Travel With Purpose
This week, Becky and Vacations Away owner Michelle N. were in Seattle for the annual Ensemble Travel conference. The theme of this years event was “Travel With Purpose”, and speakers included Spencer West, Brett Tollman of The Travel Corporation, Ally & Scott Svenson of the Seattle Coffee Company & Mod Pizza, and Jodi Manning of Cool Effect just to name a few.
What is travel with purpose and how can we take part? The current climate crisis is a focus every day for each of us. We can’t ignore it (nor should we). At Vacations Away, when you book your vacation with us, we provide reusable drink mugs with straws, travel totes/backpacks for day excursions and beach uses, addressable luggage tags to avoid using the paper ones that are airport provided, documents are sent out in a PDF to your email rather than being printed out (unless you opt in to paper copies), etc. As an office, how do we do our part? We recycle printed paper and work on excel spreadsheets, we wash and recycle take out containers, soup cans, yogurt cups etc, and we collect our compostable food waste to add to compost.
There is always more that can be done and climate change is bigger than a system of reduce, reuse, recycle and avoiding plastic straws and cups. It goes to the core of humanity. We know that todays’ traveler is more concerned with the experience than the destination. They want more fulfilling adventures and want to return from their trip feeling like they left some good behind and that their trip made a difference. This week, we were reminded of longstanding and new to us companies offering travel experiences with which you can make a direct effect on the local economy and ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. For example, Canada’s own G Adventures founded the non-profit charitable organization Planeterra in 2003. Guests travelling with G Adventures can make a donation with their booking that goes directly to Planeterra and due to G’s profit margin they are able to cover 100% of Planeterra’s overhead costs. This means every single dollar raised stays in the communities where they are actively working. Planeterra has contributed millions to social enterprises like Parwa Restaurant in Peru, Mi Cafecito in Costa Rica, Tribal Textiles in Zambia, Women on Wheels in India, the Maldives Plastic Program, and many more. Planeterra is focused on helping disadvantaged women in rural areas, creating new pathways for youth, preserving local culture and environmental protection. To that end, Planeterra currently has 85 active projects in 51 countries across all 7 continents.
Equally important is The Travel Corporations’ TreadRight Foundation. TreadRight essentially means “Make Travel Matter”. With every vacation you book with any of The Travel Corporations’ brands (Trafalgar, Insight, AATKings, Uniworld, and Contiki to name a few) they want to ensure that each and every traveller treads right. TreadRight’s mission is simple – to have a positive impact on the people and communities they visit, to protect wildlife and marine life, and to care for the planet we call home. The easiest way to contribute to TreadRight and their global initiative is the next time you book a vacation with one of the Travel Corporations’ brands, elect to receive e-documents instead of printed documents. In doing this, TreadRight will plant a tree in your name. Since starting this particular initiative, TreadRight has planted over 100,000 trees spread over 700 acres through North and Latin America, Asia and Africa. Alternatively, if you have no travel plans but want to do better on your next vacation, let the world know you’ve heard by taking TreadRight’s pledge: https://www.treadright.org/pledge/
Cool Effect. This company, which has partnered with Ensemble Travel, is doing everything in their power to reduce carbon emissions. What are carbon emissions and how does me paying money equal a reduced carbon footprint? I asked that question, too. I had no idea. Every one of us creates carbon, when you breathe out you put carbon into the atmosphere. No one can be faulted for a natural, biological necessity. What we can do is look after the carbon we create on a day to day basis via our daily habits. Every person creates, on average, 17 tonnes of carbon per year. For example, a flight from San Francisco to New York creates approximately 2 tons of carbon per person. To offset that carbon emission would cost around $7 per tonne. What happens then, is that money is given to programs that help reverse carbon emissions such as Sea of Change in Myanmar where mangroves are planted along the coast line for coastal protection against rising sea levels. Mangroves naturally absorb carbon and store it in the soil. They grow quickly and can therefore soak up a large amount of carbon in a short amount of time. That money you donate also goes towards initiatives like BioGas digesters for farmers, providing clean cookstoves to impoverished families, erecting wind turbines and capturing methane which is then converted to usable energy. To my mind, that fee is worth every penny.
So what about you? How can you as a traveler help this issue? First, it’s obvious – travel with PDF documents or use the tour operator app, refuse single use plastics by taking your provided Vacations Away travel mug, pay via the airline or Cool Effect to offset your carbon footprint, take an hour to pick up garbage from the beach or park, choose hotels and resorts that have made commitments to green initiatives (Hyatt, Fairmont, Sandos, AMResorts, etc), and elect to only have room service every other day. These are the items to get you started, but what about something bigger? What else can you do? Take the road less travelled. Avoid the overcrowding in Italy’s Cinque Terra by heading to the Amalfi Coast instead, visit Eastern Europe to help out the local economy who are so in need if tourism’s economic benefits. Travel with tour operators who offer local living experiences so you can have a meaningful cultural exchange. Stay in locally owned hotels and eat at locally owned and operated restaurants. Pay fairly for the items people are providing and take the train instead of flying – it’ll be a more relaxing and beautiful way to see the location you would have otherwise missed while in an aircraft. But also, don’t take this information to make yourself feel badly for your past travel habits. We can be a part of society while learning how to better it. After all – once we know better, we do better.