Welcome to the ultimate guide to cutting through the greenwash – a shortcut to being a more conscious planner and responsible traveller. Understanding key sustainability-related terms and knowing what qualities to look out for allows us to be intuitive about the impact of our adventures on the places we visit. Researching where our money is going or who has what policies in place on energy or waste is vital. Not sure how environmentally friendly a supplier's practices are? Don't be shy – ask. If you communicate what you care about, travel providers have to sit up and listen. Since tourism accounts for one in 10 jobs globally and employs hundreds of millions of people, having a holiday that pays it forward is pretty powerful. A little signposting and some reading of the small print can make all the difference.
There's more to this than wheelchair ramps. By supporting travel services and hosts that allow everyone to have the fullest experiences, regardless of ability or age, we encourage inclusivity, which leads to more people with special needs or physical challenges being catered for.
Wildlife should be left to be exactly that, and none of us should compromise the natural behaviour of any animals. Sorry guys – no riding elephants or having cuddly encounters with koalas for photo ops. Look, don't touch.
This is the complexity of life on Earth in all its forms, and it's never been so under threat. In the natural world, every ecosystem is perfectly balanced and works in harmony to contribute to our planet's overall health. Those working hard to preserve and cultivate biodiversity deserve our support. Rewilding is always a winner, as exemplified by Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands.
A love of nature and our craving for getting closer to it means we increasingly seek a look and feel that riffs on Mother Nature. Louis Thompson of Nomadic Resorts created the Cocoon Suites at Sri Lanka's Wild Coast Tented Lodge, and he loves setting the stage so guests are immersed in a way that also lets them benefit from the healing power of wilderness. 'Our design approach is inspired by the genius loci – or spirit of the place. We respect the physical characteristics, geological features, native vegetation, natural energy flows and traditional migration patterns particular to that area, to gain an understanding of what makes that place biologically unique.'
The measurement of the volume of greenhouse gases (GHGs) being released. The concern is that these GHGs are creating a layer in the atmosphere that's wrapping the planet in a blanket, causing it to warm up. Tourism is guilty of spewing out about 10 per cent of the world's total emissions. Steppes Travel is one travel company that is responding to increased awareness: it has launched a Trees & Science campaign with the Woodland Trust. By cultivating an actual 12-hectare wood of 4,000 trees near Scunthorpe (known for having the UK's worst-polluted air), it's creating a significant CO2-zapping carbon sink, improving local air quality, boosting biodiversity and setting a standard among tour operators.
The total amount of greenhouse gases produced by an individual or business, usually represented in tonnes of carbon dioxide. Flying is unequivocally the single biggest contributor to our personal carbon footprints. And it's the taking off and landing part that causes the highest emissions, so minimising short-haul flights and stopovers will lessen your footprint. While you're on the road, skip internal flights in favour of public transport and walking, stay in energy-efficient hotels and swerve beef at mealtimes.
Net-zero carbon emissions is declared when businesses measure the amount of carbon they're responsible for releasing and then balance this out with an equivalent amount, usually through the purchase of carbon credits. Intrepid Travel has been carbon neutral for many years by working out the emissions from its offices and trips (transport, accommodation and waste) and offsetting this by supporting renewable energy projects.
Accreditations from third-party assessments, usually through an audit, signify that an operator has conformed to a standard of practice. EarthCheck is a leading system of scientific benchmarking, certification and advice. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) denote green building principles. Browse B Corp's accredited businesses, all of which have been legally required to consider the impact of all decisions on their workers, their customers, their suppliers, the community and the environment. The Long Run is a non-profit programme that ensures that member resorts and lodges have attained the highest standards of sustainability encompassing conservation, community, culture and commerce – what they call the 4Cs.
A closed loop where operations aren't wasteful and supply chains are usually ethical. Striving for this virtuous circle involves using traceable suppliers and goods that are reused or repurposed and then put back into the economy, rather than following a traditional linear approach to procurement, which generally involves buying goods, using them and then disposing of them. It can refer to the use of greywater for gardening or kitchen waste being composted or, in the case of QO in Amsterdam, having carpets made entirely of upcycled fishing nets.
This is a concept relating to holidays that consider the wellbeing of people in a less well-off destination and that prioritise involving locals in decision-making while having direct positive social and economic impact through employment or ownership.G Adventures has long hosted tours that aim to leave as much money as possible in local economies, through hotels, transport, restaurants, experiences and guides. Its Ripple Score audits hundreds of trips and evaluates every supplier for local ownership. Almost 700 trips on the website now have an out-of-100 score, which allows transparency about how much of the money spent in a given destination goes directly into the hands of locals. The average score is 93.