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5 New Ways to See the World While Making it a Better Place in 2017

sustainable island travelNew year, new travel plans. The first thing that typically pops into my head come January is, “Where will I go this year?” I always find myself daydreaming about my next destination and getting side-tracked by photos from far-off lands that pop up in my Instagram feed. And once I finally decide on where to go, my next step is to figure out how to incorporate sustainability. And it appears that I’m not alone. The U.N. has named 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. And Forbes agrees; in its Top 10 List of Travel Trends published a few days ago, it lists both traveling locally and ecotourism in its top five.

Woo! Happy dance. I love that sustainably and ecotourism are becoming more mainstream. With just a little thoughtfulness, your travels can positively impact someone else — and maybe even deepen your experience, as well. As more people hop on the bandwagon, just imagine what 2018 will hold! It’s all so exciting! Good job, guys!

Ok, ok, I’ll calm down. In all seriousness, this is one trend that I look forward to being a part of. I hope you do, too. Here are five new and exciting ways to add a sprinkle of sustainability to your trips this year!

1. Airbnb Just Got Better!

This one came out in November, but I only learned about it this month — and it’s so cool! Airbnb is growing its business to allow you to book other aspects of your trip through their website. Part of this, called Experiences, allows travelers to book social impact experiences and connect with local nonprofits. Check out these awesome ideas of how to use this new feature to make a difference on your next trip.

I absolutely love this entire concept! I like using Airbnb when I travel, and I can’t wait to try this new Experiences feature next time I am on the road.

airbnb local experiences for sustainable travel

2. Atlas Obscura

This tome, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, was released in September 2016, and extensively lists small, little-known places around the globe with rich stories and spellbinding histories. You can use it to inspire travel, see what’s near your hotel, or discover something new in your hometown. I love that it promotes small, local businesses and provides lesser-known and non-touristy sights to see.

The Atlas Obscura website also includes events in the same vein — check it out and see if there are any near you!

atlas obscura book

3. League of Kitchens

Headed to New York City any time soon? Check out the League of Kitchens. Offering small-group cooking classes taught by immigrants in their own homes, learn to cook local food from Argentina, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and virtually everywhere in between! The full-day classes are a little pricy, but the skills, the cultural experience, and the new friends you’ll make seem well worth it. And the fact that your money provides a livelihood for someone trying to make a better life for themselves and their families is pretty awesome as well.

4. Take the Scenic Route

Road trip! I’m guilty of having visited more countries abroad than states in my own country. Taking a road trip to explore your own backyard not only is easier on the budget, but it’s easier on the planet because you avoid taking an airplane. No matter where you’re from, there is something within driving distance that you’ve meant to check out (and if you’re at a loss, research via number 2 above!). Taking the scenic route lets you check out all kinds of little things along the way, and eat better food, too!

Planning a road trip? Check out these suggestions to make sure your car is as eco-friendly as possible before you start!

take a roadtrip to support local buisnesses

5. Join in!

Once you get to a new city or a new country, look for local groups promoting sustainability. It’s a great way to find out the insider scoop on what’s going on around town and meet like-minded people. I joined a local group on Facebook when I lived in India, and I never left because I love the articles that they post! Last week, I discovered RePlast, a new NY-based startup making “cinder blocks” out of recycled plastic taken out of the ocean. The blocks are as sturdy as concrete and can be used for building and then covered in plaster. And the machine making the blocks is almost carbon-neutral and fits in a shipping container. What an awesome idea!

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Are you planning trips for 2017? What are you doing to add in some sustainability to your adventures?


Cindy is a traveler with an insatiable urge to immerse herself in other cultures. She has been traveling around the world for the past seven years, and is currently in Pennsylvania, USA. Follow her adventures at Casilocal. She is also a GV Ambassador helping map the world of social enterprises and sustainable volunteer opportunities.