How To Spot and Avoid Greenwashing in Tourism

As travelers become more aware of their environmental impact and seek conscientious travel options, the tourism industry is responding by promoting sustainability efforts. However, not all of these claims are sincere. This practice, known as greenwashing, has become increasingly prevalent in the tourism industry as businesses try to capitalize on the growing demand for sustainable travel.

Greenwashing can take many forms – from vague language and buzzwords to exaggerating or outright lying about sustainability efforts. It misleads consumers and undermines the efforts of companies and destinations truly committed to sustainability.

Travelers need to be aware of greenwashing in tourism and know how to spot it. In this article, we offer tips and examples to help you identify and avoid greenwashing when planning trips. We also share guidance for tourism companies on demonstrating sustainability without resorting to greenwashing.

What Is Greenwashing and Why Is It a Problem?

What exactly is greenwashing? It refers to when a company or destination presents itself as environmentally friendly or sustainable through its marketing but does not live up to those claims. It can involve making unsubstantiated claims or using deceptive marketing tactics to create an illusion of sustainability without implementing impactful practices.

The term “greenwashing” was first used in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld. He  noticed that some hotels were promoting their reuse of towels as an environmentally friendly practice when, in reality, it was just a cost-saving measure. This sparked a conversation about misleading marketing and the implications of greenwashing.

Greenwashing is dangerous because it deludes consumers and harms the environment. By falsely claiming to be sustainable, businesses and destinations can attract travelers willing to pay more for eco- or socially-conscious options. This can lead to a false sense of satisfaction for travelers who believe they are making sustainable choices when, in actuality, they are contributing to environmental degradation.

This manmade lagoon in Tulum, Mexico is a form of greenwashing because it tricks customers into thinking that they are swimming in a natural body of water
Man-made lagoons are a form of greenwashing because they elude travelers into thinking that they are swimming in a natural body of water when the lagoon is actually a flooded area of land that damages native species and habitats.

Moreover, greenwashing undermines the efforts of hard-working sustainability leaders in the tourism industry. It creates an unfair playing field where companies that genuinely prioritize sustainability and invest resources into it may struggle to compete with those that make unsubstantiated claims.

Travelers must ensure their actions align with their values and encourage meaningful change. By recognizing and avoiding greenwashing, you can make informed decisions that support communities, wildlife, and the planet. This positively reinforces companies that are doing the right thing and encourages industry-wide integrity.

Greenwashing Examples in Tourism

Let’s explore some of the ways greenwashing manifests in the tourism industry. By familiarizing yourself with these common examples, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and avoid greenwashing when making travel decisions.

Eco-Chic Hotels or Eco-Lodges That Aren’t So Eco

One of the most common forms of greenwashing in tourism is when hotels or lodges claim to be “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” but engage in environmentally destructive practices. These properties may have a rustic and natural aesthetic that gives off the impression of being eco-conscious, but behind the scenes, they are far from it.

For example, off-the-grid hotels may use diesel generators instead of investing in renewable energy sources to power their facilities. This not only contributes to air pollution but also increases carbon emissions. Other properties may pump untreated wastewater directly into rivers and oceans, harming marine life and polluting local water sources. Another common problem is when hotels have large pools in water-scarce destinations. While a pretty teal pool may give off eco vibes, it contributes to water scarcity in the local community.

A tourist walks through an eco-chic hotel in Tulum. Hotels like this are greenwashing because they fool tourists into thinking they are green, simply because they have a natural look.
Hotels in Tulum often market themselves as eco-friendly but drain sewage into underground rivers that serve as a vital drinking water source and require dirty diesel generators to power their facilities.

Additionally, some properties may use natural materials in their construction, such as wood or stone, to create an eco-centric atmosphere. The extraction of these materials, unless responsibly managed, can lead to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Moreover, constructing buildings on top of undisturbed natural habitats can disrupt and destroy vital wildlife ecosystems. Similarly, creating artificial lagoons and islands for tourism can have severe repercussions for local ecosystems and wildlife.

