The medical students mantra 'do no harm' is increasingly becoming decisive for tourists' choices.

If you're looking for an eco-friendly alternative to a luxury vacation, check out the adults-only El Dorado Maroma resort in Mexico's Riviera Maya, which has one of the world's longest artificial reefs at 1.9km-long to future-proof the coast against erosion and provide a habitat for thousands of species. The five-star property, which has Green Globe Certification, also grows its own vegetables and herbs in a hydroponic greenhouse, the rooms have energy-saving air conditioners, there are systems for solar-powered heating and water recycling and it runs a sea turtle conservation programme.

Meanwhile, Mauritius-based Lux* Resorts & Hotels has recently announced several sustainable initiatives for its Maldives properties, including utilising the latest technology for solar energy; a week-long festival celebrating marine conservation, underwater photography and scuba diving in September; the introduction of electric bikes; the establishment of an orchid nursery and wellbeing workshops and, our favourite, the creation of fish houses made out of recycled bathtubs to attract fish to the reefs.

Getting hands on

New Zealand's Scenic Hotel Group is saving the partially used or unopened hotel soap from its many properties around the country and donating it to global communities in need. Each hotel in the nationwide group works with transport partners to send the soaps to Melbourne's non-profit Soap Aid organisation, which repurposes them into new 100g bars as part of its "hotels to hands" programme. With the aim of eliminating or at least reducing infectious diseases through improved hygiene, Soap Aid has sent more than 830,000 bars of soap to communities all over the world, from Western Australia and Fiji to Somalia and Zambia. Soap sent on from the Scenic Hotel Group's Dunedin hotels recently found its way into the hands, literally, of those in need in Ghana.

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Have you heard the one about the flying pigs?

No matter how many times you tick "offset carbon emissions" when you book airline tickets, there's no way of getting around the fact that flying is a mortal sin when it comes to sustainable travel. A new US airline, however, claims it will be carbon-neutral, putting fares towards offsetting the carbon footprint of the flight. Aura, which offers private jet travel at economy prices, is also promising more legroom, decent food prepared by a chef and plenty of freebies when it comes to luggage, drinks and Wi-Fi. Virtual reality headsets will allow guests to "see" what's going on outside during flights. As for the carbon-neutral claims, we'll believe it when we see it.

No meat and all the veg

If you haven't heard of vegetarian or vegan tourism yet, chances are you soon will. This growing trend already has websites, blogs and tour companies devoted to it (check out Vegantravel.com, Vegvoyages.com and Vegantravelclub.com, Veggie-hotels.com) offers a wide range of experiences, guidance and even recipes for the meat-free wanderer. As consciousness grows around sustainability and health and requests for vegan food become more common, many hotel restaurants are making the transition (locally, Heritage Auckland offers its guests a plant-based menu right through the day).

No plastic, fantastic

In the latest plastic-ban news, the Galapagos Islands' Council has announced that tourists will no longer be allowed to bring plastic bottles to the popular travel destination as of February 2019. There is already a plastic straws and bags ban. Travel company G Adventures has said it will offer guests complimentary reusable water bottles for its trips to the islands from the start of next year.

Other corporate giants to join the plastic ban wave include McDonalds and Marriott International — the former has announced it will ban plastic straws from its Australian restaurants (they are already banned in the UK), while the latter is banning them from its 6500 properties worldwide.