Norway is a country of outstanding natural beauty – dramatic waterfalls, crystal clear fjords, majestic mountains, captivating wilderness and spectacular glaciers – and preserving this unspoilt and beautiful landscape is key to the satisfaction of most visitors to Norway.
Certified sustainable destinations
Much of the tourism industry in Norway conforms to certificates and standards of environmentally friendly conduct, most notably under Green Travel and Ecotourism Norway. These labels ensure that strict rules and regulations in pollution, recycling and energy use are followed, and make it easier for customers to choose to travel in an eco-friendly way.
In order for a destination itself to achieve certification as sustainable, however, a broader set of criteria must be met. A consistent effort to plan for sustainable tourism and support and strengthen environmental programs over time is required, as well as working to preserve the destination's history, character and nature, among others. In addition, certification places demands on the development of the destination's businesses and society following principles of sustainability.
The tourism providers and local authorities have to cooperate to have a destination certified, and so far four destinations in Norway have achieved the label "Sustainable destination", with many more in the pipeline.
Røros in Trøndelag
In 2012, Destination Røros received the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Destination Stewardship at the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Awards celebration in Tokyo. The awards are among the highest accolades in the global travel and tourism industry, giving international recognition to best practice examples of sustainable tourism in action.
Destination Røros was also a winner of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travelaward in 2011. The jury commented: "This former mining town in Norway may have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, but it's been preserving traditions as a tourist destination for over 85 years. Attracting over one million visitors each year, the town of just 3,700 inhabitants maintains its sense of place through a 'local knowledge' programme run for over 90 businesses, local food safaris and much more."
Find out more about visiting Røros.
Lærdal by the Sognefjord
The Norwegian fjord landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Lærdal features dramatic mountain tops and lush, green surroundings that reveal a lively agriculture industry.
Borgund Stave Church - the best preserved stave church in Norway, dating back to 1180 - is found in Lærdal, as is Norsk Villakssenter (the Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre). The Gamle Lærdalsøyri Village is beautifully preserved, and istestament to the area's commitment to sustainability.
Find out more about visiting Lærdal.
Trysil in Eastern Norway
Trysil is one of the most varied areas in Norway. From mountains to forests, rivers to lakes, and from summer to winter, Trysil can offer sustainable activities for almost everybody. In summer, whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing and various wildlife safaris are sustainable activities that may appeal, and in winter there are sleigh rides, skiing and ice fishing, just to mention a few alternatives. Trysil, as one of Norway's largest alpine destinations, has introduced advanced technological solutions for energy saving.
Trysil is a prime area of Norwegian wilderness and has some of the country's largest populations of such wild animals as beaver, bear, wolf, lynx, wolverine, golden eagle, moose and deer, among others.
Find out more about visiting Trysil.
The Vega Islands
The Vega Archipelago in the county of Nordland consists of more than 6,000 islands, reefs and skerries. Many bird watchers make their way there, and not without reason: The area is full of eider ducks and 210 other species of birds, including sea eagles and various ducks, cormorants and geese. The Vega islands were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. According to the jury, "The Vega archipelago reflects the way generations of fishermen/farmers have, over the past 1500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eider down harvesting, and it also celebrate the contribution made by women to the eider down process."
Please be aware that part of the archipelago is a nature reserve and access to these areas between 15 April and 31 July is strictly forbidden.
Find out more about visiting the Vega Islands.
Sustainability on a national level
Norwegian philosophy is very much that sustainability is everyone's responsibility. Enjoying nature and the outdoors is considered a national pasttime, and this is reflected in the people's attitude towards conservation and use of the wilderness.
As of August 2013 no less than 7% of mainland Norway is made up of 37 national parks, and almost 17% of mainland Norway consists of protected areas in one form or another, not counting Svalbard. This is in accordance with the goals set by the International Union for Concervation of Nature (IUCN).
Access to protected areas is for the most part still allowed, however, due to Norway's right of access-law. Originally this was an age-old tradition, but has since been set down in law. Even today, it is still based on a long-term respect for nature and wilderness that is prevalent in Norway.
Over 99% of all plastic bottles sold in Norway today are recycled. When you buy almost any bottle with potable contents, you pay a small fee which is refunded when the bottle is returned to any grocery shop or supermarket.
Most municipalities in Norway also recycle glass, metals, paper and cardboard, as well as plastics. In Oslo and other major cities, food waste is collected and used to make bio-diesel for buses, whereas elsewhere in Norway it is often composted privately or used to make animal feed. Methane from landfills is also sometimes burned to generate heat for homes in the surrounding area, saving energy and reducing pollution in the cities.
Transportation and power
Between cities in Norway, the most environmentally friendly means of transport is the train. Most trains in Norway run on electricity and are equipped with generators that regenerate power on downhill stretches and feeds it back into the system, making it available to other trains.
Due to an abundance of inland water, Norway is rich in hydroelectric power, which constitutes around 98% of the electricity used nationwide. This, along with powerful incentives like waived or reduced tax and fees, has made electrically powered cars more popular in Norway than anywhere else in the world.
Many of the larger cities in Norway can also offer electric public transport locally. In Bergen, electric buses have been part of the city scene for generations, and in recent years an electric metro has also been built and put to use. The numerous tram- and metrolines are all electric in Oslo, and many of the city's buses are running on low-emission natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells which emit only water.
Much of Norway is sparsely populated and maintains a well-developed network of public transport between smaller municipalities and settlements, mainly in the form of buses, trains and ferries. In many cases this will make owning a car less than essential for many locals and travellers alike, even relatively far off the beaten track.
Making the most of what is available without depleting natural resources is reflected in Norwegian food traditions. Many Norwegians catch their own seafood and some also hunt wild game along with picking berries, growing apples or running small farms. This gives many local restaurants around the country easy access to first-class ingredients for use in their kitchens, making quality control easier and more reliable. Restaurants and other eateries that make Norwegian food from scratch using local ingredients can be found through the Norwegian Foodprints service.
Most hotels and resorts in Norway are making efforts to control energy and water consumption, as well as waste generation and recycling. In-room energy-saving devices such as automatic light switches, low-flush toilets, wash basins with sensors, as well as energy efficient dishwashers and washing machines and low dosing and eco-labelled chemicals for cleaning and washing up are now common. In many hotels bed linen and towels are no longer changed daily unless specifically requested by guests.
Many operators in Norway offer safe, nature-based activities such as dog-sledding, hiking, kayaking, as well as bird watching and wildlife safaris. Fishing in rivers, lakes and fjords, sailing or cycling are other options. These are all environmentally friendly activities with little or no impact on local ecosystems, and that can often be combined with other eco-friendly activities and means of transport.
As a member of the International Ecotourism Society, Ecotourism Norway is a national scheme that holds a high international level in ecotourism, and each certified enterprise has to meet 100 strict criteria on environmental performance, host-role, local community integration and purchasing. So far, 20 different ecotourism providers in Norway are certified. The certificate is renewed every three years if criteria and improvement is approved.
Find your provider of eco-friendly destinations and activities in Norway.
While not ecotourism as such, Hanen can help you find local agro-tourism gems, with its listings of eateries, accommodation and activities in rural Norway. Similarly, Olavsrosa (The St. Olav's Rose) can help you find places of special significance to Norwegian cultural and historical heritage.
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