5 Sustainability Lessons from Bhutan

Bhutan, a relatively small country with a population of around 750,000 people, nestled deep in the Himalayans, between China and India, is now the only carbon negative country in the world. The 72% forest coverage and low production of CO2 has transformed Bhutan into a “carbon sink”, absorbing over 6 millions tons of carbon annually while only producing 1.5 million tons.

However, this is not accidental; Bhutan has a number of policies and national programs in place to protect the country’s environment, society, culture and traditions.


  1. High value, low impact tourism

Kingdom of Bhutan’s travel policy is “high value travel, low impact/ volume tourism” to keep its exclusivity and ensure travellers are getting an enriching experience there while avoiding mass tourism that might negatively impact the environment and society.

The country requires a visa ($40 per day), and tourists must pay the “Minimum Daily Package” that can only be arranged through an officially approved travel tour or agent. The package costs around $250 per day during high season, and $200 per day during low season and includes majority of things you would need such as accommodation, food, tour guide, camping and trekking equipment, as well as a $65 daily sustainable development fee. This model allows Bhutan to ensure there is a limited number of tourists in the country at a time.

2. Focus on population happiness rather than economic growth

Political decisions in Bhutan are mainly based on their Gross National Happiness growth index rather than Gross Domestic Product  growth index, placing more importance on wellbeing of the population and environment rather than economic growth at the expense of the environment.

3. Nature preservation

72% of the country is still forested and a ban is put in place to ensure forested areas will not drop lower than 60%. A ban has also been put on export logging and the government has started to provide rural farmers with free electricity to lessen their dependence on wood stoves for cooking.

Bhutan also set a Guinness World Record in 2015 by planting almost 50,000 trees in just 1 hour and in 2016 tens of thousands of people turned up to plant 108,000 trees to celebrate the birth of the prince (talk about a great birthday gift!).

5. Ambitious plans to continously improve

The country is determined to further minimise their environmental impact and has put ambitious plans in place for that. By 2030, Bhutan plans to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions and zero waste, change all cars to electric cars, and have 100% organic food by 2020.

Watch this inspirational TED talk by Bhutan’s Primer Minister Tshering Tobgay about the country’s mission and commitment to the environment.