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Sustainability, it’s just about everywhere we look! 


And this is a good thing, right? Environmentally conscious folks have been striving for this for ages, so it’s great to see this cultural shift taking place. It often sems like every progressive brand, label, destination, and public figure is touting their record of sustainable efforts. But the familiarity of the word actually hides a more complex meaning that often eludes us.


To fully understand the intentions, and importantly, the impacts of a sustainability promise, we need to take a deeper look at the meaning of the word beyond the broad applications we see every day.


Hint: it’s not just about environmental issues!

If “Sustainable” isn’t just about resources, environment and climate change, what else is it?

The full meaning can be elusive because the reality is, it’s complicated! 

Most companies even have their own definition of sustainability to set a clear path that can drive their initiatives. (We do too!)

Sustainable tourism is defined by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and UN World Tourism Organization as


The United Nations (UN) has become somewhat of a leader in explaining the more complex meaning of sustainability. They even break it into 17 sections, which are tied to the UN Sustainability Goals (UNSDG's).

“tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

Sustainable Travel, the Long & Short

In short, Sustainable travel seeks to maximize the positive benefits while reducing the negative benefits of tourism on a destination.


What’s most important for true sustainability is looking at the impacts of travel through an intersectional lens. Balancing the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism for long-term sustainability.

Conscious Travel Collective’s Definition of Sustainable Travel

  • Sustainability serves to empower individuals within a community to hold direct ownership over long-term, autonomous decision making, and relieve their dependence upon outside forces to drive change.  

  • Sustainable practices respect, protect and preserves cultural heritage.

  • Sustainability considers the health, and well-being of the natural environment as an integrated system that must be rigorously revered, with understanding of its delicate nature, to not further disrupt its balance, but in facts seeks to restore.

  • Sustainability, in alignment with UNSGD #1, is a commitment to ending poverty for all. We do this by adherence to an ethical pay policy, and by working exclusively with local businesses, and organizations that provide jobs (including management level) to local people, which aligns with another UN Sustainability goal - UNSGD #8, which promotes decent work and economic growth.

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