Many factors can influence a traveler’s decision about where to go next. The kind of destination is of course important, as is the type of experience: Is the goal to have a quiet beach getaway or a lively multi-city tour? But as climate change becomes an increasing global concern and as it becomes harder to ignore the impact that travel has on the environment, another question that well-informed travelers might want to ask themselves is: Which destinations are making the biggest efforts to “go green”?
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a biennial report that determines which countries around the world are leading the front in making—and enforcing—policies that safeguard the environment. Created in 2006, the global index determines a country’s ranking based on its efforts to address the environmental issues that have the most impact on health and sustainability worldwide, such as climate change and pollution.
The EPI’s most recent report (published in 2018) ranks 180 countries using performance metrics organized under the following categories: air quality; water and sanitation; heavy metals; biodiversity and habitat; forests; fisheries; climate and energy; air pollution; water resources; and agriculture.
In 2018, these were the five countries named the world’s most sustainable. The next EPI is slated for release in June 2020; whether these destinations will remain on top is yet to be seen.
Top 5 countries from the 2018 Environmental Performance Index:
According to 2018 EPI data, Switzerland currently leads the world in sustainability, with an overall score of 87.42. The country received almost perfect scores for water sanitation (99.99) and water resources (99.67), placing second overall for air pollution, behind Equatorial Guinea, as well as climate and energy, following the Seychelles archipelago, which the 2018 EPI indicated as the “most improved country over the past decade.”
France (83.95), Denmark (81.60), Malta (80.9), and Sweden (80.51) rounded out the EPI’s top five most environmentally friendly countries list, with France, Denmark, and Malta earning top rankings in the biodiversity and habitat category. Malta was in the lead for water and sanitation and water resources; Sweden received a perfect score in heavy metals (addressing the life-threatening impact of lead exposure). Denmark, Malta, and Sweden also stood out for high scores in air quality.
Essentially, this index highlights the world’s leading countries in progressive environmental performance and policy. For travelers who prefer supporting “green” destinations, these results can be helpful when planning your next trip.
The EPI is produced by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. For the full list of countries ranked, see the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), and check back for AFAR’s coverage of the upcoming EPI in 2020.
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