True eco-hotels integrate comprehensive practices throughout their operations to minimize environmental impact. This includes using renewable energy sources, sustainably sourcing building materials, incorporating energy-efficient design principles and technologies, reducing and properly disposing of waste, installing water conservation systems, and preserving surrounding habitats.

Animal “Sanctuaries” That Prioritize Entertainment Over Welfare

Tourists bathe an elephant at an animal sanctuary. These sanctuaries often mistreat animals, but fool tourists into thinking they are helping animals by participating in these experiences.
Elephant bathing is a popular tourist activity in Thailand that perpetuates animal abuse. Elephants that interact with tourists at these attractions are often trained with physical harm and separated from their mothers at a young age.

Many tourists are drawn to animal experiences. However, not all these experiences are ethical or contribute to wildlife conservation. Many of these so-called “sanctuaries” and “eco-tours” may harm animals through activities like forced breeding, separation from their mothers, and even physical abuse. Legitimate sanctuaries or eco-tours won’t allow direct interaction with wildlife, such as petting or feeding, as their primary focus is the welfare of the animals, not human entertainment. Keep an eye out for red flags like chains, small cages, and animals performing tricks or other unnatural behaviors. Some common examples of unethical animal experiences include elephant riding and bathing and swimming with dolphins. 

To avoid supporting greenwashing in this form, it is important to do thorough research before booking any animal-related experience. Look for guidance from credible organizations such as World Animal Protection and Sustainable Travel International or certifications from reputable programs. For instance, the World Cetacean Alliance verifies responsible whale and dolphin-watching operators. 

It’s also helpful to read reviews and look at photos to see if tourists are allowed to touch the animals and to get a feel of the experience. If you’re unsure, don’t be shy to ask the provider questions, such as where the animals come from and how they are cared for.

Misleading Signage Versus Practices

Hotel workers replace linens daily, even when customers try to opt out to engage in sustainability initiatives. Their daily replacement, despite telling customers to help them go green is a form of greenwashing.
Hotels often replace linens and towels daily, even when consumers opt out of the service to support sustainability initiatives. Guests think that they are supporting sustainability initiatives, but they are actually victims of greenwashing.

Some hotels may claim to have eco-friendly practices, such as asking guests to reuse towels and linens, but then go against their policy by replacing them daily without being asked. This wastes resources and leads guests to think the hotel is more sustainable than it is.

Similarly, hotels may place signs encouraging guests to turn off the air conditioning when leaving the room, only to find it turned on upon returning. This gives the illusion of sustainability while generating emissions that exacerbate climate change. 

These types of discrepancies between communication and action are often not intentional. More often than not, they are due to insufficient staff education and standardization of practice. Regardless of the intent, this is still considered greenwashing. 

Uninformed Recycling and Composting Promises

Many restaurants and businesses promote the use of compostable or recyclable items as a waste reduction strategy. However, some destinations don’t have proper recycling facilities or industrial composting capabilities to process the waste. 

A bulldozer rolls over trash in a landfill. Many hotels that have recycling programs send their recycling to landfills, which is a form of greenwashing.
In many destinations, a lack of recycling infrastructure means that even the products visitors throw into recycling bins are sent to landfills.

In these cases, recyclable or compostable single-use items don’t make much difference. It is always better to use reusable items when possible to reduce the production footprint and wastage. Businesses that prioritize convenience over sustainability may overemphasize the impact of these products in reducing waste, leading to greenwashing.

Manufactured or Exploitative Cultural Experiences That Claim to Be Authentic

Tourists are often promised an inside look into traditional cultures and customs on tours, but these experiences are often commercialized and tailored to fit tourist expectations. As a result, these so-called “authentic” cultural experiences are just a facade for entertainment.

For example, tourist experiences in Cancun market the opportunity to get in touch with Mayan culture through Maya-themed hotels, shows, and ritual attractions. Tourists feel like they are immersed in an authentic ancient Mayan environment when, in reality, they are experiencing a commodified, exaggerated, and inaccurate representation of the cultural expression specifically made to attract tourists’ attention and money.  

