How Cuba Went Green: An eco-exploration of our island neighbor

In May of 2015, shortly after I came aboard as the CEO of Cross Cultural Journeys, we ran a wonderful trip called “How Cuba Went Green: And What the Future Holds,” exploring the surprising ways Cuba’s recent history has turned the island into a global leader in environmental sustainability — from its thriving coral reefs and mangroves to innovative practices in sustainable agriculture and transportation. I am excited to announce that we are partnering again with our friend Dr. David Guggenheim to run another How Cuba Went Green trip, April 27-May 6, 2017.


For a taste of that first trip, watch this short video by Nick Clark, the environment editor at Al Jazeera English, looking at the potential environmental impacts the tsunami of new tourism from the U.S. could wreak on Cuba:



Dr. Guggenheim runs the Ocean Doctor, a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on protecting Cuba’s marine ecosystems. For over 15 years, he has worked with Cuban scientists researching the island’s marine life, particularly its coral reefs, and advocating for policies and programs to keep them healthy and promote ecotourism, not the kind of massive all-inclusive resort development that has devastated marine environments on the Yucatán and elsewhere in the Caribbean. “Ironically, the U.S. can be more of a threat to Cuba as its friend than it ever was as its enemy,” he told Al Jazeera. “Because millions of us want to come down and enjoy this place. And that creates pressure on the Cubans to build hotels, accommodations, tourist resorts.”


Elkhorn coral
Elkhorn coral. Photo: Flickr: moondance38

The remarkable health and resilience of Cuba’s coral reefs — like the majestic golden elkhorn corals which have gone extinct in 95% of the Caribbean — have been attributed to Cuba’s forced economic decline in the early 1990’s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union dried up Cuba’s oil supply, and Congress tightened the U.S. trade embargo, denying the country access to the capital needed to develop its coastlines. Without access to cheap Russian oil for industrial agriculture or transportation, the country switched almost entirely to organic farming, and implemented a variety of creative solutions to move people around. For example, they imported 3 million bicycles from China and passed a law requiring all government-owned vehicles to pick up hitchhikers.



Bici-taxi in Trinidad
Pedicabs (or “bici-taxis”) are a common mode of sustainable transport throughout Cuba.

On our upcoming How Cuba Went Green trip (April 27 – May 6, 2017) Dr. Guggenheim will take you on a deep dive into Cuba’s agricultural and coastal communities — including some scuba or snorkeling adventures. You will see firsthand how and why Cuba’s environment is so different from its island neighbors. And you will learn about both the threats that lay ahead for Cuba as it receives a growing wave of tourism and investment, and the opportunities for Americans to help Cuba chart a different, greener course. Book your spot on this exciting journey today and explore How Cuba Went Green!


Reducing our own footprint


We strive to provide our travelers with rich cultural experiences, while leaving a minimal impact on the social and environmental fabric of the places we visit. Toward that goal, we recently joined TAP (Travelers Against Plastic) and are taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles generated by our travelers. From now on, we will encourage our travelers to bring their own refillable water bottles and methods for purifying the local tap water, such as a SteriPen, which uses UV light technology to safely sterilize river, lake or tap water anywhere in the world. If you book a spot on our April How Cuba Went Green journey by January 15th, you’ll receive a beautiful refillable water bottle for free!


Walking our talk: CCJ joins RESPECT


You can also learn here about another exciting initiative that has just been launched. RESPECT (Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel), is a new association of organizations providing travel to Cuba, and CCJ is proud founding member. More about RESPECT and our joint efforts in the months and years to come!


travel well!

Cilla Utne

President & CEO

Scroll to Top