Life-Changing Trips: 3 Sustainable Destinations That Will Inspire You to Save the Planet

April 18, 2019

Want to take a life-changing trip that benefits you and the planet? Head to one of these three sustainable destinations on your next vacation.

Travel can be life changing and inspiring. But it’s not just a gorgeous landscape or an unexpected wildlife encounter that can create a lasting memory, although those experiences are incredible. It’s also seeing different ways of life that can make a positive impact in our own day-to-day lives, long after we’ve returned home. 

This is especially true with destinations that are taking a stand toward Climate Action. It’s inspiring to visit a country that’s committed to renewable energy, or seeing firsthand how a city is putting a zero waste plan into practice. Experiencing the wonders of a new place, while also discovering how the locals want to preserve and protect that place, can be a powerful way for travelers to learn, grow, and even foster positive change. 

So in the spirit of life-changing trips to benefit you and the planet, here are three sustainable destinations to check out for your next vacation. 

Costa Rica

When it comes to beauty and sustainability, there are few better places to visit than Costa Rica, which the World Energy Council ranks as the “second most environmentally sustainable country in the world”. The stats are impressive: 25% of landmass preserved as protected forest and reserves. 99.2% renewable energy use from hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind power. And a  goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021. 

And did we mention the beauty? Costa Rica is a feast for the senses, with lush green mountains, gorgeous beaches, and more than 100 volcanic formations to explore. (Seven are active, btw.) Challenging hiking and mountain bike trails await outdoorsy travelers wanting to stay on land, or if time on the water is preferred, there’s whitewater rafting through rapid rivers or surfing perfect waves off the pristine coast. 

There’s also the wildlife: During a visit to Costa Rica, travelers may encounter howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, tropical birds, dolphins, humpback whales, manta rays, bull sharks, and more creatures, all in their natural habitat. 

Finally, those looking for a more contemplative vacation are also spoiled for choices. Yoga retreats come in all levels, often with a stunning beach or mountain range as a backdrop. Locally sourced meals showcase the delicious benefits of Costa Rica’s sustainable agriculture. There are getaways centered around fitness, healing, and spirituality, to name just a few. Known for a culture of health and wellness, Costa Rica gives travelers plenty of opportunities to step back, take stock, and consider the relationship between people and the planet.

Iceland

In Iceland, the land and water are powerful. Literally – geothermal and hydropower energy has been steadily powering the country since the 1950s. Even more exciting, its current renewable energy experiment has the potential to provide cheap, clean energy in similar regions around the world: Researchers in Iceland are now testing to see whether new geothermal drill technologies can “produce more power in less area, with less environmental impact”, and at a cheaper cost. If successful, the techniques could be put to use in other areas of the world with geothermal fields, like the Pacific Coast of California or volcanic islands in Southeast Asia. 

But getting back to travel, Iceland’s active geothermal areas are a main reason to go. Visitors can take a dip in natural hot springs, hike alongside waterfalls and geysers, or even see volcanoes up close. Because of all the active volcanoes, Iceland’s landscape can be eerie, beautiful, and always fascinating – think craggy cliffs and black-sand beaches, stark mountains with dramatic snow-capped peaks. (Game of Thrones films here for a reason.) 

And while the landscape is one thing, the skies are another entirely: The Aurora Borealis lights up Iceland’s night sky from September to April, treating visitors to unforgettable moments with both earth and space. 

If you go, be aware that in recent years, Iceland has seen a boom in tourism, and there’s been renewed focus on preserving the country’s natural resources and landscapes to offset the influx of visitors. One way tourism officials have responded is encouraging travelers to take the Icelandic Pledge, where travelers vow to “respect Iceland’s nature and travel responsibly.” The pledge, which covers leaving the landscape as you found it and respecting nature, is a pretty good set of guidelines that can apply to any destination, or be followed by any conscious traveler.     

Seattle

Why should eco-focused travelers head to Seattle? For starters, it’s a conservationist’s dream: It’s got thousands of acres of parks and forest all around the city, while Mount Rainier and its foothills create picture-postcard views across the Puget Sound. Whales are often right off the coast, and a bald eagle may soar near the Space Needle, too. 

Across the city, tourists can make their vacation more sustainable by staying in one of Seattle’s LEED-certified or environmentally friendly hotels, choosing a locavore restaurant for lunch or dinner, or getting their caffeine fix with a mug of fair-trade coffee at one of the city’s famous cafes. Nicknamed the Emerald City, Seattle is as green as they come, both in look and in spirit.

But it’s not just the views that are green. Seattle is a major innovator when it comes to reducing waste. Back in 2003, they adopted a city-wide mandatory recycling program, decided that wasn’t enough, and then committed to a zero-waste strategy in 2010. Looking ahead, the city has even more aggressive waste reduction goals: They plan on recycling 70% of construction debris by 2020 and 70% of municipal solid waste by 2022. 

So, Seattle’s coffee has already taken over the world. Here’s hoping the city’s waste-reduction policies will, too. 

Remember, no matter where you roam, let your travels inspire you long after you return from your trip. Think back to the experiences that moved you, taught you, and made you feel connected. Once you’re settled back in, see how your daily routines can be changed by your new worldview, and keep the inspiration going by sharing your experiences with friends and family. 

Because if there’s one takeaway from travel, it’s that we’re all sharing this planet together. We wish you safe and sustainable adventures!