A guide to seeing the world without leaving a footprint.

If you're heading to the Lucky Country and thinking of taking a few surf lessons, check out New South Wales' Let's Go Surfing surf and stand-up paddle board school in Bondi, Maroubra or further north in Byron Bay. The school, which was started by Brenda Miley from the back of a Kombi van in Bondi Beach in the mid-90s to get more women into surfing, has just been awarded Ecotourism Certification with Ecotourism Australia.

This means it provides high-quality nature-based tourism experiences and its products are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices.

PLASTIC CAN BE FANTASTIC ...

An Australian environmental science teacher has put his knowledge and his students
to good use by starting an ethical travel brand that makes goods out of plastic waste.

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The first product by Wayne Goodwin's Evolve is a stylish range of towels from recycled plastic bottles, with each using about 20 bottles to create 80 per cent recycled polyester (rPET). They purport to be sand-repellent, lightweight, quick-drying and anti-microbial.

Even making the towels is better for the environment, with each using 90 per cent less water and 70 per cent less energy than virgin polyester production. Check out the towels on Kickstarter at kickstarter.com/projects/1605814237/evolve-adventure-towel-saving-the-world-one-towel

GETTING SHIPSHAPE

One of the world's biggest cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, has announced plastic straws are to be eliminated from its cruise ships next year. The line has been employing a "straws by request" policy for a year; from January these will be paper straws. Garnish picks and coffee stirrers are next on the hit list, followed by plastic cups, bags and condiment packets.

ELEPHANT MOVES IN THAILAND

The Thai Government is listening to the growing discontent surrounding
elephant rides, which often go hand-in-hand with their mistreatment. It hasn't outright banned the practice, but it is now working with groups to ensure the animals are treated correctly in refuge centres.

Thailand has also come up with zero-impact nature and community activities to keep up with the demand for sustainable tourism. It was also the first country in Asia to throw its weight behind cleaning up the rubbish from its oceans and beaches as part of the "Upcycling the Oceans, Thailand" initiative.

ACTUALLY SAVING THE CHILDREN

Two members of the ReThink Orphanages Network, which puts the global orphanage industry under the spotlight, have launched a series of educational modules for teachers and their students to ensure they understand the complexities of what is a growing global problem.

Save the Children Australia and school adventure travel provider World Challenge also hosted a symposium in Melbourne in late August on orphanage tourism to help education providers as well as the general community understand how "helping" orphanages might actually be "harming" and contributing to the problem.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of the eight million children who live in institutions globally have family that, if given the right support, could care for them at home.
Orphanage tourism is the supply of people, money and resources that turn these institutions into an industry.

The aim is to make sure student trips actually create a positive impact for the young people it works with globally, and their communities.

PACK SOME EXTRA BRAS

If you're heading up to Fiji's Yasawa Islands group and calling in at Blue Lagoon Beach Resort, be sure to pack your old bras — or even a couple of new ones — for the resort's Pink Bra Barrel in its reception area. The bras are donated to the women of Nacula Island which is even further north.

VEGAN EXODUS

Trying to find vegan food can be a struggle at the best of times, but while travelling overseas it can be a nightmare. However, as the plant-based dietary movement gains popularity, Exodus Travel has put together a list of the top destinations for vegan travellers.

In No1 spot "with flying colours" is India, a destination with more than 500 million vegetarians. Exodus' nine-day Discover Highlights of Northern India is from AU$1285pp (NZ$1401), on which you can feast on rice dishes, mouthwatering curries and dosas while taking in sites such as the Taj Mahal, Ganges River and Ranthambore National Park.

In second spot is Thailand, home to an array of vegan dishes from street food to world-class restaurants. Highlighted Thai itineraries include the 14-night Classic Thailand, from AU$2405pp. The tour explores the best of Thailand's north and south with food departures and cooking classes focusing on local cuisines. Bali, a popular destination with Kiwis, is the next recommendation, with scrambled tofu, hummus, smoothie bowls and tempeh at every turn, says Exodus. Explore the culture and cuisines on the 13-day Bali Coast to Coast tour, priced from AU$2195pp. It includes hiking through rice terraces, villages, forests and volcanoes as well as sampling "sumptuous" dishes.

Rounding up the list is Costa Rica, a destination which Exodus describes as a haven for vegans and mecca for gut-health gurus. It has an eight-day Discover the Natural Highlights of Costa Rica tour, priced from AUS1935pp, featuring unrivalled wildlife viewing and explorations of rainforests, lush mangroves, lava fields and cloud forests.