Five of the world's most sustainable travel companies

A climate emergency is threatening our planet, but slowly the world is waking up. Travel has frequently been cited as one of the biggest culprits, largely due to fossil fuel guzzling flights pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

In reality, there are far bigger baddies in the picture. Textile production, for example, produces around 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Read more: Australia’s biggest concerns over tourism’s environmental impact

In fact, if used correctly, tourism can be a force for good, improving livelihoods and protecting natural resources. The trick is to travel with a reputable operator. So, if you want to ease your conscience and travel sustainably in the future, consider booking through one of these providers.

1. YellowWood Adventures

Specialising in small group adventures to more offbeat destinations, such as Ethiopia and Mongolia, YellowWood offers a mixture of trekking holidays and cultural tours. Started by traveller and passionate environmentalist Sam McManus, it’s a proudly independent company, where the focus is on delivering memorable adventures while also benefitting local economies. The company’s strength and charm lie in its staff and guides – all local to the destination – and each tour is linked to a local charity.

As part of its ongoing commitment to more sustainable travel, YellowWood has partnered with WeForest to plant 15 trees for every client and guide who purchases international flights.

“Travelling responsibly and supporting local communities, we are small enough to tread lightly, but big enough to make a difference,” says Mr McManus.

2. Intrepid Travel

Offering group tours with a social and environmental conscience, Intrepid is the world’s largest carbon neutral tour operator, with ambitions to become climate positive. A pioneer in the adventure travel realm, Intrepid was the first to ditch elephant rides on its tours and has raised $688,239 to help restore Australia’s kelp forests (a weed responsible for sucking CO2 from the ocean and replacing it with oxygen).

A certified B Corporation, recognised for balancing purpose with profit, Intrepid also champions human rights in the workplace. All staff receive benefits and there’s a drive to improve opportunities for women, with females already accounting for 60 per cent of its global workforce.

3. G Adventures

Adopting a mantra of G for Good, this Canadian group tour company cleverly balances business with sustainable practice, proving they can be mutually beneficial. G Adventures’ non-profit arm Planetterra supports social enterprises such as restaurants and transport providers, which in turn, provide vital services on tours. In India, for example, it has partnered with Women With Wheels, a female-only chauffeur service, to ferry guests from Delhi airport.

Read more: Scandinavian countries top sustainable travel index

All wildlife-related itineraries have been crafted with experts from World Animal Protection, The Jane Goodall Institute and the World Cetacean Alliance, while their child welfare policies have earned the company Friend’s International ChildSafe certification.

4. Much Better Adventures

Co-founders of the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency movement, Much Better Adventures (MBA) is on a mission to reduce its carbon footprint with full transparency of any measures undertaken.

By working with locally owned businesses, the company ensures 80 per cent of the money spent by travellers is funnelled into local economies. (By comparison, some mass tourism outfits only trickle a measly 5 per cent). As a result, tourism can provide an incentive for communities to protect important natural areas.

Read more: Go on a sustainable safari

MBA also ploughs 5 per cent of revenue (not profit) into it foundation, focused on conservation, reforestation and rewilding. Not afraid of making its voice heard, the company has launched an Adventures Not Dams campaign, to raise awareness of controversial plans to dam Europe’s last free-flowing river, the Vjosa in Albania.

5. Swoop Adventures

Firm believers their customers should be free to make informed choices, these polar and Patagonia specialists have created a calculator to tot up carbon emissions for various trips. Advisers can also offer tips on how to make holidays more sustainable.

As part of a long-term plan, Swoop hopes to eventually offset all customer emissions, including flights – even if not arranged through the company. Better still, it plans to backtrack the policy to bookings made since its inception in 2010.

For more information about sustainable tourism, Alandis has put together this fantastic deep dive into its benefits and how sustainable tourism impacts the local community.

Do you try to incorporate sustainable travel into your adventures? How do you do it? Please share any sustainable travel companies you’ve found in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by Sarah Marshall