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It’s reassuring to know when we travel that it’s with a company who is a force for good. Let’s look at some of the 41 travel companies certified as B Corporations by B Lab, who have a positive environmental, social and economic impact on our planet in general and local communities in particular.
Tour operators who go above and beyond include:
Highlights: Norwegian tour agency that specializes in operations highlighting fjords, glaciers, and mountains.
The first B Corp in Norway, Up Norway specializes in experiences in the country’s glorious nature of fjords, glaciers and mountains, and carefully picks lodgings, transportation and activities who match its sustainable mission.
It’s a partner in Trefadder, an initiative to plant two million trees all over Norway for carbon capture over three years in partnership with local landowners (400,000 were planted so far). It measures and carbon-offsets all aspects of guests’ journeys via Chooose, a Norwegian firm.
Guided tours include Northern Lights viewing in a Tesla Model X, instead of a big tour bus, whale watching in an electric catamaran, kayaking, hiking, biking and skiing the fjords and visiting the Lofoten islands. (Electric vehicles are very popular in Norway: Teslas make up 19% of the auto market).
A Mountain Lodge Luxury Journey in Aurland features a stay at 292 Aurland, a rustic high-end inn in four wooden buildings (three 18th century) with an organic garden, that faces a breathtakingly-beautiful fjord amid high mountains, a waterfall hike with local storytelling, visiting a local craftsmarket and rowing. Custom journeys are also offered.
Highlights: Tour operator based in Australia that offers tours in over 100 countries and over 1,000 varieties.
The world’s biggest carbon-neutral travel company (since 2010), Australia-based Intrepid Travel offers over 1,000 small-group tours in over 100 countries for all ages, from hiking, biking, family, food to women-only or age 18-29 tours.
In 2020, Intrepid devised a 7-point plan to combat the climate change emergency, from setting science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions, offsetting carbon emissions for flights booked with them, switching to 100% renewable energy by 2025 in its many offices (and on its tours by 2030) and investing in research and creative solutions, plus “green deposits” supporting companies for a low-carbon economy. (In 2006, all Intrepid staffers saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.)
Its nonprofit Intrepid Foundation creates jobs and skills training in communities it’s involved in, from the Eden Reforestation Projects, which plants native trees in Kenya, Blue Carbon Lab, which restores coastal wetlands near Melbourne, to the Seaweed Project, which supports research for the first marine permaculture in Australian waters.
Tours range from an eight-day Bali tour that features meeting a songket (metallic brocade) weaver, watching hypnotic Kecak dance and hiking up Mt. Batur to a 13-day Premium tour of south India whose highlights include a houseboat on Kerala’s backwaters, lunch at a spice plantation in Munnar and the Periyard Wildlife Sanctuary. In 2022, 38 new US tours include a six-day South Dakota and Montana parks tour which visits Yellowstone and Badlands National Parks, and the Little Big Horn battlefield, where a Crow Nation guide explains the battle from a Native American perspective.
Highlights: Food tour provider that offers tours of Italy, Spain, France, Croatia, and Portugal to highlight and teach the cuisines of each.
A member of 1% for the Planet who donates to food literacy and environmental nonprofits, Food.Stories.Travel offers small-group food tours in Italy, Spain, France, Croatia and Portugal, from Provence to Trentino.
Lodgings in Italy are largely in agriturismo (working farms) and alberghi diffusi (dispersed among several buildings for an embedded-in-village feel), while Slow Food Presidia meals celebrate local culinary traditions at risk of dying out. In its 10-night cycling tour in Abruzzo and Molise, guests stay in the medieval fortified hill town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio at Sextantio (an albergo diffuso), eat lentils from the town and Canestrato cheese from Castel del Monte and visit olive oil and wine producers.
“Traveling in your kitchen is better than nothing,” says founder Cristiano Bonino. So, you’ll find recipes from pasta with fava beans to Croatian poached fish on his Boston area-based firm’s website.
Highlights: A Hawaiian tour agency known for its incredible zipline tours on Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai.
A member of 1% for the Planet and the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii, Skyline Hawaii offers zipline and other tours on Maui, the Big Island and Kauai to explore the islands’ natural wonders.
Carbon-neutral since 2006, the tour operator, who offsets carbon emissions via Carbonfund, has hosted hundreds of ocean plastic cleanups and local reforestation projects, planted over 8,000 native trees on Maui (replacing eucalyptus with koa trees, which need far less water and are more hospitable to birds) and donated $1.7 million to environmental and community nonprofits.
Solar panels power its headquarters, its tours use no single-use plastics and staffers get full pay to do volunteer work. On its Haleakala Classic Sunrise tour, guests watch the sunrise at Maui’s highest peak (a dormant volcano about 10,000 feet high) in Haleakala National Park, whose five different climate zones (and early morning freezing or below-freezing temperatures) are inhabited by plants and animals unique to the area, and then lunch at Kula Lodge, which has panoramic views of upcountry Maui.
Frontiers North Adventures
Highlights: Canadian tour agency known for offering unrivaled winter polar bear viewing tours in Churchill Manitoba.
Winner of the Skal International Eco Award (2009) and the Canadian Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), Frontiers North, which donates 2% of its pre-tax profits, is known for its winter polar bear-viewing tours in Churchill, Manitoba, the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.”
Its first electric zero-emissions Tundra Buggy debuted in 2021, and plans are to make all 12 in its fleet electric by 2030. One is a mobile research station for the nonprofit Polar Bears International, whose scientists study the threatened species who hunt on Arctic sea ice, which has live polar bears cams.
The vehicles strictly follow trails in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. The tour operator started Churchill’s first recycling program years ago, which the town took over in 2011. Its rustic lodge employs a grey water management system so no water or waste touches the tundra but is transported to Churchill instead. Frontiers North also offers Northern Lights viewing and beluga whale-watching.
Special Conservation Journeys for polar bears or whales feature a wildlife scientist, behind-the-scenes tours of the research Tundra Buggy or marine vessel and donations to PBI or Ocean Wise.
The bottom line
Travel, and especially air travel, has a big carbon footprint. Taking the time to seek out hotels and tour operators wiling to invest in a more eco-friendly experience can take some of the guilt out of that next big trip.