A shaman performs a cleansing ceremony on a tourist. This harms locals by forcing them to commodify their culture by making sacred rituals into tourist spectacles.
Tourists seeking cultural immersion are often fooled into participating in manufactured or exploitative cultural shows, ceremonies, or activities. These experiences dilute the importance of local culture and can contribute to harmful stereotypes.

In Ecuador, the rise in spiritual tourism has resulted in a massive boom in demand for shaman-based tourist attractions, especially in the ancestral home of the Kichwa in the Amazon. A few Kichwa settlements have opened to tourists seeking limpiadas, or cleansing rituals that have been converted from their sacred, traditional form into a condensed, tourist-friendly version. Not every Kichwa community is excited about sharing a tourist version of the limpiada, however. Villages that have opted out of tourist visits have openly criticized their neighbors for diluting one of their most sacred cultural rituals, causing a rift between once-friendly settlements..

Similarly, popular dance performances in tourist destinations are often heavily influenced by Western expectations and have little resemblance to traditional dances. For example, Bali’s famous Kecak, or dance of fire, was created as a tourist spectacle and is not practiced as a ritual in Bali. Locals do not associate this dance with their culture at all, calling it a tourist genre of movement. 

This type of greenwashing lures tourists to participate in inauthentic experiences under the guise of cultural immersion and authenticity. At its worst, this supports attractions that erode the local culture and disenfranchise communities without bringing economic benefit. When participating in cultural experiences, look for experiences that haven’t been commodified for tourists and are designed and managed by communities so your dollars stay local.

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Exaggerated or Ambiguous Carbon Neutral and Climate Claims 

Achieving “carbon neutrality” is a popular goal for companies aiming to demonstrate their climate commitment. We define carbon neutral as meaning that a company is 1. actively reducing its carbon footprint by implementing decarbonization strategies in line with a net zero target and 2. has balanced out all of its unavoidable emissions by investing in high-integrity carbon offsets that remove or prevent the release of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Carbon neutral claims help consumers identify companies that are holding themselves accountable and taking climate action; however, they become problematic if the claims are vague, grounded in faulty carbon footprint calculations, or rely on low-quality offsetting initiatives. Carbon neutral claims are also a form of greenwashing if the company downplays its emissions or relies solely on offsets without decarbonization.

​​Airlines in particular are facing increasing scrutiny over their carbon neutral and other climate-friendly claims. In recent years, a handful of airlines were hit with lawsuits for advertisements or marketing statements that inflated the environmental benefits of their sustainability efforts. This includes the use of absolute and vague terms such as “100% Green,” “CO2Zero,” or “sustainable” which give customers the impression that their trip does not have any negative environmental impact. Airlines have also been criticized for promoting the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) without telling the full story – i.e. that SAF only accounts for a minuscule percentage of their total fuel usage and still generates some CO2. Overreliance on carbon offsets to substantiate carbon neutral claims and imply flights are climate-friendly is another hotly debated topic. 

Part of the problem is that there is no universally accepted, legally binding definition of terms like “carbon neutral” or “green.” This leads to inconsistencies in how claims are interpreted, applied, and enforced. This is compounded by the fact that certain tourism emissions, such as flight emissions, are extremely difficult to diminish in the near term.  When businesses market their products as carbon neutral without any explanation, consumers may assume all associated emissions have been completely eradicated. This can lead to greenwashing accusations when the consumer realizes the company did generate emissions but neutralized them via carbon offsets.  

