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Think before you travel
"Where we choose to put our footprints has real economic and political significance," EthicalTraveler.org reads. By traveling, we can "create international goodwill and help change the world for the better."
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These islands have expanded environmental protection towards new areas, have made significant progress against human trafficking and have high ratings for political rights, civil liberties, and press freedom. Sure, the clear blue waters and warm beaches are a main attraction for visitors — but the island nation is also home to Pig Beach, where wild pigs frolic in the water.
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The report credits the Caribbean island of Barbados with "leading the way in finding sustainable means of building tourism while protecting its coastline," and the country also has high ratings with regards to child mortality rates as well as political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. The country has addressed issues of gender equality as well as stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS, and is making progress towards acting on human trafficking. The island even offers free guided hikes to allow visitors to explore areas otherwise inaccessible to them.
Amazingly, Cape Verde has a 20-year plan to use only 100 percent renewable energy. It is highly rated for its low child mortality rates and has made progress in its water, sanitation and agricultural management. Ethical Traveler considers Cape Verde "a model for political and civil rights in Africa" with particular progress for gay rights. This archipelago is a destination for sea turtles, dolphins and humpback whales — plus, it's literally sunny all year long.
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Ethical Traveler calls out this coastal country's Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, which not only engages in conservation but also helps locals to find jobs in tourism instead of logging. Chile has made progress in its water, sanitation and agricultural management practices and has also been lauded for its income equality. Visitors to Chile can explore natural and historic wonders during the day and enjoy beautiful stargazing opportunities at night.
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In Dominica, solar power is expanding, animal conservation is at the forefront, and energy independency is a main goal in the coming years. The Caribbean country has made progress in universal primary education, child mortality rates as well as maternal health. Known as the "Nature Island," Dominica offers breathtaking views (including whales!).
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Latvia has been highlighted as a standout country for its efforts in environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. This country is a leader in gender equality. This country is a great destination for those on a budget. Visitors can become immersed in the culture, visiting villages and even picking their own food.
Lithuania had one of the highest scores for the category of environmental protection, has improved its child mortality rate and also received high scores for its political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. A fantastic destination for outdoor activities, Lithuania has many national parks with opportunities for bicycling, adventuring, kayaking, diving, and more.
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Mauritius aims to have 35 percent renewable energy over the next 20 years and has high scores for its water, sanitation and agricultural management — far above other sub-Saharan African countries. Its improved property rights and labor freedom policies have earned it a score above the regional and world average on the Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Index for 2013. According to Ethical Traveler's report, "Mauritius has consistently been rated by the Index of African Governance as the best run country in sub-Saharan Africa." Visitors will find no shortage of places to explore, on land and under the sea.
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Nearly one-third of Palau's land and waters are protected. The Micronesian island has ranked highly for its press freedom, political rights and civil liberties. Like its neighbor Eil Malk, Palau is home to millions of harmless jellyfish.
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With 21 wind farms and a goal of 90% renewable electricity by 2015, Uruguay's environmental initiatives make it stand out on this list. It is ranked highly for income equality and has made significant progress towards marriage equality and women's rights. Uruguay offers plenty of sustainable tourism options and an unforgettable, unique culture.
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