Best Practices: Natural Habitat Adventures

Best Practices: Natural Habitat Adventures



The Importance of Sustainability in the Travel Industry

At Natural Habitat Adventures, sustainability isn’t just something we talk about, it’s engrained in who we are. The travel industry, often characterized as the largest industry in the world, is responsible for a wide variety of negative environmental, cultural, and economic impacts across the globe.  However, when done right, tourism has the potential to be one of the most powerful ways to conserve our natural world.  Ecotourism is one form of travel that can result in a net positive impact for destinations, mainly because ecotourism adds an enormous value to natural areas.


From our perspective as a nature-focused tour operator, we’re seeing increased interest in sustainability and conservation as a result of wildlife-focused travel.  When you travel with an ecotourism operator like Natural Habitat Adventures, your travel has already had a positive impact on the local environment and communities.  But in addition, we are finding that when travelers experience a species or a landscape in close proximity, most are inspired to help protect it.



NHA is proud to be the primary travel provider for World Wildlife Fund, and we’ve forged a unique partnership with WWF that allows NHA and our guests to play a role in WWF's wildlife and environmental conservation. We achieve this through educational outreach and direct financial support (We’ve donated nearly $2 million to WWF since the partnership was established in 2003).   Every traveler is given a two-year WWF membership at our expense, providing WWF with a continuing source of members, and providing our guests with opportunities to support WWF's mission even after their trip has ended. 




Sustainability in Practice

Sustainability is a necessity because it preserves our greatest assets as a travel company: the environment, the culture, and the livelihood of the communities we visit.  It may be costlier for a company to implement sustainability initiatives in the beginning, but the long-term benefits are well worth it.  We’ve worked closely with our partners to share our successes and failures, and we regularly participate in industry conferences to collaborate on best practices. If we can inspire others—partners and competitors alike—to raise their sustainability standards, then the whole industry wins. 

Some of our sustainability initiatives in our global field operations include:

  • Carbon Neutral Travel: In 2006, Natural Habitat became the first 100% carbon-neutral travel company in the world through our Carbon Pollution Reduction program. We’ve teamed up with Sustainable Travel International to pay to offset 100% of the carbon emissions from the activities of our trips.  The offset funds are invested in projects such as a wind farm in Turkey, reforestation in the Mississippi Delta, and zero energy cook-stoves and water purification in Cambodia.  We also give our travelers the option to pay to offset the emissions from their flights, a program many of them take advantage of.



  • Greening our Fleet: In 2008, NHA introduced an alternative fuel vehicle, a 12-passenger van that runs on used vegetable oil. Utilized for our U.S. and Canada adventures, the van’s emissions are near-zero. That same year, NHA introduced the planet's first hybrid safari truck, utilizing emerging hybrid technology compatible with the rugged needs of adventure travel.


  • Reducing Plastic Waste: We’re serious about eliminating plastic water bottles on our adventures.  Our guests are given reusable water bottles, and we collaborate with suppliers to ensure that purified refillable water is available at all of our destinations.  This policy has saved over 20,000 plastic bottles that would have been used on our trips each year.  We’re also a member of Travelers Against Plastic (TAP), a campaign to spread the word about the negative effects of using disposable plastic water bottles while traveling.


  • Sourcing Locally: We try to source everything as locally as possible on our trips, upwards of 90% in most destinations.  We very carefully choose our partners and suppliers based on their commitment to maximizing social and economic benefits for the local communities (these commitments are stipulated in our contracts).


  • Eco-Certification: Natural Habitat Adventures has earned the prestigious STEP eco-certification label. The Sustainable Tourism Education Program (STEP), is a thorough sustainability assessment that examines our impacts and resource consumption across environment, social, and economic factors. 


We’re thrilled to see that travelers are becoming more and more eco-conscious these days.  It inspires us to continuously raise the bar, and we look forward to taking our sustainability practices to the next level in 2014.





About TIES

As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




> The International Ecotourism Society 



The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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