In honor of Earth Day this month, Conveners.org has crowd-sourced a list of best practices for hosting eco-friendly convenings abroad from our new member Elevate Destinations. Experts in socially responsible luxury travel, Elevate Destinations is a social enterprise that designs sustainable travel experiences for teams, families, and individuals that support conservation and local communities. The organization has received numerous awards and recognition for its innovative programs in this arena, and we are pleased to share some of their eco-friendly convening tips here.

Whether you’re a corporate team embarking on a retreat or soon-to-be honeymooners in search of a sustainable travel option that will create space for connecting, learning, sharing, giving back, and relaxing, aligning your choices on where to travel and how to travel with your values will enrich your travel experience.

    1. Location, Location, Location: The first major decision is choosing a geographic region or country where your tourism dollars will support conservation efforts and elevate the livelihood of local communities. Today, countries such as Kenya, Costa Rica, Belize, Peru, Brazil and the Galapagos are exemplars of responsible tourism and have pioneered innovative tourism models.
    2. Where To Stay: Selecting an environmentally and socially responsible hotel or lodge is also of top importance. These hotels are often built using sustainable or repurposed materials, refrain from using plastic water bottles, and use renewable energy sources. Many eco-friendly hotels also partner with organizations such as Clean the World, which recycles soap and hygiene products discarded every day by the hospitality industry and donates and delivers products to domestic homeless shelters and developing countries.
    3. Going Neutral: Another option is to offset the carbon emissions that are created by your travel footprint. Because travel to a foreign land always means getting on an airplane, going carbon neutral often means purchasing carbon offset credits to balance the greenhouse gasses emitted by your travel with compensating carbon positive projects. All of Elevate Destinations’ trips are carbon neutral.
    4. Responsible Consumerism: Ethical travelers sometimes bring product donations, such as school supplies, when they volunteer with local centers or visit local communities. One tip here is to buy supplies locally, rather than bring products from your home country, to support the local economy. You may also wish to work closely with ground partners to make sure that any activities you partake in while abroad are run by companies that implement fair wage practices.
    5. Buy A Trip, Give A Trip: Another option to consider while planning your next trip is to support an organization that enables local youthmany of who have never traveled out of their own villagesto visit historical sites, see conservation projects, and get up close with wildlife in their home country. As one example, through its Buy a Trip, Give a Trip program, every trip organized through Elevate Destinations allows a group of local children to visit tourist sites in their own country.

Travelers looking to design an eco-friendly convening abroad have many more options today than was the case in the past. The field of responsible tourism has grown in the past 20 years, and continues to evolve.

“It’s not just about environmental practices, [sustainable tourism] is about trying to bring communities, wildlife, and the environment into harmony,” shared Dominique Callimanopulos, Founder and President of Elevate Destinations. “One of the things we see is people wanting authenticity and experiential travel. People are craving to step out of the transactional, commodified way of travel, and get connected to something that is more raw and sincere.”

Whether you’re planning your next corporate retreat or want to take a personal learning journey abroad, we hope these tips provide a starting point to make your next trip a sustainable one.