87% of global travelers want to travel sustainably. Nearly 4 in 10 are already managing to do so.

The travel and tourism industry is booming with a total of 1.326 billion international arrivals per year. 80% of all tourism occurs in coastal areas.

Tourism can provide essential economic, environmental, and socio-cultural benefits but when done unsustainably, and when it becomes too saturated, “overtourism” can result in increased pollution, human-wildlife conflicts and trafficking, depleted resources, unsustainable development, and exacerbate the negative impacts of climate change, especially in coastal towns and beach communities.

However, consumer demand for sustainable tourism is on the rise. In 2018, more than 68% of global travelers intended to stay in eco-friendly accommodations, up from 65% in 2017 and 62% in 2016. By increasing awareness of best practices while traveling, doing research on sustainable lodging and operators, and being mindful of your footprint, we can ensure that global tourism is a force for good. Join the global movement by traveling in an ocean-friendly way.

It’s simple. Start here.



1. Choose responsible tour operators. To make sure your eco-friendly tour is the real deal, ask clarifying questions about the guidelines/best practices they follow, look for certifications and partnerships with local guides, scientists, and non-profit groups, and use common sense to determine whether a tour operator is taking care to minimize the impact of their tours on the local wildlife. With only a few exceptions (like the friendly gray whales in Baja California, Mexico), activities that involve touching or feeding wild animals should be avoided. Viewing wild animals should always be done in a way that minimizes interference with the animals’ natural behaviors.

2. Choose small-group travel. We recommend travelers seek out small group tours and travel experiences rather than large group or cruise ship travel. By limiting the number of people who visit a place at a time, it is easier to effectively manage impacts to the environment and minimize disturbance to wildlife. 

3. Research lodging and location. Look for lodging or accommodations with sustainability initiatives in place such as solar power, rainwater harvesting, composting etc. Where possible, look for certifications such as LEED. Be mindful of your destination and understand what issues are affecting the environments you are visiting. For example, traveling to an area with a massive water shortage can add additional strain.

4. Refuse plastic. Carry reusable water bottles, mugs, utensils, bags, and other gear to minimize waste. This can start even on the plane or airport. Opt to use your own cup or bottle during beverage service or fill-up before getting on the plane. If concerned about water safety at your destination, consider a bottle with a built-in filter.

5. Pack lightly and avoid travel-size toiletries. Bring your own soaps and shampoos in bar form or in re-fillable/reusable containers to avoid the waste generated by travel size toiletries. You can even opt for toothpaste tablets to avoid plastic tubes.

Being mindful of plastic waste is especially important when traveling to developing countries or regions that do not have good infrastructure for waste management, as there is a much higher risk that your plastic waste will end up in the ocean. In such situations, a growing number of travelers are choosing to keep room in their luggage to pack their plastic back home where it can be disposed of properly.

6. Use reef-safe sunscreen and biodegradable cosmetics. Be thoughtful about the types of products you use, such as sunscreen. Use reputable guides to ensure you’re using a reef-safe option and avoid other cosmetic products (e.g. moisturizers) that contain coral harming chemicals that include oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals, which are common in sunscreens, are known to accelerate coral bleaching even at small amounts and are therefore being banned in a growing number of places in the United States and worldwide.

7. Eat locally, but sustainably. Before you arrive to a destination, learn more about the local species and regulations such as fisheries management and laws protecting endangered species. Pocket guides and apps like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Safina Center’s Seafood Guide can be helpful tools for researching the sustainability of fish that you see on a restaurant menu. Unfortunately, many countries do not have strong fisheries management or enforcement, and this means that the most ocean-friendly choice is often to minimize the amount of seafood you eat or avoid it altogether when traveling.

8. Choose environmentally-friendly transportation. While traveling, take steps to minimize your carbon footprint by getting around on foot, bike, or via public transportation. Also consider minimizing your flight miles by staying in one area during your trip instead of hopping around. You can also purchase a carbon offset for your trip, and many major airlines offer carbon offset programs and calculators to make this easy.

9. Minimize water use. Reuse items such as towels, sheets, or re-wear clothing to cut down on water usage. For longer trips, you can rely on portable, eco-friendly washing options and detergents too.


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