Travel:

Flying Green

Being eco-conscious isn't just limited to choosing the right products, it workswith tourism too. Here are eight sustainable destinations to travel to this year
Climate change, pollution and the destruction of natural habitats are the big three issues when it comes to talking about conservation. And while separating your paper from your plastic is a fne step in doing your part for the environment, there are other avenues that many of us don't consider, such as sustainable tourism.

We are operating with a limited number of resources, yet it is easy for many of us to forget the big picture. For instance, we travel freely, when we can and however often we can to as many far-flung destinations we can check off our list. Tourism depends on burning fossil fuels though, which is a leading cause of climate change. In fact, it's predicted that 40 per cent of the world's carbon emissions will be generated by tourism by 2050. At the moment, 72 per cent of travel CO2 emissions come from transport, a further 24 per cent from accommodation, and 4 per cent from tourism activities.

Another aspect to consider is the negative impact often left on local areas which aren't equipped to cope with rapid development for tourism or an overcapacity of tourists.

Sustainable travel, though, is achieved when the country is sustainable on its environmental, economic, and sociocultural fronts. This means to meet the needs of locals and tourists while maintaining cultural integrity, ecological processes, and biodiversity.

Check out these six green destinations that you can visit without costing the Earth.

SLOVENIA

Known for its mountains, ski resorts and lakes, this Balkan country was recognised as the world's most sustainable country in 2016, ticking off 96 out of 100 detailed sustainability indicators - environment and climate, culture and authenticity, nature and biodiversity, to name a few.

Nearly 60 per cent of Slovenia is covered in lush greenery with a high number of flora and fauna found in a number of its parks and reserves. A diverse network of hiking trails, pristine lakes, authentic country roads and cobblestone towns can also be found within the country, guaranteeing a 'one with nature' vibe.

It's capital, Ljubljana, was also named Europe’s Greenest Capital by the European Union, and claims to be the frst European city to move towards zero waste. It also has city buses that run on natural gas, an urban electric train and 46 per cent of the land within the municipality is indigenous woodland.

COSTA RICA

Currently on track to not only becoming one of the most sustainable countries in the world but also the frst carbon-neutral one in the next decade, this South American jewel draws in masses of tourists thanks to its pristine coastlines.

Its home to large reserves of lush greenery, with almost a quarter of its land being rainforest, and also holds fve per cent of the planet's total biodiversity with its many beaches and volcanoes. The past few decades have also seen Costa Rica triple its GDP while doubling its forest area. It's also the frst Central American country to ban hunting for sport.

Most of its electricity (read: 93 per cent) is powered by renewable resources due to the country's investment in hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar power.

BHUTAN

Wedged between China and India, Bhutan lies on the eastern edge of the Himalayas and is known for its monasteries, fortresses and dramatic vistas which include everything from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. More than 72 per cent of its land is still under forest and home to a great variety of biodiversity, leading to being described as an ecological wonder.

Popular activities to undertake include trekking and biking, along with animal watching, botanical and adventure tours, and even meditation tours for a full experience of the Bhutanese culture.

With all this going on, Bhutan draws quite a bit of tourist interest worldwide yet its annual influx of tourists is limited due to the country's 'high-value-low-impact' approach wherein only a limited number are allowed. Strict entry requirements must be met by any traveller which includes entering with an approved tour operator and arrival via Druk Air. Visitors must also pay a minimum around Dh700 daily tariff which includes a number of amenities such as a three-star hotel, all meals, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide and such.

The fee is considered a "sustainable tourism" royalty which is used for the country's healthcare, education and tourism schemes.

MALDIVES

This tropical nation's open surroundings makes it uniquely susceptible to the elements, meaning that environmental issues are a defnite concern. And because of this, Maldives is at the forefront of advocating climate change by aiming to be a low-carbon economy. The government is even targeting to have 30 per cent of its daytime electricity powered by renewable energy.

Composed of 26 ring-shaped atolls and made up of more than 1,000 coral islands, each tourist resort on this beach-laden nation is autonomous, generating its own power and water and typically also implements a recycling energy programme. The Maldives also boasts many protected marine and land zones where development is restricted to keep natural habitats intact.

FINLAND

The unparalleled wilderness of its nature, the Fjords and the Northern Lights have caused tourism to grow at an average rate of 20 per cent since 2010 in this Nordic island nation, its dramatic landscape flled with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava felds making it an ever-popular destination.

Due to this popularity, sustainability has become a leading priority for its government in an effort to preserve its cultural and natural environment, making Iceland a global leader in renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction with geothermal and hydropower contributing to 81 per cent of its primary energy needs.

By 2050, the capital Reykjavik aims to be entirely free of fossil fuels where geothermal energy powers all buildings at the moment, heating homes, lighting streets and powering greenhouses which produce most of the vegetables.

To reduce your own footprint, try camping in Iceland rather than checking into a hotel and making use of transport in the way of hiking and biking rather than driving.

KENYA

This East African country is home to vast biodiversity inclusive of savannahs, lakelands, reserves, highlands and a plethora of wildlife which draws in over thousands of tourists annually.

Thus, it has developed a number of programmes over the years to support its sustainable commitments such as an eco-rating scheme, eco-warrior awards, and green destination guidelines.

Energy and waste management, as well as water conservation and managing the humanwildlife conflict are big priorities for Kenya's government. And it does so by ensuring that many of its hotels and lodges invest in alternative energy sources, solar power, in particular. For waste management, initiatives taken include responsible purchasing and waste separation and recycling as well as composting green waste and using it in vegetable gardens.

Water conservation, on the other hand, is dealt with by encouraging the reuse of towels with serious efforts being made into being mindful of water usage, especially in remote areas. Meanwhile, human-wildlife conflict management efforts include fencing off protected areas and encouraging community tourism enterprises.

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