Ecotourism – environmentally responsible travel to enjoy nature, promote conservation and cultivate an understanding for, and appreciation of, local cultures – combines educational components with low-impact visitor behavior and sustainable benefits to the local community. The following ecotourism destinations in the Philadelphia area promote appreciation and understanding for nature and the protection of local and global cultural heritage.

The Philadelphia Zoo

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The nation’s first zoo has served the Philadelphia area for over 150 years, operating under the principles of ecotourism since before the term was even coined, embracing conservation and environmental education as well as corporate and environmental sustainability. “Committed to connecting people with wildlife,” the Philadelphia Zoo has served as a leader and an example among local organizations and the community in green, sustainably operating practices in the areas of energy, water, waste, transportation and green practices. Partnering with the community in many of its efforts, the Philadelphia Zoo promotes, educates and models greener living practices through educational programs and services in the community and on-site as well as through its many interactive exhibits. Active engagement of the community at many levels includes a teacher advisory committee as well as an elementary school-age advisory committee, providing educators and students with platforms for input and opportunities to be engaged through hands-on, behind-the-scenes experiences.

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, is an arboretum and botanical garden with 11,000 different plant types and well over 1,000 acres to explore. For use in its restaurants, Longwood grows fruits, vegetables and herbs for use “in combination with compostable dishes – even the water bottles sold at Longwood Gardens are crafted from compostable materials rather than plastic.” Sustainable practices include workshops and interactive exhibits that embrace local culture, history and sustainable living as well as recycling of all water through an effluent irrigation system, collaboration with local farmers to provide foods not grown on site, energy-efficient lighting throughout displays and sustainable décor and eco-friendly furnishings in its restaurants.

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Reading Terminal Market

A popular attraction to visitors of Philadelphia is the Reading Terminal Market, a mecca of sustainable shopping, dining and cultural experiences. Many of the products sold at the market are crafted from organic and natural materials, including sought-after items from nearby Amish farms and workshops. From shops selling organic toys, gifts, bedding and more to restaurants and vendors selling fresh produce, hand-crafted home-goods, clothing, jewelry, candy and baked goods, this indoor marketplace is a must-visit tourist destination for the eco-conscious traveler.

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Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on