A Guide to Green Travel: Eco-Friendly Vacations in Virginia

by Patricia Keppel | Posted: Apr 11, 2019 | Updated: Sep 10, 2019

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Scenic Farm in the Charlottesville area. Photo by John Hulburt.

While there are countless Virginia businesses committed to practices that reduce their impacts on the environment, some go above and beyond, making huge strides towards bettering Virginia’s beautiful landscapes. Visit these eco-friendly destinations or book a tour to learn about how they implement sustainable practices in their businesses.


Polyface Farms—SwoopePolyface Farm

Polyface Farms is a prime example of eco-friendly agricultural practices, raising animals and growing produce using only the most sustainable, environmentally-sound methods. For a casual view behind the scenes, the farm offers a self-guided tour Monday-Saturday during business hours, but if you want to hear from the staff, you can sign up for their Grass Stains tour, a two-hour educational walking tour of the farm, or the Lunatic Tours, which are limited to 100 people and are given from the casual pace of a hayride.


The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center—Virginia BeachVirginia Beach Aquarium

In addition to displaying a wide array of unique sea creatures in safe, natural habitats within the aquarium, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center operates the Stranding Response Program, a statewide effort to provide aid to all stranded marine mammals and sea turtles. The program examines distressed animals and offers the most humane treatment courses based on the diagnosis. Over the years, the aquarium has helped thousands of stranded, sick, and injured animals return to their homes off the coast of Virginia. Additionally, the aquarium facilitates visitor science programs, works on conservation projects like restoring coral reefs and rebuilding local osprey populations, and studies ocean trends to help marine life thrive in areas where human activities have damaged their ecosystem. To contribute to the important work done by the Virginia Aquarium, you can make a donation online, plan a visit to the aquarium, or book one of their whale and dolphin watching boat trips, where a portion of your ticket sales will support the aquarium’s education, research, and conservation efforts.


Williamsburg Winery—WilliamsburgThe Williamsburg Winery Oysters

Virginia oysters are a delicious, flavorful treat, but they are also one of the most environmentally-friendly foods out there. These plump bivalves clean the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waterways, filtering the waters and creating clean water wherever they live. Once harvested, they are taken to restaurants all over Virginia, like Gabriel Archer Tavern at The Williamsburg Winery, where they are served on the half-shell, fried, grilled, or in other savory dishes. Paired with the wines made on-site, these oysters are the perfect way to practice ecotourism while enjoying one of Virginia’s most popular foods. And after your meal, the restaurant recycles the shells with the VCU Rice Rivers Center Oyster Shell Recycling program, which are returned to Virginia waters to act as reefs for new generations of oysters.


Wild Wolf Brewing Company—NellysfordWild Wolf Brewing Company

Wild Wolf Brewing Company received the Green Brewery of the Year Award from the Virginia Green Travel Alliance for three consecutive years (2015-2017). Recycling, composting, and water and energy conservation are the main focal points for sustainable practices at Wild Wolf. A careful composting process is used for the restaurant’s on-site garden, creating rich soil to grow their own vegetables and herbs. They also grown their own hops, keeping resident chickens and ducks in the fields to eat the bugs and keep down the weeds, avoiding the use of harmful chemical pesticides. Like many Virginia breweries, Wild Wolf sends most of their spent grains to local beef farmers for feed, who then provide beef for Wild Wolf’s restaurant, creating a sustainable loop of eco-friendly business practices. Additionally, the brewery side uses recycled materials for their six pack carriers and uses cans rather than bottles for their beers, which are lighter and easier to recycle.


The Sustainable Homestead Institute—Ridgewaythe sustainable homestead institute

Focusing on sustainable development, nature reliance education, and ecological land design, The Sustainable Homestead Institute is a non-profit organization that provides an immersive experience in the skills that were used by earlier peoples to survive off the land. Sign up for courses ranging from one to five days to learn valuable outdoor skills, including how to build shelters, start fires, and create safe drinking water. Additionally, this educational facility has transformed hay fields into a research farm that produces honey, grazed beef and mutton, free-range eggs, heirloom apples, timber products, and biodynamic vegetables in a large commercial greenhouse.


The Bunny Hutch—Virginia Beach

Visit The Bunny Hutch in Virginia Beach, where almost every animal you meet is available for adoption! The Bunny Hutch operates as both an exotic animal rescue and an educational facility that teaches visitors about the care of exotic animals. To date, the crew at the Bunny Hutch have rescued over 220 animals, often saving them from homes where owners did not have the knowledge or equipment to care for specialty animals. The Bunny Hutch allows you to meet all sorts of animals, but the biggest star is definitely Lord Roland Watson Beldon Maxwell VIII, AKA Junior. The son of the world’s largest rabbit, this Continental Giant Rabbit is also the official Easter Bunny of Virginia. Stop by the Bunny Hutch to say hello to Junior and meet all the other interesting animals that call this animal rescue home!


Plan Your Own Clean Up Day To Help Local CommunitiesVirginia is for Lovers Team Cleans up The James River Richmond Virginia

If you’re looking to do your own part in keeping the local communities clean, consider signing up for a self-guided cleanup program in Virginia. There are many different organizations that provide the tools and information for cleaning up throughout the Commonwealth, including the James River Association, Keep Virginia Beautiful, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which hosts a Clean the Bay Day on the first Saturday in June, bringing together thousands of Virginians to help clean dozens of watershed areas that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

Looking for more eco-friendly businesses and things to do in Virginia? Here are a few more destinations worth a visit to learn about sustainable practices:


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The aquarium is amazing!