Eco-Friendly Glacier Tours
Glaciers represent some of the world’s most important and most beautiful ecosystems. Unfortunately, they’re also among the most threatened. Climate change and other human impacts are causing glaciers to melt at an alarming rate, which jeopardizes the natural resources and weather patterns on which we’ve all come to rely.
Thus, touring glaciers comes with both downsides and upsides. The downside is that glacier tours add to the burden of human impact already threatening glaciers. The upside is that, by seeing these glaciers in person, people can develop a better understanding of why it is that they’re worth preserving.
How to navigate this travel paradox? Consider eco-friendly glacier tours, which seek to minimize environmental impacts even as they allow humans to appreciate the majesty of these ecosystems. Below are five companies that aim to do just that.
Franz Josef, New Zealand: Glacier Valley Eco Tours
Gorgeous New Zealand is home to a large number of glaciers, and many of them are located near each other in South Westland. Glacier Valley Eco Tours exists to teach people about these unique ecosystems. Their tours of New Zealand’s so-called “glacier country” are guided by an environmental ethic that’s backed up with credentials: The company holds a Department of Conservation license that allows them to operate guided tours in South Westland’s World Heritage area.
Juneau, Alaska: Gastineau Guiding Company
Chalk this up to great ideas: People aboard Alaskan cruises can give back to Alaska’s glacier environments by participating in Citizen Science Adventures through Gastineau Guiding Company. The Whales & Glaciers program was developed in partnership with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, the USFS Tongass National Forest, and the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance. Participants help collect data about surrounding flora and wildlife; this data is then used to inform ongoing conservation efforts. The program has also inspired several cruise lines to adopt environmentally friendly initiatives.
Qinghai, China: Ganglha Ecocultural Travel
Ganglha’s Nature Tours are all about celebrating the natural beauty of the Tibetan Plateau, which helps explain why the company is invested in preserving said natural beauty. The tour company guides participants across the plateau’s vast grasslands, past lakes, and along the base of surrounding mountains. Wildlife sightings are frequent, as are views of stunning glaciers. The company prioritizes minimizing its environmental impact at all stages of the trip and also invests in local conservation initiatives. And in an effort to empower local communities, Ganghla employs local Tibetan guides who possess an in-depth knowledge of the natural landscape.
Reykjavik, Iceland: Glacier Guides
Iceland’s Glacier Guides lead trips starting from Reykjavik, Skaftafell, and Solheimajökull. No matter where you start from, all trips are grounded in environmental policy that works to minimize environmental impact, offset carbon emissions, recycle waste, and educate participants about how they can reduce their own eco footprint. The organization also participates in programming by the Icelandic Nature Conservation and is operated out of an eco-friendly strawbale house that’s powered by solar and wind.
Reykjavik, Iceland: Go Green
This family-owned operation offers eco-friendly tours through many of Iceland’s most stunning destinations, including Sólheimajökull glacier. At every step of the way, the guides work to reduce their environmental impact by minimizing the use of motorized vehicles, reducing waste by utilizing reusable products, educating participants about the importance of conserving glaciers, and planting trees to offset carbon emissions caused by travelers’ flights to Iceland.
If you decide to embark on one of these tours, the planet will benefit from your own efforts to shrink your environmental impact and contribute to glacier-saving initiatives upon returning home. Once you’ve seen glaciers in all their glory, you’re going to want to preserve them.