This isn’t to say that companies should avoid carbon offsets. Carbon offsets play a vital and specific role in climate action, enabling companies to support larger-scale projects that combat the root causes of climate change beyond their operations. Done well, carbon offsets stimulate essential projects that mitigate climate change, such as forest conservation, renewable energy, and technological carbon removal. Carbon offsets should be part of every tourism company’s climate strategy but must complement rather than replace emissions reduction tactics. Airlines or other companies fall prey to greenwashing when they rely solely on carbon offsets without a decarbonization plan and active steps to reduce their avoidable emissions. Even if companies have reduction tactics in place, they may greenwash by glossing over their current emissions and acting like their flights are fully climate-friendly simply because they purchase carbon offsets. 

Low-Quality Carbon Offsets

However, not all carbon offsets are created equal. Some companies may opt for low-quality carbon offsets, such as poorly planned tree-planting projects that aren’t third-party verified or monitored.

Trees grow in a monoculture farm. Monoculture offsets are a form of greenwashing because they do not add to the diversity and long-term survival of the forest.
Travelers should be wary of tree planting projects that include practices like monoculture or planting trees close together because these practices affect the trees’ ability to survive and are inhospitable for biodiversity.

While restoration projects involving tree planting can positively impact the environment, it is crucial to ensure they are legitimate and create real emissions reductions. Without proper methodologies and third-party verification, these initiatives may not effectively reduce carbon emissions and could negatively impact local communities and ecosystems. Keep in mind that reforestation is just one form of climate action, so it’s important to support other climate projects such as clean energy infrastructure and forest protection. 

Check whether businesses purchase high-quality carbon offsets and have a comprehensive emissions reduction strategy. This way, you’ll support companies reducing their carbon footprint and investing in the planet’s future.

Offloading the Burden Solely Onto the Customer

Another issue is when tourism companies create sustainability programs that solely depend on voluntary customer participation. While these initiatives may make the company look greener, they push the burden of action only onto their guests. Raising consumer awareness is a good thing, but it should be complemented by the company’s own practices and processes to mitigate its impact. Without corporate action, these customer-focused initiatives are a form of greenwashing.

For example, restaurants may place signs on their tables, suggesting their customers help them reduce food waste by cleaning their plates. If the restaurant doesn’t change its internal processes to reduce food waste, it is essentially encouraging guests to overeat so they don’t have to deal with the waste. It would be far more effective to implement practices such as inventory management, creative menu planning, and improved portion control to reduce food waste. 

Signs telling travelers to reduce their own food waste are a form of greenwashing because they put the burden of sustainability upon the guest.
Travelers can identify greenwashing by noticing policies that place the burden of acting sustainably onto them, such as signs like the one above that encourage travelers to fight food waste by cleaning their plates.

Another common example is hotels that display signs asking hotel guests to reduce their water use by placing towels back on the rack without any other efficiency measures. Instead of relying just on guests’ responsible use of resources, hotels should also invest in washing machines that use less water or provide fresh towels upon request.

The same principle applies to tour operators, airlines, and other companies that ask travelers to offset their own carbon and position it as a corporate carbon reduction initiative. These programs typically have little uptake and therefore minimal impact on climate change mitigation. If a company truly wants to take responsibility for all its unavoidable emissions, it should include offsets in every trip. While traveler opt-in offsetting programs provide value by raising awareness and creating shared responsibility, companies that offer them should be realistic about their impact. Regardless of the offsetting approach, companies should work to decarbonize and cut their avoidable emissions.

How Travelers Can Identify Greenwashing

A save water sign sits on a towel rack in a hotel bathroom. Hotels use signs like this to trick travelers into doing the sustainability work for them, which is a form of greenwashing.
Greenwashing can be noticed in plain sight. Sustainability-related signs like the one above can be a form of greenwashing if the hotel doesn’t assume responsibility for its environmental impacts.

Now you know what greenwashing looks like in practice, but how do you spot it? It can be tricky to weed out companies or destinations that make false or misleading claims. Here are some things to look for that are common signs of greenwashing.

Vague or Buzzword-Filled Language

When researching sustainable travel options, keep an eye out for vague language and buzzwords not backed up by concrete actions or evidence. Phrases like “eco-friendly” or “green” may sound good on the surface but without specifics about what makes them environmentally friendly, they could be empty marketing.

