As defined by the UN World Tourism Organization and the UN Environment Program, sustainable tourism “takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
Sustainable tourism and environmentally-friendly travel in Ontario
The goal of sustainable tourism in Ontario is to support Indigenous cultures and preserve our amazing natural places for visitors to experience and learn from today, and for generations to come.
Government, travel organizations and businesses have developed guidelines and programs to encourage and support sustainable tourism activities and practices. These include:
- the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights provides the key principles that guide environmental values for tourism in Ontario. Learn more about actions that affect the environment on the Environmental Registry of Ontario.
- the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) in partnership with GreenStep Sustainable Tourism, which is committed to delivering sustainable tourism certification programs to Ontario businesses.
- GoodTraveller.net, which lists businesses that have taken steps to incorporate sustainable practices. Find inspiring examples of sustainable and regenerative tourism practices and ways you can travel greener.
There are many ways that you can incorporate green travel practices into your travel plans in Ontario. Get started with this selection of travel operators and attractions that are taking steps to ensure sustainability in the services they provide and how they do business.
Overlooking a private lake on the edge of Algonquin Provincial Park, this off-grid property is the perfect spot for a digital detox with wilderness adventure at your doorstep. A previous winner of the Ontario Tourism Sustainable Tourism Award, the property harnesses micro-hydro electricity from a waterfall and operates a wood-fired sauna.
Location: 3594 Elephant Lake Road, Harcourt
Awarded a gold certification from GreenStep Sustainable Tourism, regenerative practices have been implemented in their land and water management, energy sources, food service and community partnerships. The family-run Rice Lake resort has also committed to the Sustainable Tourism 2030 Pledge with action to increase efficiency in water and energy consumption and a reduction of waste. Read more on sustainability initiatives at Elmhirst’s Resort.
Location: 1045 Settlers Line, Keene
From the living, hydroponic ‘green wall’ in the lobby to energy-saving lightbulbs and showerheads and biodegradable liquids, soaps and cleaners, sustainability elements are integrated into all levels of design, operation and services at this downtown hotel. The Chelsea Hotel is certified by Earth Check, the world’s leading eco-scientific benchmarking and advisory system in tourism and by Green Key Global, a leader in hotel sustainability.
Location: 33 Gerrard Street West, Toronto
Striking the perfect balance between urban and cottage chic with reclaimed and upcycled materials and a nature-based design, this downtown accommodation places sustainability as a key element in all aspects of its operation.
Location: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
More eco-friendly accommodations:
- Go glamping in Ontario. Glamping is a luxurious twist on the traditional camping experience - immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the great outdoors, but with super comfortable upgrades in accommodations and facilities.
- Search more Green Key Global certified accommodations throughout Ontario.
Eco-forward food and drink
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a globally recognized rating system and certification symbol for sustainability and environmental considerations in building design. A pioneer in eco-forward thinking, this Niagara region winery was the first LEED-certified facility in Canada. Stratus takes an organic and biodynamic approach to its winemaking using natural methods that require less water and energy and no synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizer or genetic modification. They have also achieved certification from Demeter Canada for biodynamic production and ECOCERT Canada for environmental and culturally-conscious practices.
Nestled in the Ottawa countryside, Beau’s environmentally friendly, organic practices and commitment to the local community landed them as Canada’s first certified B-Corp brewery. B-Corp is a global movement working towards transforming economies to focus on people and the planet, not just profit.
Location: 10 Terry Fox Drive, Vankleek Hill
Another certified B-Corp Ontario business, Ernest Cider is the first pollution-free, Bullfrog-powered cidery in Canada. In addition to using renewable energy the cidery sources local Ontario fruit and honey.
Location: 4292 3rd Line, Bradford West Gwillimbury
This downtown Asian Fusion restaurant and cocktail bar has been recognized by Sustainable Kingston for its vision of becoming a zero-waste operation. Dedicated to creating a more sustainable food culture, Miss Bao rethinks the ways food and drink are sourced, prepared, served and reused. Organic material is composted on-site and reused to grow microgreens with an in-house garden system.
