Sustainable Arctic Tourism 101: How To Make a Positive Impact

Arctic polar bear resting on an iceberg by Annie Spratt via Unsplash.

As an ethical traveler, there’s one question you probably ask yourself all the time: How do I travel sustainably and responsibly –  without harming the place I came so far to see?

When you’re considering an Arctic trip, this question becomes even more important. As fragile as it is harsh, the Arctic is a poster child for climate change. The reports you’ve read about receding glaciers and all those gut-wrenching photos of hungry polar bears? They aren’t exaggerating – the Arctic is truly experiencing climate change more intensely than the rest of the world (boo). 

These days, every small action counts, so it’s great that you’re weighing your options! Luckily, sustainable Arctic tourism is possible. If you plan your trip consciously, you can even make a positive impact on the roof of the world!

How Tourism Impacts the Arctic

When you visit the Arctic, you step into one of the wildest environments left on Earth. As you listen to the silence and gaze over the icy expanse toward the horizon, it can be easy to forget that trouble is afoot. 

But the effects of climate change on the Arctic are undisputable. Temperatures are rising faster than any other region on Earth, coastal erosion is at a high, ice is receding, and indigenous populations are unable to rely on traditional travel routes and food sources (!).

There’s also the effect of shipping and oil drilling on the Arctic: our increasing demand for resources is fracturing an already-vulnerable landscape…

Just by being here, you’re an active player in this historical moment. The type of travel you choose – the companies and locals you give your business to – can determine whether you’ll help push back against the damage that’s currently being done (we can!).

Is Arctic Tourism Bad for the Environment?

Arctic tourism’s impact can be negative, but it certainly doesn’t have to be!

Critics of Arctic tourism point to companies like corporate cruise lines, which rely heavily on “last-chance” marketing tactics, have large carbon footprints, and usually don’t contribute much to benefit Arctic communities or the environment.  

Also, some tourists’ behavior toward local wildlife and communities can veer (unintentionally!) into disrespect. They might approach animals too closely or disrupt small settlements, where the effects of Arctic tourism are strongly felt. But issues like these are easy to avoid. 

The Positive Impacts of Arctic Ecotourism

With its breathtaking landscapes and populations of seabirds, marine mammals, polar bears, and other iconic wildlife, the Arctic has become a hub for ecotourism. 

Arctic ecotourism is simply a subset of the wider Arctic travel industry that contributes to conservation just as it helps travelers experience the natural beauty around them. 

Arctic communities are tight-knit and far-flung, so it’s common for the same outfitters to serve recreational travelers as well as researchers and activists. Many lodges and tour providers have close ties to non-profits and research organizations. (They may even have a nonprofit of their own!)

By choosing conscious travel providers, you’ll ensure that your trip has a positive impact. Some Arctic ecotourism businesses set aside a portion of your travel fees specifically for research. While this does raise the price of your trip a bit, you’ll know that these dollars are going directly to projects that will conserve wildlife and protect the environment.

Inside a Conscious Arctic Tour 

A drone shot of Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge via Arctic Watch.

When we designed our Arctic Yoga Adventure, keeping our carbon footprint small and our net impact positive was a top priority. We’re already partnered with a crazy futuristic carbon removal tech company for previous adventures, but we had even loftier sustainability goals for this adventure to the Arctic. So we just had to find the perfect destination and partner..

On our Arctic adventure, you’ll travel to Arctic Watch in Nunavut, Canada: an off-the-grid wilderness lodge that’s built to minimize impact. Our friends at Arctic Watch are all about fostering connection between travelers and the landscape through a smorgasbord of outings and educational events. They also have their own charitable research foundation, the Arctic Watch Beluga Foundation. All that to say: the Arctic Watch team is a stellar example of low-impact ecotourism at work.

What does this low-impact Arctic trip look like for you, the traveler?

  • Infrequent flights. The last leg of your journey to Arctic Watch will be a charter flight from Yellowknife, Canada. These flights run just once a week, so while we do have to plan around that schedule, fewer flights mean less jet fuel burned (yay).
  • Efficient electric heat. As you’d expect, the heating bill for a lodge north of the Arctic Circle (74° North, to be exact!) can get pretty astronomical. By heating cabins in the morning and evening only, they’re able to reduce the energy they use and keep you comfy when you’re moving about your room. You’ll be out adventuring during the day, and at night, you’re tucked under an extra-thick quilt!
  • Centralized showers. The hot water system is kept within the main building. You’ll have to leave your cabin to use the shared showers, but by doing so, you help avoid the much higher energy use of individual water heaters or outdoor plumbing between cabins!
  • Locally-sourced meals. This one’s a win-win – who could complain about authentic Canadian cuisine? Though some food items come from farther afield in Canada, there’s a focus on organic and sustainable meals. From Arctic char to Alberta Organic beef to bread baked on site, you’ll get a taste of sustainable luxury.
  • Your trip fees, dedicated to research. $500 of your trip fee goes straight to the Arctic Watch Beluga Foundation, a registered Canadian charity dedicated to the same wildlife you’ll get to see. Namely, they’re researching muskox diseases caused by climate change and tracking local Beluga populations!
  • Armed with knowledge. You can’t avoid learning a lot about wildlife, the environment, and the history of Arctic travel on this trip. (Your travel app will come with a recommended reading list, so get ready to study!) You’ll leave our Arctic Yoga Adventure inspired and motivated to help advance the conservation movement in this impressive and imperiled land.

Every moment you spend in the Arctic, you’ll grow closer to the land. You’ll seek out wildlife with the expertise of the guides, venture into frigid waters on a sea kayak, and e-bike across the tundra. Sure, you’ll make a few, small sacrifices, but the reduced impact and huge adventure is oh-so worth it. 

And of course, because you’re adventuring with The Travel Yogi, you’ll be in the company of an awesome group of like-minded  travelers. Together, you’ll ground your adventures down with just the right amount of yoga practice (with a view that cannot be beat!). 

If you’ve chosen responsible to travel to the Arctic with us, you’re already doing an amazing job at reducing your trip’s impact. 

Feeling more empowered to book your trip? It’s time to get to the Arctic. The (conscious, sustainable) journey of a lifetime awaits you.  (2025 sold out, waitlist only!)

I’m Arctic Dreaming…