Look for explicit examples of sustainability activities such as using renewable energy sources, eliminating single-use plastics, or switching to cleaner modes of transport. If a company is committed to sustainability, it will have tangible actions to support its claims.

To find this information, check the company’s annual report, website, and social media channels. You can also reach out to the company directly, this holds them accountable to their claims and encourages them to communicate their progress transparently. 

Misleading or Suggestive Visuals

A tree site on a runway at an airport with a private jet behind it. Companies use images like this as a form of greenwashing.
Companies may use generic green language or visuals, such as this tree in front of a private jet, to create the illusion of sustainability when they don’t have anything specific to say about their environmental efforts.

One of the most common indicators of greenwashing is the use of misleading or suggestive visuals. This can include green color palettes or images of trees or natural environments without context or evidence to support their claims. 

To avoid falling for this tactic, follow the same approach as you would for vague language.  Dig deeper and look for more detailed information about sustainability initiatives. If you can’t find anything substantial, this is likely greenwashing.  

Diverting Your Attention

Many companies will highlight one inconsequential sustainability practice to make their entire operation appear sustainable. However, these claims may mask larger adverse environmental or community impacts. For example, a hotel may promote that they’re no longer using plastic straws but fail to do anything about the disposable water bottles and plastic-wrapped amenities in every room that account for a much more significant percentage of their waste. 

When assessing a company’s sustainability practices, look beyond the surface level and consider the bigger picture. Pay attention to their overall environmental and socio-cultural impact and whether they’re focused on sustainability activities that make the greatest difference. Look for certification labels that encompass all of these aspects. 

Non-Credible Labels or Certifications

You might notice companies boasting certification labels to back up their sustainability claims. However, not all of these labels hold the same level of credibility. Some labels may be designed by the company itself with no third-party oversight or verification. Other external certification programs may have low standards, making them unreliable indicators of a company’s true sustainability practices.

A hand stamps a green eco-friendly label on a piece of paper. Labels like these can be a form of greenwashing
Just because a product or company appears to have a “stamp of approval” doesn’t mean it is from a credible certification program.

Do your research on the certification programs used by different businesses to identify those with rigorous criteria and third-party verification. Look for internationally recognized certifications such as Green Key, Travelife, Green Globe, EarthCheck, TourCert, BlueFlag, Green Fins, Biosphere, or other GSTC-recognized labels. Some OTAs, such as Booking.com, make it easy to identify certified providers by displaying labels on their listings. 

While certification provides an extra layer of credibility, keep in mind that it isn’t the end-all-be-all. Some companies can’t afford the cost of certification, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing great things around sustainability. Additionally, it’s not enough for a certified company to merely have the required policies in place; they must create systematic change and put the policies into practice. Keep an eye out for any inconsistencies between the certified company’s claims and actions. Pay attention to whether they are actively implementing sustainable practices in their operations – don’t just rely on a label or certification.

How Tourism Companies Can Avoid Greenwashing

To avoid getting accused of greenwashing, tourism companies must steer clear of such practices. This next section provides actionable suggestions for tourism businesses. This includes ensuring impactful sustainability initiatives and maintaining authenticity in their sustainability claims. 

Educate Yourself

One of the most important steps for tourism companies to avoid greenwashing is to educate themselves and their staff on sustainability. This includes understanding the principles of sustainable travel and staying updated on industry guidelines and best practices. 

At Sustainable Travel International, we offer free educational resources and training programs for companies to teach their employees about sustainable travel. We also have a membership program that gives companies access to our sustainable business assessment tool and best practice guide.

Other organizations in the industry also provide more in-depth guidance on specific topics, such as ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines, Green Fins’ Diving Guidelines, and Planterra’s Indigenous Tourism Guidelines.