Location: 286 Princess Street, Kingston
This certification program recognizes and showcases over 150 farm-to-fork restaurants and food experiences that source locally from Ontario’s farmers, growers and makers. Celebrate sustainable food tourism and enjoy good food that you can feel good about by visiting a Feast On® restaurant near you.
More on eco-forward food and drink:
- Visit Ontario’s eco-friendly wineries.
- Learn more about sustainable farming and wine-making in Ontario.
- Other B-Corp breweries in Ontario include Bench Brewing and High Park Brewing.
- Eateries rising to the challenge of reducing waste include Bistro 67, part of Durham College in Whitby and ration: Beverley in Toronto, who achieve a zero-waste goal through innovative, green gastronomy dishes.
- Unboxed Market in Toronto and Ottawa’s NU Grocery are leading the charge as the first waste-free groceries in their respective cities.
Eco tours and experiences
Enjoy fun and educational guided tours and overnight multi-day adventures that go hiking, biking, canoeing, snowshoeing and skiing across breathtaking and dramatic landscapes on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula. Proceeds support the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association, dedicated to the conservation and sustainable development of the biosphere.
Location: Bruce Peninsula
A decommission power plant in a historic building on the Niagara Parkway has undergone an extraordinary transformation into an immersive and interactive landmark attraction. A highlight includes a tunnel that leads to an incredible outdoor viewing platform of the Niagara River and Falls.
Location: 7005 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls
Using innovative, low-carbon methods and environmentally sustainable practices, this former industrial quarry has been converted into a multi-use landmark attraction that showcases its historic value in Toronto’s Don River Valley and features outdoor trails, a local food market and unique events.
Location: 550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
Preserving Indigenous culture, knowledge and practices is a key element in sustainable tourism. Dedicated to the growth of Indigenous tourism in the province, ITO showcases high-quality, authentic outdoor, culinary and cultural experiences that are developed and delivered by Indigenous people and communities onIndigenousExperienceOntario.ca.
More Indigenous experiences in Ontario:
- History and heritage
- Tours and outdoor adventures
- Art galleries and gift shops
- Indigenous cuisine
- Events and celebrations
Nature based attractions
Ontario Parks is a government body responsible for the preservation and maintenance of over 330 natural and culturally significant parks across the province. In addition to delivering facilities, activities and programs that encourage visitors to connect with nature, Ontario Parks strives to protect and restore the ecological integrity and biodiversity of its parks.
A Blue Flag accessibility and ecological protection. Currently, there are over 25 Blue Flag destinations in Ontario, including Wasaga Beach, Grand Bend Beach, Centre Island Beach on Toronto Islands and Bell Park Beach in Sudbury. Visitors to a Blue Flag beach can rest assured the utmost care is taken to create a clean, safe and accessible experience.
More on nature and beaches:
- Explore Ontario’s vast provincial parks, national parks and conservation areas.
- Get tips on how to enjoy Ontario’s Parks responsibly.
- Escape to one of Ontario’s beautiful beaches.
Environmentally friendly transportation
To encourage travellers to reduce their carbon footprint, the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association has installed 50 Level 2 electric vehicle chargers at local accommodations, including hotels, motels and campgrounds for visitors travelling in electric vehicles.
If you’re looking for a ‘greener’ and more efficient mode of travel in Ontario, consider taking the train. VIA Rail offers routes across the province and beyond with service to over 400 communities in Canada. Sustainable mobility is a priority issue with transformational projects that include a new environmentally-friendly fleet.
With 24/7 access to hundreds of bike stations all across the city, Bike Share allows you navigate and explore Toronto in a flexible, cost-effective and eco-friendly way. Download the app and get one-day or multi-day use of a bicycle.
Pledge to travel responsibly
Drawing on Indigenous teachings, the O’de Piitaanemaan Pledge is beautiful sustainable tourism promise in which visitors and residents commit to value and respect the land, the water and local communities with a happy and grateful heart while exploring Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
Indigenous land acknowledgment, reduction of carbon footprints and support of locally-made goods are key pillars in this region’s responsible travel pledge.
Add these travel services and experiences to your next Ontario travel plan and make your footprint a little lighter as you explore this beautiful province.
Last updated: January 9, 2024