Environmental awareness has grown globally and an increasing number of people are choosing their travel destinations by the assurance that tourism is indeed being managed sustainably.
An international sustainable tourism organization called Green Destinations has created a measurable standard for sustainable tourism development – the Green Destination Award. Destinations can apply for the Award with four different Award levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Pärnu is currently certified for the Bronze level. The Green Destinations programme in Estonia is spearheaded by the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency.
There are currently seven ‘green destinations’ in Estonia – Pärnu, Tartu, Hiiumaa, Saaremaa, Järvamaa, Lahemaa and Rakvere. A goal has been set to engage the whole country in Green Destinations certification.
The main qualities of our Green Destination network are:
- authentic – our traditions and heritage is valued;
- responsible and respectful – we hold local communities in regard while avoiding mass tourism;
- financially sustainable – we create jobs and include locals by developing tourism;
- environmentally and climate friendly – we avoid further pollution and contamination of the environment, we tackle problems brought on by climate change, including improving public health;
- nature friendly – we protect important landscapes, nature sites, habitats and wildlife.
How you can travel with the environment in mind
Visitors to Pärnu county are inspired and informed about sustainable travel through advice on expert platforms and travel sites (Loodusveeb, RMK). All nature trails of the State Forest Management in Estonia, including trails in Pärnu county, are found in the portal Loodusega Koos. Helpful rules of conduct in several languages instruct visitors on how to behave in nature, zero waste travel, what ‘freedom to roam’ means and what peculiarities await in our wintery wilds. Additional guidelines about roaming in larger groups are also found.
The conscious traveler’s reminder
- Don’t throw trash on the ground, put it in the trash bin. If possible, sort your waste accordingly. If you see trash – especially in nature – pick it up if you can and take it to a waste bin.
- When travelling, bring along your refillable bottle to use during the whole trip. The tap water in Pärnu county, and Estonia in general, is very clean and safe. Avoid buying bottled water.
- Prefer walking, biking and public transport. Measure your trip’s carbon footprint.
- Use cloth or durable paper bags instead of plastic.
- Choose local when buying souvenirs. (PS! Baltic amber is not found in Estonia.)
- Stay on the marked path when hiking through bogs and nature trails.
- Dine in local cafes and restaurants, visit a local store or market and avoid international stores.
- Prefer digital information to paper. In Estonia, we are used to going digital.
- Prefer local services and service providers: guides, hikes and trip organizers.
- Before buying a new piece of clothing or accessory, consider a visit to a second hand store or flea market.
- Ask locals where they’d suggest going and exploring.
- Follow the suggested habits when staying in hotels: use towels several times, if possible ask them not to be changed every day, don’t leave the tap on and sort your waste.
- Plan for your trip by packing as much as necessary, as little as possible
- Do not print out your hotel reservation, bus or plane ticket unless required to. Download tickets and letters of confirmation to your smart device. Wifi is nearly universally available in Estonian establishments.
- Plan to stay in one destination as long as possible (at least a week). Your vacation has a greater carbon footprint the shorter the trip and farther your destination.