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Create A Holistic Sustainability Policy

Most tourism companies tend to focus solely on environmental sustainability, but true sustainability encompasses social and economic aspects as well. A holistic sustainability policy should address all three pillars of sustainability – people, planet, and profit. In the corporate world, this is often known as ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). When creating a sustainability policy, consider the well-being of local communities, preserving cultural heritage and diversity, and promoting fair labor practices in addition to reducing environmental impacts.

A company holds a meeting about sustainability practices, which is a great way to avoid greenwashing.
The strongest sustainability policies are created when companies collaborate with employees, locals, and sustainability experts to assess their impacts, identify solutions, and develop an action-oriented roadmap.

It’s impossible to address every sustainability issue at once, so be strategic about your priorities. Avoid focusing on just one or two small issues that won’t have much impact. When developing your sustainability policy, assess your impacts and prioritize activities that will make the most difference. Start with easy-to-implement changes and define longer-term strategies to overcome more complex challenges. Bring different stakeholders to the table to get their input and collaboratively brainstorm solutions. Involving employees from the beginning increases engagement and buy-in. 

Align Your Words and Actions

Greenwashing is all about double talk, and consumers can easily see through it. Therefore, it is crucial to align your words with your actions to avoid giving off a false impression of sustainability.

Merely creating a sustainability plan is not enough. Once the plan is in place, make sure all staff members are aware of it and trained to implement it. Educating your employees about the plan and how it affects their roles equips them with the necessary information to implement the practices and instills a sense of ownership. Understanding the ‘why’ behind each initiative can motivate employees to adopt new practices more readily. That way, your practices are more than just words.

Your employees are the face of your business. By helping them understand the importance of sustainable practices you empower them to act as ambassadors and communicate your commitment effectively to customers. 

A hotel employee talks to guests at the front desk. Talking to guests honestly about sustainability is a way to avoid greenwashing.
Talking to guests honestly about your businesses’ sustainability efforts lends transparency and helps avoid accusations of greenwashing.

Use Your Words Wisely

When promoting sustainability efforts, tourism companies should be cautious about using terms like “green,” “environmentally friendly,” or “carbon neutral.” These words have become trendy and are often used as buzzwords without any clear definition. 

Before making such claims, companies should thoroughly understand the criteria and regulations that define these terms. For example, the EU’s new greenwashing law sets standards for environmental marketing claims. By ensuring their claims align with established definitions and regulations, companies can avoid misleading consumers and getting into legal trouble.

Better yet, avoid using vague terms altogether when conveying your sustainability efforts. Terms like “green” don’t mean much, whereas statements such as “our property operates on 90% renewable energy” provide more clarity.

Support Your Claims

Supporting your claims means providing data and examples to back up your words. For example, if a hotel claims to be reducing its water consumption, it should be tracking its consumption and reporting the percentage reduced. The hotel should be able to provide details on how this was achieved, such as installing low-flow faucets or implementing a greywater reuse system. 

Companies can also use real-life stories to showcase their sustainability efforts. This could include highlighting staff members who are directly involved in these initiatives or sharing guest experiences that demonstrate the positive impact of their sustainable practices.

A man installs solar panels on a roof. Efforts like this can provide evidence of a company's sustainability initiatives.
Even something as simple as sharing photos or videos of solar panels being installed can provide evidence of a company’s efforts.

Using visual aids like photos and videos can also help companies back up their claims. This allows consumers to see the tangible results of their sustainability efforts, rather than just reading vague statements. For example, a hotel could create a video of guests using their electric bicycles to explore the destination or share the story of the local farmer who grows the ingredients used in their meals. 

Be Transparent

Transparency is key to building trust with consumers. Be honest about your sustainability efforts and don’t overstate them. It’s okay to acknowledge areas where there is room for improvement or where you may not be able to address certain impacts. This shows that you are committed to continuous improvement and not just using sustainability as a marketing tactic.

Transparency is particularly important when it comes to carbon neutral claims. Companies can build trust by explicitly stating what they mean by carbon neutral, including which emission sources they’ve measured, their calculation methodology, and their total carbon footprint. 

