Eco-conscious travel goes beyond bamboo toothbrushes, and these eight conscious travel companies get it right.
The eco-conscious traveller aims to navigate the world in a considerate, meaningful way and these eco-conscious travel companies can help us do so. Each has made strong commitments – from flight-free transport and conservation goals to immersive experiences and community support – and are worth speaking to as you plan upcoming trips.
If you’re hoping to travel more mindfully this year, start here.
Slow travel is often thought to mean spending longer in a destination, really getting to know the place and its people instead of simply flying in and out for a quick getaway. But at Byway Travel, the slow in slow travel begins before you even reach your accommodation. This ground-only travel agency helps you reach your destination, minus the plane. Cars, trains and boats are encouraged instead, in a bid to lessen your carbon footprint, combat over tourism and to offer a richer travel experience to all. According to Byway, the carbon impact of a plane is 285g per passenger mile versus 14g for the train – but the concept makes sense beyond this, too. We can’t count the amount of times we’ve gazed out of an airplane window, wondering what’s happening in the towns, lakes and ravines beneath us, and slow travel from the moment you leave your front door is the ideal way to find out.
In 2018 Intrepid Travel became the largest certified B Corp tour operator, a recognition of its social and environmental impact across all business areas, from staff to supply, charitable-giving to transparency. Their consciousness towards positive change in the world is clear in the way they encourage travel as well: this “experience-rich” travel company lead small group travel tours across the globe – always offering an immersive adventure that benefits both travellers and local communities. Join them to visit the Térraba Indigenous community in Costa Rica, attend a gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda, or explore the ancient forts and dramatic deserts of Oman, among many (many) other destinations. The company’s not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, has also raised nearly £7million to help create jobs and support individuals across 135 global communities. You can read their financial reports here.
The first Soneva hotel opened in the Maldives in 1995 under the guidance of husband and wife team Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malmström (the consolidation of their names becoming the brand name). Shivdasani is well-recognised as one of the world’s leading hoteliers with sustainability as a primary ethos. He was the pioneer of environmental accountability in the Maldives back in the 90s, and he continues to place it at the core of all newer hospitality endeavours. The brand has an A-Z of Soneva Sustainability – importantly with multiple listings under each letter proving this is not a tick-box exercise – but it all starts when you book: you’ll be charged a 2% carbon levy on your room rate which goes towards offsetting carbon emissions as a result of your stay. All Soneva resorts have been carbon neutral since 2012, 90% of food served comes from plants grown in their organic gardens and 90% of solid waste is recycled (with a view to being 100% by 2030). This is a luxury resort with a social and environmental conscience.
Sonu Shivdasani makes his way back onto our list of travel companies with a conscience, this time for another of his hospitality brands, Six Senses. With the same thoughtful approach to sustainability, Shivdasani has managed to guide the Six Senses hotels and resorts to meaningful impact in the same way he has with Soneva. A tough challenge for larger hotel chains but one that has been achieved. At the Six Senses properties across 18 countries this means using renewable building practices, preserving resources, funding local social and environmental projects, and much more. There’s so much to love about the brand’s innovative eco-practices, but the Earth Lab – a space at each resort dedicated to engaging guests in their sustainability practices – is particularly inspiring. Visit and you may even walk away with tips on home-composting or some organic seeds to plant in your own garden. As always, transparency is key when it comes to commitments and you can find out more about the Six Senses’ sustainability practices here and the results of such commitments here.
Both a founding member of the Conscious Travel Foundation and with B Corp certification, Joro Experiences are changing the game for luxury travel operators. This is a carbon neutral business that goes beyond offsetting emissions – instead actively promoting land-based travel as an alternative to flying. They also only work with suppliers who can prove a positive impact on the world, including support for local communities and positive investment in environmental issues. Yet, simultaneously, Joro will curate some of the most immersive experiences imaginable as they hand-craft a trip personalised to your interests and needs, while sharing transparency on their practices. Read their latest impact report here.
Already helping to protect six million acres of land and with an aim to double this by 2030, Wilderness consider themselves a business of two halves: one part hospitality, the other conservation. Any journey with them combines both parts as they take you on once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences with a twist – think rhino tracking in Namibia, night-star gazing in Botswana and crocodile-spotting by boat in the Okavango Delta. Wilderness also support two non-profits, Children in the Wilderness committed to childhood education in Africa, and Wilderness Wildlife Trust which focuses on research, conservation and anti-poaching, among other pillars.
A pandemic brainchild, Charitable Travel was founded by Melissa Tilling in 2020 when she decided to use her 33 years experience in the travel industry for good. Tilling describes the company less as a tour operator and more as a social enterprise whose premise is to allow you, the traveller, to give back at no extra cost. Book a holiday through their website and the company forgo their 5% commission, instead allowing you to donate it to any UK-based charity you choose. Yes, that’s right, not only can you book a dream holiday with them, but you’ll be empowered to give back to the causes important to you. With holidays available to book anywhere from Uruguay to Singapore, this really is a win-win.
Been there, done that? With Seacology, the chances are you might not have. Join one of their global expeditions to places such as Madagascar, Chile and Borneo and you’re not only booking an eco-friendly trip, but you’ll gain first-hand understanding of all the conservation work the company undertakes too. Each Seacology adventure visits an active preservation project allowing groups to see all the work happening to better our planet. In 2023, they’re hosting trips to an orangutan rehabilitation facility in Borneo as well as to the Caribbean island of Bonaire to see how they have helped protect the Bonaire Palm. There’s nothing like real world experience to impact how we live and travel, and this is one of the most unique ways to encounter it.
Main Image: JORO EXPERIENCES