How to avoid “greenwashing” companies.

If you think sustainable travel is only for granola-crunching and tree-hugging yogis, think again! When people could only travel as far as their own backyards during the pandemic, the world significantly heeled and shifted travelers’ thoughts on how our carbon footprint impacts our primary home, Earth. 

As the travel industry has been rebounding from the pause, new data shows that travelers are taking sustainable travel more seriously, but finding companies that do so is not easy.

James Thornton, CEO of tour company Intrepid Travel, refers to companies’ efforts to appear more environmentally conscious as “greenwashing”. A term referring to the practice of deceptively claiming that a product, service, company, or company is eco-friendly in order to appeal to consumers’ growing environmental concerns. 

Thornton shared, “For a company to say they’re ’100% sustainable’ or they’re ‘eco-conscious’ doesn’t mean anything,” continuing to say, “I would urge travelers to be very cautious when they’re seeing these words and to really dig in and look in a bit more detail.”

To identify companies with the best intentions of addressing the climate crisis, Thornton recommends travelers look for these three critical factors.

  1. A history of sustainability – Look for whether or not a company has a history of association with sustainability issues or if it just jumped on the sustainability bandwagon.

  2. Check for measures -Travelers should find out if a company measures greenhouse gas emissions and/or check Science Based Targets Initiative, a website that lists 4,500 companies’ commitments to reducing emissions.

  3. Look for certifications – Travelers should check for independent assessments, one of the most credible being the B Corp Certification. The certification is granted by the non-profit B Lab and lasts for three years. 

To travel more sustainably, Thornton also recommends that travelers ask questions on the background and culture of companies and lean on online reviews for a “good indication around whether a hotel or a travel experience is doing what it says it’s doing — or whether they’re actually greenwashing.”

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