One of the best parts about traveling is that there are so many ways to, well, go away. You can chill on a beach, go hiking the woods, check out a new city, or even use your time away to do some good in the world.
About that last one: The nonprofit organization Ethical Traveler recently published its annual list of the top 10 most ethical developing countries in the world. If you decide to go to one of the places on the list, you’ll be contributing to the world in a positive way — simply by putting your travel money there instead of somewhere else. “By spending your travel dollars in forward-thinking countries, you can reward the good guys—and encourage good practices worldwide,” says Ethical Traveler in their press release about the list.
The 2016 list includes five repeat winners—Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), Dominica, Samoa, Tonga, and Uruguay—and five new ones. Meet them all:
1. Cabo Verde: The Gender Equalizer
This island nation off the coast of Africa not only holds dozens of women in high-ranking public and private sector positions, but it also just celebrated its third annual Gay Pride week. And since Cabo Verde is home to one of the world’s largest populations of loggerhead turtles, environmentalists and NGOs have spent years working to protect their native nesting grounds.
2. Dominica: The Protector of the Whales
The Caribbean island nation Dominica has long been a proponent of oceanic protection, but they recently upped their efforts to stand against the whaling industry. This past year, the government instated a compulsory nationwide school program that teaches students to protect and respect the ocean’s largest mammals, along with all forms of marine life.
3. Grenada: The LGBT Watchdog
Citizens of this Caribbean archipelago use nurseries to protect and regenerate their coral reefs, and they are considering constitutional reform to improve the rights of LGBT people.
4. Mongolia: The Well-Rounded All Star
Mongolia generates electricity via solar power for about 20 percent of its population, including 70 percent of the herders who roam its vast Gobi Desert, mountains, and plateaus. The country has earmarked nearly 15 percent of its land as protected, and has an increasing awareness of coal, copper, and gold mining’s impact on the environment. Mongolians receive subsidies to care for terminally ill family members and recognize International Women’s day as a national holiday.
5. Samoa: The Change Maker
While Samoa has a history of domestic violence as a cultural norm, this Pacific nation recently commissioned its first State of Human Rights report in an effort to counteract the widespread acceptance of abuse. Both domestic violence measures and LGBT rights have improved this year, and last year, rape within marriage was outlawed by the Crimes Act. What’s more, the Fa’afafine, traditionally thought of as a ‘third sex’ in Samoa, are now legally allowed to dress as women, says Ethical Traveler in a press release.
And finally, the country has strengthened its environmental investment by increasing the amount of solar plants on the island.
6. Tonga: The All Around Goodie
Not only did Tonga rank the highest in terms of Environment Protection out of all ethical destinations, but it also has the highest literacy rate: At 99%, they are well above the worldwide average of 84%. The country also hosted its first Pacific Rights on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Conference in 2015, and has increased anti-human trafficking efforts over the past year.
7. Tuvalu: The Creative Climatologist
This cluster of nine South Pacific coral atolls (including five uninhabited islets where travelers can snorkel, walk, and go birdwatching) is one of 43 countries on The Climate Vulnerable Forum, which addresses innovative solutions to problems created by climate change. Tuvaluans have a literacy rate of 99 percent, and, like Micronesia, the country is extending Internet access across its islands’ 16 square miles.
8. Uruguay: The Animal and Environment Protector
While Uruguay has a long history of taking a progressive stance toward human rights, this past year they have upped their efforts to protect their furry friends. Not only have they banned animals from performing in circuses and enforced a law that prevents cart-drawing horses from overwork, they also issued a legal decree that ensures all animals basic rights and welfare. And although Uruguay already supplies 90% of its energy from sustainable sources this year, they have big goals for the future: They hope to eventually build the world’s first sustainable airport.
9. Federated States of Micronesia: The Energy Expert
Micronesia aims to increase renewable energy by at least 30 percent by 2020, and the government recently passed legislation to protect a 78-acre wetland, part of a larger effort to preserve the country’s 1,400-acre Yela Valley. They country is also extending Internet access across the Oceanian atoll east of Polynesia to improve education.
10. Panama: The Animal Protector
Panamanians recently passed an animal-welfare law that bans dogfighting, greyhound-racing, hare-coursing, and bullfighting, while regulating circus animal performances. Panama has also ratified six key international child labor conventions.