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It all starts with a good plan of supporting sustainable travel purveyors in every step of your journey.
When one thinks about sustainable travel, carbon offsetting immediately comes to mind. However, it's more impactful to invest your money in hotels, destinations and initiatives that go beyond the carbon offsetting tactic.
Environmental initiatives dominate the sustainability conversation, but central to the concept is empowering the community and ensuring upward mobility for locals whilst protecting what makes a destination unique. So when planning your trips in 2022, it pays to start with these things in mind.
Give to companies that give back to earth
In Scotland, the organisation Wildland Limited is taking regeneration seriously. Its 200-year vision is to rehabilitate parts of the Scottish Highlands, specifically three estates: Wildland North Coast, Wildland Cairngorm and Wildland West & Ness. Restoring and conserving the Scottish Highlands to its former glory isn’t only about nature healing itself; the organisation also hopes that the movement will attract people to live and work here in a conscious manner and therefore create thriving local communities.
Travellers are able to support by booking their guesthouses, self-catering cottages, and exclusive lodges. Our pick? Glenfeshie Lodge. Dating back to the 1880s, the lodge has hosted royalty but until recently was noted for the deforestation around it. No more—the forests are slowly becoming lush again, a spectacle that you can witness for yourself.
Steeped in local tradition, the dining offerings and experiences by 62°Nord offer a unique insight into this part of Norway
Choose a community-centric destination
Based in the Sunnmøre region of Norway, travel company 62°Nord has always put community first. Founded by couple Knut and Line Flakk, 62°Nord has a small network of hotels and plenty of nature adventures deep in the Norwegian forest and fjords. The company builds its accommodation and experiences slowly, with a goal of retaining authenticity including all the quirks.
Case in point: Hotel Brosundet in the port town of Ålesund, which has a special room set within the 150-year-old Molja Lighthouse. A breakfast basket full of local goodies is delivered daily and once guests are ready for their day trip, it’s just a matter of going downstairs and local guides will pick them up, right by the water, and take them to a fishing trip, a fjord cruise or a wildlife sea safari.
Look for experiences that don't leave a trace
Perhaps the most community-centric, low-impact travel experience is one that doesn’t leave a permanent mark on the land and follows the local lifestyle. This is how travel is approached in most of Mongolia. Every year from May to October, Nomadic Expeditions set up camps in two different regions: Bayan-Ulgii province in Western Mongolia and in Karakorum in Central Mongolia. Each camp has only seven gers or yurts, which are taken down completely in October when the travel season ends.
“About 30 per cent of Mongolia's population are nomadic herders and move two or more times a year from pasture to pasture with all they own including their homes, worldly belongings, and their animals. This way of life is at the heart of Mongolian culture—nomads have always lived off the land and in harmony with nature. Our wilderness camps beautifully reflect this Mongolian mindset,” says Undraa Buyannemekh, president of Nomadic Expeditions.
Stay in hotels invested in the environment
While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s not enough for hotels to use glass bottles, metal straws and eschew plastic if they want to call themselves sustainable. If you’re looking for hotels that walk the talk, the recently launched Considerate Collection by Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) lists properties around the world that live up to their green claims.
SLH worked with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Singapore-based sustainable tourism management platform Greenview to come up with the criteria across three pillars—“community-minded, cultural custodians and environmentally conscious”—on which the hotels are assessed. Only 26 hotels across 16 countries made the cut when it launched in October 2021, including Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary in Bhutan and Keemala in Phuket, Thailand.
Similarly, Preferred Hotel's Beyond Green also highlights hotels, resorts and lodges that are sustainable leaders, and recently released experiences that put nature first. This includes activities at the organic estate of Borgo Pignano in Tuscany, Italy, a luxury hotel sitting on 300 hectares of land. Guests can learn skills that bring them closer to nature when they return home: a primer on beekeeping, highlighting local traditional methods for extracting honey and beeswax, for example; as well as an introduction to gathering wild herbs and flowers with the in-house herbalist to learn about their healing properties and how to incorporate them into cooking.