Mass tourism has been hammering away at the Mediterranean coastline for decades. To help protect his native Greek island of Zakynthos, Yannis Vardakastanis launched Ionian Eco Villagers in 1993. The retreat’s cottages are a short hike from light blue water and long stretches of white sand— the nesting grounds of choice for 80 percent of the Mediterranean’s endangered loggerhead sea turtle population. "We believe in long-term sustainability, minimizing the effects of tourism on the environment, and undertaking conservation work on the ground," says Vardakastanis, who also spearheads a local sea turtle advocacy group called Earth, Sea and Sky. Today, the beach at Laganas Bay remains accessible to loggerheads—and the ecotourists who give them the right-of-way (doubles from $600 a week; relaxing-holidays.com).
Thirty years ago, I went to Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast in search of great surf, but it was the jungle nearby—and elephants thriving within it—that made a lasting impression. Today, this rare slice of Asia remains largely untouched, thanks in part to the owners of Tree Tops Jungle Lodge. A winner of Wild Asia’s 2008 Responsible Tourism Awards, the two-room hideaway sits on the edge of Yala National Park and employs local villagers as cooks, guides, and caretakers. Its ecotourism model is simple yet effective: Sustainable income equals elephant protection (doubles from $150, all-inclusive; treetopsjunglelodge.com).
When German explorer Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied arrived in southeast Brazil in 1815, he stumbled upon one of the richest, tallest, and most impressive forests on Earth—and it wasn’t the Amazon. A haven for blue-chested parakeets, golden-headed lion tamarins, and other endemic species, the Atlantic Forest survives today only in fragile pockets. From the luxury bungalows of Ponta dos Ganchos, 710 miles south of Rio de Janeiro, guests can trek into the rare woodland, whitewater raft its interior rivers, and kayak, sail, and snorkel nearby coastal lagoons (doubles from $620; pontadosganchos.com.br).
Resorts will begin to offer "eco-discounts" for guests who book rooms outfitted with low-flow toilets and showerheads, compact fluorescent lighting, and other energy-saving devices.
In 2008 Indianapolis opened a $1.1 billion international airport with electric runway vehicles and a massive sunroof to maximize natural light. Expect more eco-minded hubs to follow.
Metropolitan hotels like New York’s Grand Hyatt will set the benchmark for environmental best practices with organic banquet menus, nontoxic cleaning products, in-room coffee bar utensils made from potato starch, and more.
More travel industry heavyweights—including British Airways, Hilton Hotels, and Royal Caribbean Cruises—will commit to large-scale carbon emissions reduction.