Every diver wants to preserve the marine worlds they explore. It’s the natural result of seeing so much threatened beauty underwater. This collective passion for conservation has paved the way for ecotourism to take root in the diving community. In fact, a 2022 Reef-World survey revealed that divers want more environmental education and are willing to pay more for sustainable dive adventures that give back to the ocean. 

Therefore, in recent years, the global dive community has demanded a transparent and trustworthy global eco label that addresses greenwashing fears and makes it easier to identify sustainable operators advocating for ocean change. 

To champion this cause, PADI created the PADI Eco Center designation for PADI Dive Centers and Resorts. PADI Eco Centers worldwide are a testament to sustainability and environmental stewardship in the diving industry.

To become a PADI Eco Center, dive shops must: 

  1. Participate in the PADI AWARE Adopt the Blue™ program
  2. Be an Active Green Fins Member
  3. Demonstrate Exemplary Environmental Performance

This initiative represents a significant stride towards improving the scuba diving ecotourism opportunities available. But what does it mean exactly for divers and the marine environment? Let’s dive into the Eco Center accreditation and discover how it’s setting a new standard for responsible diving practices.

several people looking at growing coral

What Is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a form of responsible travel that puts an emphasis on sustainability and minimizing the impact of tourist activities on the environment. It can take a number of forms, such as actively supporting conservation efforts, raising awareness through education or, as in the case of choosing a PADI Eco Center, opting to stay/participate in activities with environmentally conscious operators.

Benefits of Ecotourism

Ecotourism provides travelers with the option to minimize their impact on the environment when they travel – an option that’s trending among dive travelers in 2024. When correctly implemented, ecotourism provides a number of tangible benefits. These include:

dive guide introducing rules to divers

What Is a PADI Eco Center?

As mentioned above, a PADI Eco Center is a PADI Dive Center or Resort that has met three key criteria. These sustainability and conservation-focused operators are both members of the PADI AWARE Adopt the Blue program and the Green Fins initiative. PADI Eco Centers also need to show an above average dedication to conservation. This last requirement may be fulfilled by teaching conservation-focused courses, such as the PADI AWARE speciality, organizing beach cleanups or community outreach, to give just a few examples.

two divers hold up a PADI AWARE flag underwater

How Do Dive Shops Become a PADI Eco Center?

To achieve the designation of PADI Eco Center, PADI Dive Centers and Resorts must meet three key criteria. These are:

1. Participation in the PADI AWARE Adopt the Blue Program

PADI AWARE’s Adopt the Blue is a conservation program that oversees and maintains the world’s largest network of dive sites (more than 10,000!). PADI Dive Centers, Resorts and Professionals take responsibility for a specified dive site and – usually with the help of the local community – gather and report data through the PADI AWARE App. Dive site responsibilities also include raising awareness of conservation issues and a willingness to take policy-defined action.

2. Be an Active Green Fins Member

Potential Eco Center candidates must be a member of Green Fins. Green Fins provides a standardized way to measure the environmental impact of an organization. As a member of Green Fins, PADI Dive Centers and Resorts follow the Green Fins Code of Conduct and undergo an annual assessment. Green Fins also offers advice to operators on how to make their business and daily practices more environmentally friendly. This includes training staff for environmental awareness and engaging with local communities.

To become a PADI Eco Center, PADI Dive Centers and Resorts must meet the threshold of low environmental impact.

3. Demonstrate an Exemplary Level of Environmental Performance

PADI Dive Centers and Resorts that want to become a PADI Eco Center must show that they are continuously trying to improve their environmental performance. PADI Eco Centers show this through two methods:

  • Action Plan Engagement: Following the Green Fins assessment, the Green Fins Hub provides dive centers with six actions per year to choose from that will yield less environmental impact than the current practices of the dive center. The dive center then chooses four actions to implement over the duration of the next year. The progress against these action points is logged regularly.
    • As an example, these actions might include a prompt to better communicate the need to wear reef-safe sunscreen or to digitalize the check-in process for divers in order to reduce paper usage.
  • Community Engagement: Dive centers that want to become PADI Eco Centers must also show that they are engaged with the Green Fins community via the Green Fins Hub. Each dive center must meaningfully engage within the platform in order to improve their environmental impact score.

Altogether, the third requirement for PADI Eco Centers means their actions aren’t passive; rather they are actively engaging in hands-on efforts to protect the marine world.

