Responsible Travel Philosophy

What is Responsible Travel?

Responsible travel implements practices that are respectful of natural and social-cultural environments and contributes to local economic development. Responsible travel raises awareness about a traveler’s own impacts on the environment.

A guide talking about petroglyphs to the group.
Kids playing in the river in Fiji.

OARS Responsible Travel Policy

OARS guides and employees deeply respect and care for the wonderful places we visit. As stewards of more than 35 rivers and shorelines, our goal isn’t simply to be one of the most environmentally responsible tour operators in the world, but to continually raise the bar and challenge other companies to raise their standards as well. While our responsible travel policies and operator standards are a constant work in progress, our commitment to socially and environmentally-conscious travel has been a part of our foundation since the company’s inception in 1969. We consistently implement the following responsible travel ideals and practices:

  • We believe in supporting the local communities in the regions to which we travel, and actively engage with and create programs to foster sustainable, authentic preservation of those communities.
  • We respect the natural environment, and to ensure minimal impact, we use responsible leadership and maintain small groups. We follow expertly designed on-the-ground practices.
  • We prepare travelers for each encounter with local cultures, plants, and animals while teaching environmentally– and culturally–sensitive ways of enjoying our travel experiences.
  • We avoid areas that are under-managed and over-visited.
  • Staff members personally encourage and actively support awareness, deeper appreciation, and preservation of our rivers and natural ecosystems. Our trips emphasize heightened attentiveness to human impact on the environment.
  • All staff members have access to programs that upgrade their ability to communicate effectively with our guests.
  • We contribute to the conservation of visited regions with voluntary donations, fundraising efforts, and permit fees.
  • We provide competitive, local employment in all aspects of business operations and participate in recycling programs both on and off the water.
  • We work with local communities, businesses, and individuals to develop sustainable tourism opportunities that help local economies while minimizing negative environmental and cultural impacts.
  • We utilize alternative energy sources such as solar power, along with fuel-efficient vehicles and support vessels whenever possible to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • We provide on-site employee housing or camping in most destinations, sparing guides and staff from potentially lengthy, carbon-emitting commutes.
Solar panels.
A guide helping a young traveler.


Each year, OARS contributes to regional conservation organizations around the globe via voluntary donations and annual fundraising events. In partnership with our guests, OARS has contributed more than $6 million in donations and fees toward the preservation of the environment and to various conservation initiatives in our 50+ years in business. The following are a few of the organizations that receive our support annually:


Rivers Fiji

In 1998, with the dedicated support of OARS president & founder George Wendt, Rivers Fiji set up low-impact commercial whitewater rafting trips on the Upper Navua River in Fiji and worked with native landholders to establish a conservation area to preserve a segment of the Fijian highlands. In the fall of 2000, Rivers Fiji signed the final papers for a 25-year lease of the land extending 200 meters on either side of the Upper Navua to establish the Upper Navua Conservation Area. The lease precludes logging, road building, or mining in the fragile river corridor and contributes to the ecological preservation of the area and our long-term commitment to the integrity of the Upper Navua Gorge. All guides are native Fijians, hired locally with a stake in the long-term sustainability of the region. To date, the indigenous community has earned more than $1,000,000 through lease payments, trip fees, guide pay, and related financial contributions. Additionally, each year Rivers Fiji organizes a group of doctors and engineers from the U.S. to offer free medical clinics and to build facilities to improve water quality, and the company sponsors a number of river trips for youth from local villages.

Group rafting in Fiji.
Group navigating rapids in Fiji.
Rocks and rainforest in Fiji.


The OARS warehouse and main office in Angels Camp, California, and our Grand Canyon operations warehouse and office in Flagstaff, Arizona, run on 100% solar power. The two systems together generate enough electricity to keep 8 medium-sized houses supplied with electricity for a year.

Leave No Trace

OARS is a proud partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. We share in, practice, and support Leave No Trace skills and ethics and believe in the stewardship of America’s public lands.

Klean Kanteen

Starting in 2014, OARS partnered with Klean Kanteen to provide all overnight guests with healthy, high-quality and BPA-free stainless steel beverage containers to promote and encourage health, sustainability, and environmental awareness and reduce dependence on single-use products. Each 12-ounce insulated Klean Kanteen is embellished with the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.

Klean Kanteen bag.
Person hiking above a river.

Sustainable Printing

In addition to purchasing recycled paper products and using printing companies that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), OARS is committed to reducing the use of paper across our organization. In 2010, we converted to 90% email-only confirmations in our continued effort to reduce paper use in our office. We reduced our focus on direct mail marketing and downsized our annual catalog print run in favor of better paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content. We also introduced easy-to-navigate online versions of multiple OARS catalogs.

At Work in Our Community

We believe in supporting the communities where we run our trips, whether through donations to local non-profit organizations, sourcing local goods and hiring local guides, attending community meetings, sponsoring and hosting educational and charitable events, or through on-the-ground conservation work.

Pam & George Wendt Foundation

The Pam & George Wendt Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization created to provide the ethical, educational, and experiential foundation for inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards and outdoor enthusiasts.

What You Can Do

  • Select adventure companies that practice responsible travel
  • Choose vacations that are inherently low carbon-emitting
  • Consider offsetting the carbon emissions you generate from traveling

Travelers Code of Conduct

  • Respect native artifacts and leave them untouched
  • Respect wildlife
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Reduce waste and leave no trace
  • Respect the environment
  • Utilize biodegradable products in the wilderness
  • Support local vendors

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