Ensure Credible Carbon Accounting 

To ensure carbon neutral claims are credible, tourism companies must adopt rigorous and transparent carbon footprint accounting practices. This begins with comprehensive measurement of all relevant emissions generated by their operations and value chain. The tourism value chain is complex, so it’s best to work with an expert such as Sustainable Travel International to help you reach your carbon neutrality goals. Our carbon measurement tools and solutions are designed to account for travel-related emissions, allowing companies to accurately quantify their emissions. 

Purchase Trustworthy Carbon Offsets 

As we mentioned earlier, many tourism companies turn to carbon offsets as a way to mitigate their environmental impact. To avoid greenwashing, companies should carefully research and purchase high-quality carbon offsets from reputable organizations to offset their emissions. As a starting point, ensure the project is verified against a rigorous standard such as Plan Vivo, Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, UN Clean Development Mechanism, Climate Action Reserve, or American Carbon Registry. Carbon offsets should be incorporated into the company’s budget to account for all unavoidable emissions, not offloaded onto the customer. They should go beyond just tree-planting projects and support a diverse range of climate solutions that have been rigorously vetted for their effectiveness. 

At Sustainable Travel International, we offer a carefully curated Climate Impact Portfolio that includes only the most impactful and transparent carbon offset projects. Our stringent quality assurance measures ensure that these projects meet the highest standards for credibility and transparency. 

The Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape Project in our Climate Impact Portfolio is verified by Plan Vivo, a stringent carbon offsetting standard, and utilizes modern technology such as the Cluey app to collect reliable forest monitoring data. 

Do As Much As You Can to Reduce CO2 and Have a Long-Term Plan

Supporting carbon offset projects like forest conservation and carbon removal is an important aspect of climate action, but it’s only one part of the equation. Companies should actively implement decarbonization strategies alongside carbon offsets to minimize their absolute emissions as quickly as possible. This involves reconfiguring operations and business practices to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions directly at their source. 

Combining decarbonization and offsetting ensures companies actively reduce their carbon footprint while supporting broader environmental efforts. This creates a more robust approach to climate action that helps avoid greenwashing. You can download our Corporate Climate Action Checklist and watch our Road to Net Zero webinars to learn more about taking climate action in your company.

Greenhushing: The Consequence Of Taking Our Scrutiny Too Far

While it is crucial to be on the lookout for greenwashing in tourism, we must also be mindful of going too far and becoming overly suspicious of any sustainability claims. When our skepticism becomes too extreme it can result in a phenomenon, known as “greenhushing.” 

But what is greenhushing? Greenhushing occurs when companies intentionally don’t talk about their sustainability efforts out of fear of being accused of greenwashing. It prevents real progress by giving the impression that sustainability is not worth it since it could result in no reward, even criticism, for real efforts.

We must remember that transitioning towards sustainable practices takes time and effort. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and different companies may have varying levels of progress. Therefore, while we should hold businesses accountable for their claims, we should also give credit where credit is due and encourage their efforts towards becoming more sustainable.

Greenhushing is becoming a growing problem across industries – one in four companies are not disclosing their sustainability efforts after “going green”. By hindering transparency in the tourism industry, greenhushing makes it harder for travelers to make informed decisions and hold companies accountable. As responsible travelers, we must strike a balance between being cautious and encouraging positive change.

Join the Sustainable Travel Movement

Greenwashing in tourism is a problematic practice that impedes genuine sustainability action. By being aware of this deceptive habit, travelers can make informed decisions and support businesses and destinations that put sustainability into practice.

At Sustainable Travel International, we believe in empowering stakeholders to plan responsibly for the future. Through our guidance and resources, we support companies and destinations in their journey towards sustainability. We also encourage travelers to do their part by being conscious of their choices and supporting responsible options. 

Download our sustainable travel tips list for simple tips that will help you leave behind a positive impact. Join our mission to improve lives and protect places through sustainable travel practices by taking the Travel Better Pledge to show your commitment to the cause.

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