We all like traveling to enrich our lives with new experiences. Who wouldn't? However, traveling is not cheap, and we don't mean the monetary expenses. Tourism is responsible for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions2. That's why we curated trusted sustainable travel companies.
The expertise of these companies can help you plan enjoyable eco-friendly trips. So whether you have the travel bug or are just taking a long overdue vacation, you can rest easy knowing your adventures are not hurting the planet or the local people.
After going through the article below, make sure to save our wanderlust quotes.
Why should you care about sustainable tourism?
Tourism has important socio-economic benefits. It provides employment and encourages business openings and infrastructural development.
However, it has negatively impacted our physical and social environment. Some of these effects are:
Overconsumption of natural resources
To keep up with the influx of tourists, stakeholders put pressure on natural resources, especially land. Land overutilization will lead to habitat loss and compromise natural biodiversity.
Sometimes, when tourists visit a new place, they may intentionally or unknowingly degrade the local community's culture. That could lead to hostility as the local people may feel their heritage is being disrespected. Sometimes cultural intrusion may lead to the loss of local culture as locals try to imitate foreign visitors1.
Tourism can exacerbate different types of pollution. For example, high vehicle traffic means carbon emissions and increased noise pollution. Additionally, the local waste management system may not be able to handle the accumulation of solid waste and sewage.
Hardship to local communities
An ill-planned, uncontrolled tourist population can quickly lead to seasonal overcrowding. In detail, that kind of over-tourism encourages traffic congestion, commodity scarcity, and price hikes. Those are just some of the inconveniences over-tourism can subject the locals to.
Some recreational activities people get into while vacationing involve animals. Things like elephant rides and selfies with tigers often have serious abuse behind the scenes.
What is ecotourism?
Ecotourism is the solution to careless environment-degrading tourism. It aims to conserve the environment while protecting the well-being of the local communities.
Making sustainable tourism possible takes more than just the government or local authorities. All in all, tourists, travel companies, tourism developers, and locals must get involved.
19 Eco-Friendly Travel Companies You Should Check
Choosing the right travel company can affect how eco-friendly your next adventure will be. Sustainable travel companies arrange ethical experiences, green transportation, and accommodation. They may offer guided tours or let you plan your own experiences.
1. G Adventures
G Adventures is one of the most popular sustainable travel companies. They curate small group trips of 10 to 12 persons to almost anywhere in the world. So you have the security of traveling with partners without feeling overcrowded.
People who travel with G Adventures enjoy the assistance of experienced local guides. That way, the trip goes easier, and they can connect with the community more deeply. A local operations team is also on hand to help handle emergencies.
G Adventures partners with the non-profit Planeterra to ensure the locals benefit from the tourism industry. For instance, they work with Travel Without Plastic to keep their tours plastic-free.
2. Intrepid Travel
Intrepid Travel offers trips to over 100 countries around the world. What’s even better? They cater to different travel styles. So whether you want to go on a food-tasting trip worldwide, do some high-adrenaline outdoor activities, or a leisure boat cruise, they’ve got you.
This top-rated B corporation uses travel offsets every trip, so you can rest assured that your holiday does not add to your carbon footprint. To champion animal rights, the eco-travel company prohibits activities that exploit and endanger domestic or wild animals.
The Intrepid Foundation has invested over $12 million into community skills training schemes. They are involved in programs that support not only environmental preservation but also human rights and racial equality.
3. National Geographic Expeditions
Who better to set the example for ethical travel than the world-famous nature non-profit, the National Geographic Society?
The Nat Geo travel arm organizes over 100 trips yearly to all seven continents. So you can go anywhere, from the South Pacific to African jungles, knowing your carbon footprint is safe. You can tour with a Nat Geo science expert or a local guide.
Proceeds from Nat Geo expeditions support scientists, researchers, educators, conservationists, and other change-makers driving positive environmental changes.
As a forerunner in socially responsible travel, it partners with other tour operators to execute several community support projects.
4. Responsible Travel
This tour operator refers to itself as an activist travel company. They actively campaign for positive change in the tourism industry. They have had positive impacts not only on local cultures but also on local independent businesses.
Responsible Travel offers over 6,000 trips all over the world, so you are sure to find one that suits you. You can choose from flight-free, luxurious, low-carbon flights, locally run, or budget eco-travel options.
