From sustainably harvested cotton to locally sourced five-course dinners, the world of luxury goods has grown increasingly eco-conscious in recent years.
So why, the second we head out on vacation, do we tend to throw those values straight out the Boeing 787 window? Maybe because travel has traditionally been about excess — eat this, buy that, worry about the consequences later.
But here’s a very un-dirty secret: you can live it up on vacation and make the world a better place while doing it.
Today, we count down 10 ethical adventures around the globe, from tracking snow leopards across Asia to foraging Amazonian chiles in Peru.
Tread responsibly, my friends.
Arctic Exploring in Spitsbergen
Party fact: Norway's northern archipelago is home to more polar bears than people. You'll see at least one (from a distance), along with bearded seals and Arctic foxes on Peregrine's Arctic Unveiled adventure, an eight day excursion through endless fjords and ice-blue glaciers, meant to help you appreciate firsthand the otherwordly beauty of the rapidly melting north. Also worth mentioning? Snowshoes, sea kayaks ... and a 24-hour sun.
Local Cooking in Peru
Let's ramp it up a notch from Trader Joe's, yeah? Sapore offers a healthy menu of guided itineraries for the sustainable-minded gourmand, from Sicily to Vietnam. We're headed south to Peru, though, for ten days of perusing local markets in Lima, taking cooking classes in Cusco and trying area staples like pulpo al oliva, causita, Afro-Peruvian fare and fresh ground coffee. It's bad news for your meek comfort zone, good news for your body and great news for Peruvian chefs, merchants and farmers.
Shepherding in the Himalayas
A new program from beloved outpost Village Ways — "In the Footsteps of the Anwals." The Anwals are transhumance shepherds (seasonal nomads) who move to higher pastures each April with their flock, before heading back down in the fall. You can walk with these experts in the Indian Himalways over an 11-night journey in either October or April. These traditions are dying out, so take notes, take pictures and ask questions. Oh, and bring the good boots.
Island Hopping in Hawaii
It is far too easy to do Hawaii without doing its people justice. Exhibit A: this. But Responsible Travel's small group tour manages to visit the state's many islands while maintaining an admirable focus on local workers, stays and habitats. Over ten days you'll hike Wimea Canyon, canoea Wailua River and see enough volcanoes to last a lifetime or two. (Plus study volcanology at the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.) Pair that with overnights in local boutiques, inter-state flights and actual Hawaiian guides and you've got a mindful, unforgettable visit to #50.
Rhino Collaring in South Africa
If Hemingway and Jane Goodall birthed a travel experience, it'd look mighty like the Phina Impact Journey. Phinda leads week-long adventures from its Zuka Lodge in eastern South Africa, welding age-old, "manly" savannah pursuits — stiff drinks, lodges, jeeps — with legitimate conservation efforts. Expect to collar a real, breathing rhino (aids conservationists in monitoring purposes), learn to use telemetry (tracking) equipment and collect data on elephant herds.
National Park Hiking in Sri Lanka
National parks that make Planet Earth look grainy, ancient temple ruins and a class or two in the art of tea making ? &Beyond's got the goods via its coastal Sri Lanka sojourn, which spends 11 days and 10 nights exploring the Indian Ocean island's lagoons and hiking trails. Dive into cultural history — from estates remembering Dutch occupation, to cliffside stone fortresses — support the local pola (a farmer's market of sorts), explore an organic coconut oil plant and watch an array of birds claiming every color of the rainbow.
Camping Trek in Yellowstone
Another American adventure from Responsible Travel, this 12-day trek does Yellowstone a little better than the afternoon or two you spent dodging tourists and unraveling maps when you were 23. Start with the tour group in Seattle, and end in Salt Lake City, hitting Glacier, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. The emphasis here? Learning on the job. National Park etiqutte, how to recognize nocturnal greetings (from wolves!), where to find wildflowers. And of course, the trip supports local guides from start to finish.
Java Strolling in Costa Rica
Or, how to ruin your morning K-Cup for forevermore. Costa Rica is no stranger to conservation, and few of the nation's institutions take the movement more seriously than Finca Rosa Blanca, a 30-year-old coffee plantation resort, that serves up a big old bird for anyone who doesn't believe sustinability and luxury can intersect. Sip delicious hard bean Arabica coffee and stroll through 30 acres of forest (in which Finca has planted over 5,000 trees) that give homes to over 130 species of birds.
Snow Leopard Tracking in India
Good luck finding a cooler animal nickname than the "mountain ghost." And good luck finding a more unique trip than 13 days tracking the endangered snow leopard across Ladakh in north India. Set out in a group of eight — led by an expert guide — across three valleys, alternating ventures on foot and by 4X4. You'll learn about local efforts to conserve the gorgeous cat, spend a week with a Ladakhi family and stop at a couple ancient monasteriess along the way.
Sustainable Airbnb’ing in … Anywhere
For unclear reasons, Airbnb has filters for hot tubs, barns and castles, but nothing for energy-efficient homes. Here's offering your handy global catch-all. Befoe you book an Airbnb, check to see if it's registered on Zerobnb, a veritable stable of sustainable listings. The site's got Texan desert domes, Finnish snow igloos, Hawaiian tree— you get it.