Ok, Latvia does look like a nice place to visit.
OK, Latvia does look like a nice place to visit.
Dainis Matisons

Even once you’ve exhausted your staycation possibilities and your travel bug is so bad that you just have to get on a plane and go somewhere far, far away, you might still want to go somewhere that you can feel good about visiting — a place that treats its people right and keeps the environment healthy. After all, as Ethical Traveler puts it, “Travel is one of the world’s largest industries. Where we go — where we spend our travel dollars — has real economic and political significance.”

So Ethical Traveler, a project of journalist Jeff Greenwald and of the Earth Island Institute, has provided us with a simple list of places to go where you can feel certain that your hosts are “promoting human rights, preserving their environment, and upholding civil society — all while creating a sustainable, community-based tourism industry.” Turns out: Latvia.

To be fair, there are also some more touristy destinations on the no-particular-order list:

Barbados
Cape Verde
Costa Rica
Ghana
Latvia
Lithuania
Mauritius
Palau
Samoa
Uruguay

If you’re particularly interested in the “preserving the environment” part of this, here’s Ethical Traveler’s more detailed analysis:

Latvia and Lithuania, along with Costa Rica and Uruguay, scored highest in environmental protection among the Ethical Destinations. Latvia in particular should be lauded for its status of “most improving performer” in the EPI trend rank …

A notable environmental success is Cape Verde, which is striving to reach 300% renewable energy. The country increased its total installed renewable capacity by 751.14%, indicating a decisive movement towards sustainability and away from fossil fuels.

They came to this conclusion by mushing together the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center’s Environmental Performance Index, the EPI trend rank that shows how environmental protection’s improving or not, and the percentage of land and sea area protected.

So, off to Latvia! Give it some moral and financial support for its environmental performance! While you’re there, you can enjoy its “new sense of self-definition,” although that self-definition comes with pre-recession, 2006 flavor — we’re not sure how it’s held up to economic hard times. But you’ll definitely feel better about yourself and your travel spending than if you go to the Bahamas, which Ethical Traveler kicked off the list after finding the country “lacks genuine environmental will.” You might be less tan, but you’ll be warm on the inside from all your good feelings.