Ethical Traveler is a nonprofit advocacy group located in Berkley, California that advises travelers on how to use “economic power to strengthen human rights and protect the environment.” Executive Director and founder Jeff Greenwald says, “Where we choose to put our footprints has economic and political reverberations that reach far beyond our personal experience. By ‘voting with our wings’ — choosing our destinations well, and cultivating our roles as citizen diplomats — we promote international goodwill and help change the world for the better.”
The group issued its annual report listing the 1o best ethical destinations in the world in December. In its opinion, these countries are doing the “most impressive job of promoting human rights, preserving the environment and supporting social welfare — all while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry.”
The group considers where the countries rank on the Index of Economic Freedom, which takes into account such factors as trade freedom, business freedom, investment freedom, and property rights. It then examines factors such as environment, human rights, social welfare and animal welfare. For 2014, island nations dominate the report, primarily because their residents understand firsthand the effects of environmental issues on everyday life.
Being on the list does not mean that a country has no social or economic issues. But it does mean travelers will generally encounter less crime, less corruption and more government stability, all of which are important factors when visiting foreign lands. It also means it probably scores high on The Happy Planet Index. Both are good reasons to choose any one of these countries for your 2015 vacation.
The 10 Ten Ethical Destinations are:
Cabo Verde: known for hikes, crystal beaches, water sports, turtle-watching tours.
Chile: known for fabulous scenery, it also ranks high for environmental protection.
Dominica: known for great views and hiking opportunities, including the 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail.
Lithuania: Freedom House gave Lithuania a perfect score in the areas of civil and political rights.
Mauritius: 500 miles east of Madagascar, it is home to Tamarin Bay, one of world’s best-known surfing spots.
Palau: receives a perfect score from Freedom House in the areas of civil and political rights.
Samoa: rain forests, waterfalls, cave pools, volcanic craters and pristine beaches.
Tonga: tropical beaches, rain forest and active volcanoes.
Uruguay: eighty percent of the country’s energy comes from renewable resources.
Vanuatu: happiest country in the world, according to the Happy Planet Index.
Source and image: SF Gate/The Chronicle