Walkers."
“It’s clear to us that, if we don’t do something now, there won’t be much of a world left to travel to,” says Timo Shaw, president of Country Walkers. “Issues like global climate change, over-tourism, and pollution are radically changing some of the most beautiful places in the world for the worse. We believe that the only way to ensure a safe future for everyone—including travelers—is to fully embrace sustainability as a central part of our company.”
Country Walkers embraces sustainability with tours that help preserve indigenous cultures, support local economies, conserve wildlife and protect the environment – while giving back to the destinations its guests are exploring. Here’s how they do it. Guests stay in locally-owned and operated hotels whenever possible. The company focuses on environmental and socially responsible accommodations, and also supports the Slow Food movement “in order to preserve culinary traditions and support biodiversity. As a result, those who travel with us contribute to a more sustainable world as well,” the company states.
Country Walkers’ eco-friendly travel tours take place all over the world, from Zambia to New Zealand and Slovakia. Guests who book the seven-day New Brunswick: Bay of Fundy & Campobello Island tour can expect to walk three to seven miles a day. Hiking tours include exploring sea caves at low tide, as well as picturesque cliffside trails. Tour highlights include feasting on fresh-caught Atlantic lobster and farm-to-table cuisine. The fully-guided Portugal trip includes stops in Sintra, Óbidos and the coast. Adventurers will hike the Fishermen’s Trail, a clifftop pathway overlooking the Atlantic, while looking for stork nests, and afterwards experiencing a hands-on Portuguese cooking lesson.
Country Walkers has also created “The Travelers Fund” which makes a donation on behalf of every traveler who books a specific tour. More than half of their tours are associated with an initiative that helps the local community, so guests can experience the cause in some way on their eco-friendly travel tour.
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In Quebec, Country Walkers supports the Fondation Sur La Pointe des Pieds translated to “on the tip of the toes”, which provides young people aged between 14 to 29 living with cancer with an opportunity to regain their sense of well-being through therapeutic adventure expeditions. Country Walkers also supports the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which seeks to re-connect segments of land that have been separated by development, allowing animals to safely move from region to region on wildlife-friendly highway overpasses. Contributions are used towards constructing one of these wildlife structures.
When planning your next adventure, we hope the seed of inspiration has been planted to travel more thoughtfully and with less negative impact on the environment and its people. These sustainably-minded and eco-friendly travel companies have done the heavy lifting for you, so all you have to do is book the ticket and journey onward.