Green travel: how to find an eco-friendly tour operator

With no universal guidelines on what qualifies as ‘eco’, it can be difficult to know if a tour operator, hotel or lodge truly fits the sustainability bill. Lonely Planet Traveller has picked out some of the handiest hints to help you figure out which companies are as good as their word. Here are the questions you should keep in mind when researching your travel plans.

1. Are their eco credentials in writing?

Genuinely ’green’ companies usually have a written statement covering their environmental, cultural and employment policies, often available on their website. If it’s not there, ask why.

2. Do they have local employees?

An eco-friendly business will support the local economy and its people. Ask how many of the staff are local, and whether the company partners with neighbouring businesses.

3. Can you see evidence of their commitment?

Preserving the environment will be a top priority. Look out for recycling facilities, safe disposal of wastewater and the use of natural illumination where possible.

4. Do they encourage cultural sensitivity?

Ideally, they’ll seek to protect important historical and cultural sites and traditions, so a tour operator might offer information on local customs and limit group sizes to encourage meaningful encounters.

5. Do they have links to charities?

Ask if a company works with any local charities or donates any of their profits to communities.

Sources: Lonely Planet’s Costa Rica travel guide and Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime.

This article was first published in July 2012 and was republished in March 2013.