Celebrations for the pioneer of sustainable tourism
So, you want to escape? Imagine a country that’s one-quarter national park, a place where you could hike in a rainforest in the morning and surf tropical waves in the afternoon. Imagine an adventure Eden where sustainability was a strategy long before the world caught on, where jaguars prowl in the jungle, harpy eagles fly and Jesus Christ lizards walk on water before your eyes.
That country is Costa Rica. 2021 is the bicentennial of its independence, an anniversary it aims to celebrate by becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country. Already one of the greenest nations, conservation has been cultivated here since the 1970s, with drives to protect areas, close zoos and reverse deforestation.
For a deep immersion, plot a course for the Osa Peninsula at the tip of Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast; an astonishing 2.5% of the Earth’s biodiversity is squeezed into 0.001% of its surface area. This was one of the last frontiers to be inhabited in Costa Rica, when the discovery of gold prompted a wave of migration in the 1930s. Today, the gold rush has gone, and much of the region is accessible only by boat, horse or hiking trail.
Some 80% of the peninsula is protected; much of it in Corcovado National Park, where visitors can follow guided trails with local groups like Caminos de Osa or Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre. Based out of luxury and backpacker jungle lodges around Drake Bay, activity options range from rainforest hikes to mangrove swamp tours, whale-watching, snorkelling or diving at Isla del Cano and surfing at Cabo Matapalo.
2020 will be remembered as a year with few upsides, but a desire to re-connect with nature and the great outdoors was certainly one. James Thornton of Intrepid Travel, itself a carbon-neutral travel company, says: “Time outdoors after a year of lockdowns and increased screen time will seem more important than ever”.
Costa Rica has been laying the green groundwork for decades. In 2021, its message could be perfectly tailor-made for post-pandemic trips.
From National Geographic Traveller UK
3. Helsinki, Finland
Sustainable travel, made easy
Sustainability isn’t just a buzz word in Helsinki. The Finnish capital has vowed to be carbon neutral by 2035 and it’s part of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. Helsinki’s bid to go green has also involved tourism, with a campaign by the city’s tourist board to ‘Think Sustainably’, which shows you how to put together the trip of a lifetime while going easy on the planet.
The Think Sustainably microsite on the tourist board’s website has all the information you need — not just pointing you in the direction of where and what is sustainable but explaining why. For example, the ‘what to do’ page carries an interview with a representative from the Amos Rex contemporary art gallery, talking about museum ventilation and renewable energy. Even the Löyly sauna — which has the potential to be the most wasteful of all attractions — has worked out an efficient wood-burning programme to heat the saunas.
As well as highlighting what to see and do, the microsite also shines a sustainable spotlight on places to eat, drink and shop. These include Juuri, a sustainability-focused restaurant which has been working with small, organic producers for 15 years, and sibling restaurant Pikha, which has upped its vegetarian and vegan options, in order to cut down on guests’ carbon footprint. There’s also an innovative burger bar, Bun2Bun, which has swapped beef for vegan ‘mince’, and uses biodegradable cutlery and wrappers.
Finland’s design scene is of course legendary, and the website has crafted a sustainability checklist, which allows customers to rent merchandise, among other things. But it’s a boon for shoppers, too, directing travellers to places such as Pure Waste, where clothes are made from 100% recycled material, and LUMI, which produces eco-friendly bags and accessories. To get that cosy Nordic feel, Lapuan Kankurit sells handwoven soft furnishings with colour-popping modern patterns. With your sustainable trip mapped out, you’ll feel better about making the journey.
From National Geographic Traveller UK
A green giant in the American West
Despite financial challenges related to Covid-19, Denver is powering forward with its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2023. Among the latest forward-thinking initiatives are 125 miles of new bike lanes by 2023 and solar gardens to be ‘planted’ on municipal parking lots, rooftops and vacant land in 2021.
“Investments in Denver’s clean energy economy will strengthen our community and address multiple concerns, including our carbon footprint,” says Grace Rink, executive director of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency. Along with producing clean energy for public buildings, vehicle charging stations, and nearby low-income neighbourhoods, the gardens will grow jobs and a paid training program during construction.
Connecting climate action and sustainability to economic prosperity and social justice has helped Denver earn the coveted LEED for Cities Platinum Certification. To encourage business owners to join the effort by putting eco-friendly solutions to work, Colorado’s capital offers free, customised sustainability plans through Certifiably Green Denver. Thanks to the program, nearly 2,000 Denver business owners are creating greener, more efficient operations that use less water and energy, and produce less air pollution and waste.
“We’re so fortunate to live in this beautiful place, and with that fortune comes the responsibility to protect it,” says Adam Schlegel, co-founder of Chook, a Certifiably Green restaurant that champions sustainable food practices.
From National Geographic Traveler US