The advent of summer means that many families around the world are planning some sort of vacation or getaway. The days are longer, the air is warmer and it just seems as if time takes on a slower pace during this time of year. Yet, what starts out as a well-intended time for family members to bond and make new memories can quickly turn into a spend-happy expedition that ups your carbon footprint and adds a ton of unnecessary waste to the environment.
To that end, let’s take a look at five eco-friendly destinations that should be next on your list of places to visit this summer!
1. Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Want to stay at an exclusive resort that recycles 90% of its total waste and absolutely all of its food waste? Check out Soneva Fushi. Known as Kunfunadhoo, this particular area was deserted until Eva and Sonu Shivdasani decided to set up a resort on the pristine Maldives island. Totally carbon neutral for four years now, the resort is a shining example that you don’t have to sacrifice quality or prestige to offer guests an environmentally friendly, yet luxurious stay. As we make strides toward producing a carbon-neutral fuel, though fall short due to issues including poor CO2 conversion, unnecessary (and dangerous) carbon monoxide production, low methane output rates and more, to see a resort leader achieve such balance is inspiring.
Relying on solar power and alternative building materials including styrofoam blocks, the resort also takes care to ensure that all the water it uses is desalinated. If you can’t make it to the Maldives (where the resort now has two locations), Soneva has a second location in Thailand that’s equally eco-friendly. Don’t be surprised by the 2% carbon levy tacked onto your bill -- it’s doing a ton of good by going toward the Soneva Foundation, which helps fund multiple reforestation and renewable energy projects.
2. Inkaterra, Tampopata National Reserve, Peru
This former research center, officially known as the Inkaterra Guides Field Station, is now accessible to the public for lodging and activity. Backed by the Inkaterra Asociación (ITA), which is known worldwide for its efforts in flora and fauna research, the Station might not be as upscale as the Soneva resort described above, but if you’re a traveler who simply wants to stay among nature away from outside distractions, the private cabanas are surprisingly plush. Larger groups can stay together in bigger pavilions.
When you’re ready to venture away from the resort, you can attend guided tours that lead you along a treetop canopy walking trail, through the water on a boat excursion, or to the nearby Gamitana Model Farm, where you’ll get a firsthand look at how the local farmers work with their communities to create a sustainable agricultural model.
3. Rancho La Puerta, Mexico
This destination spa is almost 80 years old, but you’d never be able to tell it. It’s accommodations and outdoor surroundings are still as lush as ever. You’d expect nothing less from a resort that has such an expansive and elaborate outdoor garden it takes 22 full-time gardeners to tend to it and produce food for the kitchen. All composted matter goes back into the growing fields to promote further growth.
While you’re packing, be sure to bring your binoculars, as there are many different species of birds that have adopted Rancho La Puerta as a sanctuary, and more than 200 species of plants call the spot home. Nothing is wasted here. Even discarded Christmas trees are churned into mulch!
4. Pikaia Lodge, Galapagos Islands
After a stay at this resort, you can officially say you’ve slept on top of an extinct volcano crater! This all-inclusive resort can accommodate three or seven-night vacationers, but don’t plan on holing up in your cabana. From gorgeous hikes and wildlife excursions to a visit to the on-site Tortoise Reserve, this is a destination that allows you to get up close and personal with nature while conserving valuable resources in the process.
How? The lodge is powered by alternative energy resources and all of its amenities, from its wellness center and gym to restaurant and lounge area, all work together to reduce waste and remain sustainable. The initiatives are part of the resort’s Social Responsibility Program, an overarching aim to bring travelers exotic experiences while reducing unnecessary energy spend in the process.
5. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, South Africa
What sets Bushmans Kloof apart from the pack is its commitment to saving endangered species. Spanning a massive 18,000 acres, the wilderness reserve is nestled within the Cederberg Mountains, roughly 170 miles from Cape Town. While its sustainability efforts, chief among them water processing, organic farming and alternative energy use among them, are to be applauded, their animal conservation efforts are remarkable.
The Cape Mountain zebra is allowed to roam freely here, though almost extinct everywhere else in the world. On the same premises, the resort maintains and restores rock art sites, with more than 130 in total covering a time period of more than 10,000 years. Come for the luxury accommodation, but stay for the impressive history.
The good news here is these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Before planning your next trip, do a little research and determine if there are any eco-friendly or green resort options in the area you’re considering. It might only be a small adjustment on your part, but it could open the door to a huge wave of change -- and open your eyes to what’s possible outside the standard, commercial resort walls.