“Certification can be a tool in the toolbox, but don’t be limited by that,” Dr. Miller said. “It’s about choices, and travelers do have the choice.”
Susanne Etti, the environmental impact specialist at Intrepid Travel, a global tour operator based in Australia, had other tips for travelers. She said they could start by checking the list of the more than 230 travel organizations that have joined the Tourism Declares initiative, members of which have pledged to publish a climate action plan and cut their carbon emissions.
Another reliable indicator, she said, is whether a company has been classified as a “B Corporation” — a rigorous sustainability standard that’s not limited to the tourism industry. Her company, Intrepid, has achieved the distinction, as have the apparel company Patagonia and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. The B Corporation website lists some three dozen companies in the “travel and leisure” sector — from a paddle sports company in Hawaii to an Ecuadorean tour bus operator. A number of other tourism businesses are listed under “hospitality,” including Taos Ski Valley and Orlando-based Legacy Vacation Resorts.
Dr. Etti also shared some of the advice that she follows in her own travels. “When you fly, make it count,” she said, adding that, before the pandemic, when she would travel from her current home in Australia to her native Germany, she would do the long-haul flight, but then choose trains or other less-polluting ways to get around Europe, even when cheap short-haul flights were readily available.
Dr. Etti also recommended that travelers learn to slow down. “Stay in one location longer,” she said, “to really understand how life works in that community.”
Rethinking what travel means
Many travelers also need a shift in mind-set, said Dominique Callimanopulos, the head of Elevate Destinations, an international tour operator based in Massachusetts that has won a number of awards for its commitment to sustainability. People should learn to see their travels as an opportunity for exchange with a host community rather than a simple consumer transaction. Ms. Callimanopulos said that even her sustainability-inclined clientele rarely do their homework: She has received more questions about the availability of hair dryers than about the company’s environmental or social practices.