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  • Writer's pictureDeb Lace-Kelly

What is Sustainable Travel Anyway?

In general both officially and unofficially, sustainable travel is defined by three basic pillars - Planet, People, and Economy.


Sustainable travel is both kind to the planet and supports the earth, environment and animals. It is travel that promotes a positive effect on nature and helps local wildlife to thrive rather than be hindered by the traveller.


Sustainable travel works to upkeep and maintain the cultural authenticity of a place and its people. It highlights and promotes local customs and traditions, and celebrates diversity. Sustainable travel respects history and acknowledges the privilege of the traveller to be witness to the surroundings rather than try to own or control it.


Sustainable travel supports local people, their businesses and livelihoods. It encourages travellers to use small vendors, local tour guides, and to familiarize themselves with the artisans and crafts people who create, work and live in that community. It is travel that leaves a place enriched by the travellers’ commerce rather than being used and abused while funds then leave the country.

Sustainable travel is travel that positively impacts people, places, and animals, and doesn’t hurt them. Sustainable travel benefits both the traveller and the destination because it allows explorers to learn, and experience a community, giving it quantifiable benefits, while gaining well-being, improved mental health, spiritual and physical renewal.

There are specific international standards for being a truly sustainable travel operation, and these can be found easily on the Global Sustainable Travel Council website

If sustainable travel matters to you, and if you want to travel with purpose, reading up on these standards will give you the benefit of understanding and help you be wary of ‘green-washing’, operators who make claims about their travel organization that may not be true.

Being a sustainable traveller does not mean you have to spend thousands of dollars in eco-gear and activities, a few simple steps, from knowing how to treat the local wildlife, to using reusable water bottles go a long way.

In Costa Rica, for instance if you find yourself in the Monteverde mountains, vist La Finca La Bella Tica, in San Luis. This privately run organic coffee farm offers you tours of their eco-friendly, bird-friendly, sustainable production, and of course, great UNFORGETTABLE coffee!

Learn more, and be kind - because being a responsible traveller rocks! (And takes you to some magical experiences too!)

Orchid pics are from my tour of the Monteverde Orchid Garden, in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Their mission is to conserve the native species of Monteverde and Costa Rica!

- Deb Lace-Kelly

Acknowledgements – I would like to thank the experts, the GSTC (Global Sustainable Travel Council), and the panel of sustainable travel writers, organizers, and operators brought together by the Toronto chapter of Travel Massive, for sharing their experience and supplying much of the insight that informs this piece: Lauren Yakiwchuk, and Nora Livingstone, and Christine Williams and Julian Hatfield, and Oksana and Max St. John,

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