This sustainable travel company allows you to make a positive impact through its Trip for a Trip program. At no extra cost, the program lets you choose a disadvantaged child or young person to go on an exciting day trip.
5. Gondwana Ecotours
Most tour operators organize group travels, but Gondwana also offers private tours if you want to travel alone. So you can enjoy the solitude but have tour services like itinerary planning, local guides, etc.
Based in New Orleans, this eco-travel company organizes tours of breathtaking natural landscapes around the world. For example, you can go on a safari in Tanzania, observe secluded wildlife in Costa Rica, or see the northern lights and grizzlies in Alaska.
Every Gondwana tour is carbon neutral. Their carbon offsets go towards conservation and renewable energy projects. They also support local conservation projects, non-profits, and businesses.
6. Book Different
You may be traveling for purposes other than tourism, and all you need for a sustainable trip is eco-friendly accommodation. Book Different is an accommodation booking platform with over 2 million eco-friendly listings worldwide.
While on your trip, Book Different can help you find zero-waste coffee shops, organic restaurants, and even sustainable activities. If you decide to take a vacation, they also have awesome recommendations for sustainable destinations.
Book Different evaluates each of its listings rigorously. They examine ethical labor practices, environmental friendliness, respect for local tradition, and legal compliance.
Holiable provides a complete green travel experience. They'll help you find everything from local eco-tour companies to sustainable hotels, restaurants, transport, and recreational activities at your chosen destination.
This sustainable travel company works by presenting you with listings categorized by place or experience. They have different categories of experience ranging from eco-luxury holidays to sustainable outdoor tours.
Under each listing, you'll find the sustainable features of the place or activity and a succinct but useful description. You'll also find customer reviews as well as contact information. When you find a listing you like, you'll contact the providers directly to make your booking.
8. Earthwatch Expeditions
Does the idea of going on an Indiana Jones exploration appeal to you? Then, let Earthwatch take you on an eco-travel where you get to volunteer in different field research efforts. You could get the chance to study sea turtles in Costa Rica, discover ancient societies in Portugal, or measure global warming in the Arctic.
Earthwatch is one of the few eco-friendly tour companies focusing on scientific research. In fact, their research has helped to establish wildlife protection laws and restore endangered wildlife.
They work with various organizations to create sustainable business solutions and positively impact society. Earthwatch also partners with Girls in Science, Ignite, Teach Earth, and other organizations to provide underserved students and teachers with education in STEM subjects.
9. Natural Habitat Adventures
Established in 1985, Natural Habitat Adventures is a leading eco-friendly travel company. It has been offsetting its carbon dioxide emissions since 2007 and organizing zero-waste expeditions.
They plan nature tours to see wolves in US national parks, polar bears of the Arctic, the Amazon in South America, and more. Nat Hab promises trips to exclusive areas where you won't find tourist crowds.
Nat Hab has donated over $5 million to the World Wildlife Fund. They also support various local, sustainable initiatives in every local community they operate.
Seacology's main aim is to protect delicate Island ecosystems. They reward communities that allow conservation projects by providing grants for building schools, eco-tourism centers, solar energy, etc.
They believe economically thriving communities are better positioned to care for the environment and resist exploitation. So far, Seacology has carried out over 380 environmental projects across 67 countries.
Seacology offers expeditions exploring islands, with luxury resorts and activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Furthermore, you'll get to visit the Seacology project in that area and familiarize yourself with its positive impact there.
11. Food Stories Travel
Food Stories Travel is a sustainable travel company operating mainly in Italy but also in Spain, Portugal, France, and Croatia. They do eco-friendly food tourism by introducing their guests to the finest Mediterranean meals. However, their tours also include cycling, walking, and hiking.
FST patronizes only restaurants whose foods are organic, locally sourced, and grown without unethical labor. They intentionally visit lesser-known, less congested places with rich history and beauty.
The company is carbon neutral, B Corporation certified, and belongs to 1% For the Planet. They volunteer at and donate food to food environmental food literacy organizations.
This accommodation booking platform is like Airbnb but with sustainable travel in mind. Fairbnb is a cooperative that allows local hosts to earn some tourism dollars.
Fairbnb puts 50% of its commission into community projects. That means your eco-travel will leave lasting positive impacts on the community you visit.
Currently, Fairbnb is available in Croatia, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and France. They are always looking to expand to be at your dream destination soon.
