Ethical Traveler Announces Top 10 Ethical Destinations for 2014

Looking to make tracks in a new land in the most responsible way possible? It all starts with choosing the right place to visit. Ethical Traveler, a nonprofit project of the Earth Island Institute, has announced the 10 most ethical destinations in the developing world for 2014, based on their contribution to human rights, environmental preservation and social welfare. The goal is to incentivize ethical practices abroad by rewarding those destinations with increased tourism dollars.

What makes each location deserving and desirable? Read on:

Swimming pigs in the Bahamas. Photo: Flickr/cdorobek

Swimming pigs in the Bahamas. Photo: Flickr/cdorobek

The Bahamas
A paragon of the sandy beach getaway, The Bahamas is back on the list after previously missing the cut. An increased focus on the development of protected areas in Andros West Side National Park and a notable administrative effort to reduce human trafficking has won the attention of Ethical Traveler (although the group is concerned about unethical wildlife destinations such as the pending dolphin park at Blackbeard’s Cay). The Bahamas received a perfect score from Freedom House in both political rights and civil liberties categories.

Barbados
If you’ve got an itch for a cool rum cocktail and a tropical island sunset, Barbados is a breathtaking and ethically informed option. The Caribbean country was commended for its environmentally conscious development agenda, which has protected the coastline while still promoting tourism. Ranking especially high in social welfare and human rights, Barbados leads by example in nearly every category explored by Ethical Traveler.

Cape Verde
Charles Darwin must have forgotten his wetsuit back in 1832 when he referred to the island of Cape Verde as “dull” and “uninteresting.” Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to get their feet wet at this famous windsurfing and kiteboarding destination. Cape Verde is the No. 1 ranked African country on Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2013 survey and has declared an ambitious plan to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Chile
Home to the astounding Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, which won a World Responsible Tourism Award in November 2013 for its contribution to sustainable environment and species programs, Chile has also made strides in the realm of social welfare. With the highest Gini index equality ranking of this year’s ethical destinations and the highest possible score in political rights and civil liberties as determined by Freedom House, this South American nation is proving its devotion to the protection of its people and the preservation of its wonderful natural landmarks.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica. Photo: Flickr/luna76

Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica. Photo: Flickr/luna76

Dominica
“Isle of beauty, isle of splendor,” boasts the Dominican national anthem. The “Nature Island” has set a goal to become energy independent and carbon negative by 2020, and has expanded solar power around the island. The Caribbean country is also working to preserve rare species of mountain chickens, frogs and iguanas. Phenomenal scenic hikes and mountain bike routes show off the idyllic natural landscape, while Champagne Reef’s uniquely warm waters are home to some of the world’s premier diving and snorkeling.

Latvia
There’s lots to love in Latvia, which was recognized as one of 10 countries in the world ranking at the top of 10 policy categories in both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. The Daugava River splits the beautiful capital city of Riga, which has shed its postwar bleakness in favor of a bustling market atmosphere with a vibrant nightlife scene. Latvia received the highest ranking of this year’s countries in gender equality.

Lithuania
Raw, unmanicured wilderness is preserved by a Lithuanian devotion to protecting the natural environment. Visitors can explore any of the five national and 30 regional parks free of charge. The Northern European nation has made major strides in social welfare, having dropped its under-5 mortality rate by 52 percent since 2000. Lithuania was also recognized with a high score in human rights and the newly added animal welfare category.

Mauritius
It’s no surprise the now-extinct Dodo bird never chose to leave the island of Mauritius. The city of Grand Bay is a true paradise, now catering to tourists in search of white-sand beaches, great food and glass-bottom boat tours. Safari Jeep tours will take explorers through Yemen natural reserve park in search of zebras, ostriches, monkeys, and antelope. Mauritius was commended for its devotion to expanding tourism while protecting the environment. Additionally, the Indian Ocean island nation made great improvements in both social welfare and human rights categories, demonstrating a notable commitment to long-term development.

Kayaking in Palau. Photo: Flickr/LuxTonnerre

Kayaking in Palau. Photo: Flickr/LuxTonnerre

Palau
World-class scuba diving and snorkeling highlight the islands of Palau, where tourists may encounter hidden caves, wartime wreckage, and massive drop-offs during the many guided tours offered. More than 28 percent of Palau’s marine and terrestrial area is protected, the highest percentage of any destination on this year’s list. Palau also received the highest possible rating in political rights and civil liberties.

Uruguay
Uruguay’s ambitious move toward sustainable energy has impressed Ethical Traveler, which lauded the South American country’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2015. Uruguay has established itself as the model for socially progressive government, legalizing marriage equality, marijuana, and first-trimester abortion this year. Youth hostels provide an affordable option for peso-pinchers looking to cavort about the famous sand dunes and discotheques of Punta del Este.

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Love the Planet on the Day of Love

Flowers for V-Day can be great — if you know they’re green. Photo: Flickr/Ralph Daily

Flowers for V-Day can be great — if you know they’re green. Photo: Flickr/Ralph Daily

Sure, all the hearts and cupid’s arrows are meant for people, but you can make sure the planet gets some love, too, with these tips for an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day:

1. Think local. Flowers are a sweet way to tell someone you care about them. However, buying cut flowers from the supermarket may not be as environmentally friendly as you think — big flower companies don’t always grow their flowers sustainably and may use a ton of pesticides. A great green option is buying local, organically grown flowers from your neighborhood farmers market or locally sourced flower shop.

The same goes for planning a nice dinner at home. Grab ingredients from local providers and skip the hustle and bustle of a night on the town with a meal of fresh food. If cooking’s not your cup of tea, find sustainable restaurants nearby with the help of Eat Well Guide.

The Love Birds Seed Paper Keepsake Card is available at Dolphin Blue.

The Love Birds Seed Paper Keepsake Card is available at Dolphin Blue.

2. Give a card that represents your blossoming love. Long after the day is over, the Love Birds Seed Paper Keepsake Card will serve as a reminder of your devotion. Each card is made of plantable seed paper and includes a removable, 100 percent recycled printed insert so the recipient can keep your special message while enjoying the wildflowers that bloom.

3. Make a handmade gift from the heart. Instead of buying an impersonal box of chocolates or stuffed animal, strive to make all of your gifts yourself this year using materials you already have on hand. Handmade V-Day gifts are also a great activity for kids.

4. Spend the day in nature. A date in the great outdoors is always one you can appreciate — just think about how a hike to a beautiful vista, complete with a romantic picnic, will enchant your athletic sweetie. Spend your evening watching the sunset, sipping on a local fine wine, and gazing at the stars together. Mother Earth would be proud.

Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, S.C., features 100 solar panels. Photo: Proximity Hotel

Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, S.C., features 100 solar panels. Photo: Proximity Hotel

5. Take a sustainable getaway. If you want to escape for the weekend, do your homework to find an eco-friendly resort or hotel to stay at. You might even be lucky enough to live near one of these 30 gorgeous eco-hotels.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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