Is The PADI Eco Center Designation Just Another Greenwashing Label?

No, this is not just another greenwashing label. PADI is proud of the Eco Center designation. It provides clear and trustworthy guidance for divers driven by sustainability and responsible travel. It also acts as motivation for PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to achieve this prestigious designation by leading the conservation charge. Currently, there is no comparable program in the scuba diving industry. 

But don’t just trust us; the PADI Eco Center program has received recognition from other independent authorities. In 2023, Condé Nast Traveller ranked diving with PADI Eco Centers as the second-most impactful trend impacting how travelers see the world in 2024. The article specifically mentions how the Eco Center accreditation leads the way. PADI was also selected as one of the most innovative travel companies by the Fast Company in 2024 for their conservation efforts.

This commitment to saving the ocean is at the heart of the PADI organization and is a common thread among PADI Divers around the world. “As a community, we have the capacity to set into motion a monumental and positive force for restoring and protecting the ocean, both locally and internationally,” says PADI CEO and President, Drew Richardson. The PADI Eco Center designation is one step in this humbling process.

two divers sat on a boat

How Are PADI Eco Centers Making a Positive Impact on the Marine Environment?

As is often the case, the real proof can be found in the pudding (or the ocean, in this case). So what does this positive impact look like? Paul Shepherd from Seminole Scuba, a PADI Eco Center in Florida, USA, offers an insight into the daily runnings of an environmentally friendly dive center, “We became a PADI Eco Center in 2023 and have just renewed for 2024. Being an Eco Center comes with responsibility and lots of work. We are always continually working everyday to improve and become more green.” 

An Eco Center’s active conservation efforts need to be widespread. Shepherd explains, “We have pulled hundreds of pounds of trash from the ocean and lakes around us, but there is always more. We have integrated the PADI AWARE program with all our Open Water Diver courses so all our students learn about the importance of being a marine ambassador. We make sure that on our trips, we only allow clients to use reef-safe products (sun screen, defog, etc…). We are always using the Green Fins community hub to learn new ways to improve and re-structure to be better. We found an up-cycling place from the hub for wetsuits and now have amazing changing mats/yoga mats for going diving made of old wetsuits.”

Finally, Shepherd expanded on the motivation behind the work, “We continue to work hard and that continuous work is needed for the environment we cherish so much, and to stay a PADI Eco Center.”

Positive progress has also been seen through analysis of the information submitted to Green Fins by PADI Eco Centers. JJ Harvey, Operations Director at The Reef-World Foundation (Green Fins international coordinator), explained, “Based on the information PADI Members have shared with us via the Green Fins Hub, there has been a 26% improvement in their scores.” This is good news and serves as evidence that “members who are actively participating in the Hub and taking action at their operation through the Green Fins digital membership can truly have a positive impact on the environment.” 

And for dive centers that have not yet achieved the the Eco Center designation, PADI and Green Fins are committed to providing a direct pathway to help operators become more environmentally friendly. Dive centers working towards this designation get clear advice on how to improve their processes and minimize their environmental impact, meaning we aren’t just rewarding dive centers who are already green but improving the industry’s sustainability as a whole.

teaching a specialty course in a classroom

What Does This Advancement in Ecotourism in the Scuba Diving Industry Mean for Divers?

One of the biggest impacts eco-conscious dive travelers will notice is in their booking experience. Identifying dive centers committed to conservation has never been easier thanks to the PADI Eco Center designation. Divers can now book courses or trips knowing the operators meet specific criteria and are committed to sustainable practices.

Once at their chosen PADI Eco Center, divers will be able to see the program in action. Divers and students should look out for evidence of Green Fins membership and the accompanying practices. Additionally, for the more curious, visitors should enquire with their trip leader or PADI Instructor about the Eco Center’s Adopt the Blue dive site(s) and additional activities. This may also garner the chance for involvement with any ongoing conservation efforts (think clean-ups or education programs). 

Ultimately, a day diving with a PADI Eco Center doesn’t always look different to a day diving with other PADI Dive Centers. But, divers can rest assured that conservation efforts are always in action.

group standing around a padi aware flag

Dive With a Purpose – Go Eco!  

Making sustainable choices and supporting meaningful conservation has never been easier. Choose an Eco Center for your next adventure and experience the true value of regenerative travel firsthand.  

Share This

Related Posts