13. Go Ask a Local
This tour operator recruits in-destination community members to help you plan your trip. They believe local experts would answer your travel questions honestly and specifically.
Their experts are experienced tour guides, trip planners, and travel agents. They have extensive knowledge of the local environment, local cultures, and activities. It's the perfect solution if you want to DIY your eco-friendly trip but just need some advice.
We consider Go Ask a Local a sustainable travel company because its business model benefits the local economy better.
14. Visit Tri-cities
This eco-tour operator provides green travel services close to home. They are a trip planning platform that curates different fun activities localized between the tri-cities of Washington (Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, and West Richland).
Some fun things you can do in the Tri-cities include axe throwing, visits to nature preserves, water sports, vineyard tours, and attending music festivals. You have complete freedom over planning your itinerary. They just connect you with local tour companies, transport companies, and recreation businesses.
You can browse through their website to find ideas or request a visitors guidebook by mail.
15. Byway Travel
Byway Travel is one of the few sustainable travel companies that offer flight-free trips. All their tours are by road or boat, so you have no worries about contributing to climate change by air travel.
They arrange trips to many idyllic African and European destinations. You can travel in trains designed like moving hotels. The company can also provide local accommodation, whether a remote cabin or something more fancy.
Byway Travel is perfect for people whose travel style is slow-paced sightseeing.
The certified B corporation is intentional about partnering with local businesses. They are helping to curb over-tourism by introducing their clients to unknown but amazing places.
16. Lindblad Expeditions
Lindblad has just the thing for you if your ideal eco-friendly vacation is nature immersion. They offer expeditions to rarely visited Islands that offer uncommon experiences.
For example, you'll see tens of thousands of stately king penguins as you sail across South Georgia and the Falklands.
Lindblad is a carbon-neutral company. It does not allow single-use plastic cups, straws, or bottles on its ships.
This sustainable travel company has donated over 19 million sustainable tourism dollars to preserve the environment for future generations. It has invested in renewable energy, reforestation, scientific research, and sustainable community projects.
17. Discover Corps
How would you like to see the world while making a real positive impact through volunteering? Discover Corps offers grassroots volunteer expeditions. As a volunteer, you could help construct eco-buildings, teach English lessons, or help endangered animals.
They also offer culturally immersive sustainable travel to create deeper connections with people and places. You can visit Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australia with them.
Discovery Corps arranges sustainable travel for families and solo travelers. They pay special attention to the security challenges that female travelers often face.
This B Corporation also partners with locally owned hotels and hires local expert guides.
18. Goko Travel
You don't have to forgo luxury to enjoy green travel. Goko is a sustainable travel company that specializes in curating eco-luxury holidays.
The booking platform lets you book eco-friendly exotic hotels and villas in popular holiday spots like Portugal, Ibiza, Maldives, Italy, Greece, Thailand, Morocco, etc.
You can book your holiday by selecting a destination, a holiday style, or a preferred activity. Their services are ideal for solo vacationers who just want some time alone.
Goko Travel is carbon neutral. They also put 3% of every booking into their GoKo Earth Preservation Foundation.
19. Row Adventures
If water adventures are your preferred way to take a break and enjoy nature, you should check out Row Adventures. The eco-travel company curates water activities, including rafting, canoeing, and boat cruises.
They also organize eco-friendly holiday experiences like hiking, walking, and cycling tours. Row Adventures has many of its holiday options available in the USA but also offers experience-rich intercontinental tours.
This sustainable travel company is intentional about acknowledging indigenous communities. Its guides encourage travelers to do the same. Furthermore, this eco-friendly travel company offsets some of its carbon dioxide emissions.
Conclusion: Sustainable Travel Companies
Your holidaymaking can negatively or positively impact local environments; you get to decide. But don't worry, responsible travel is not boring! You just have to choose travel experience providers carefully. So contact these eco-travel companies for your next wanderlust cravings.
Baloch, Q. B., Shah, S. N., Iqbal, N., Sheeraz, M., Asadullah, M., Mahar, S., & Khan, A. U. (2022). Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a suggested framework for sustainable ecotourism. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 30(3), 5917–5930.
Lenzen, M., Sun, Y. Y., Faturay, F., Ting, Y. P., Geschke, A., & Malik, A. (2018). The carbon footprint of global tourism. Nature Climate Change, 8(6), 522-528