LET’S TALK ABOUT… SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL
How to live a greener life
The world right now is focused on the environment. Every time we hear the news, pick up a paper, a magazine, listen to a world leader speak, an actor or an activist, they’re talking green. We have to pay attention. LuxuryBARED’s editor-at-large, Alison Holmes, took stock of her standing. Was there to be rejoicing or reconnoitring, she wondered?
As an avid traveller, are you cognizant of how much you contribute to the planet’s wellbeing? Its future? Its deterioration? Everyone’s talking about it. And, as far as I’m concerned, I think – no, I know – that I should be a lot more conscious of my carbon footprint. But how much damage am I doing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Am I careless? Am I a countable, contributing component to some of the negative things happening to the planet? And what can I do about that? Tourism, and travel in general, will never be entirely sustainable as every industry has impacts, but we can all work towards making it more sustainable.
Assuming you’re in the same boat (or aircraft) that I’m on, let’s assess. Travel makes up just one component of going green. So, should we go vegan, as meat and dairy are generally more resource-intensive to produce than plant-based foods that therefore increase the pressure on land, water and the climate; take public transport everywhere, cycle; never buy another LV handbag; ditch the designer labels and wear cotton clothes in all shades of mud? Well probably not all the way, but we certainly need to take stock of what we’re doing, make some serious strides to change our habits, and support the brands which are going the extra mile to pay back to the world.
It’s confusing; overwhelming, really. The story is complex and not yet finite, but it’s well-and-truly here to stay. Starting at the beginning, it’s easy to understand the dilemma if we categorise living life sustainably into three groups, the three Ts as it were, which, while not my personal formula, is much better than any I could come up with when I tried. So, here goes: Turn off, Trash and Transport.
The first two are simpler to come to grips with, and I think most of us follow the rules these days, rinsing yoghurt pots and separating trash, turning off lights, reusing plastic bags, and buying cucumbers that come in plastic wrap (if you don’t know why, look it up).
While the three go hand-in-hand and we must adhere to all, the third T, transport, is something we travellers, for business or pleasure, all need to focus on a lot more closely. A personal aside, in 1995 I had a writing teacher who lived in a remote area in Oregon, no doubt in a wooden house with a compost heap in the garden. He used to bicycle everywhere he went; no holds barred. I remember labelling him at the time as ‘granola’. Well, I liked fast cars; still do. But now, 23 years later, I am sure his carbon footprint is way, way better than mine (not to mention his calves). I would need to pedal fast to catch up.
So I went online to see where I stood, to the WWF’s footprint calculator, to determine what was what. My results were pretty dismal, even though I take the bus to work and play by the turn off and throw away rules.
Without divulging my score, I need to walk the walk on all fronts from now on. If I were just getting involved to make myself feel better about all those flying miles I’ve clocked up over the course of the months, years and decades, then I now realise that won’t be enough. I could go online, and we all should, and offset my air miles for a calibrated fee on websites, and there are many, like Myclimate, Atmosfair, Carbon Footprint and Terrapass.
But this, I am informed, should only be a last resort after making all efforts to avoid it in the first place, as a tonne of planet-warming CO2 avoided is always better than a tonne offset. Nevertheless, like everyone else, I need to fly, and the offset projects, funded by the new, greener me and others with the same mantra, offer extra benefits such as poverty reduction in the developing world.
Many of our favourite hotels, resorts and service suppliers at LuxuryBARED also take the environment and conservation of our planet very seriously. Singita resorts in Africa and the 1 Hotels in the USA are two of our favourite examples, as is Blacklane, our preferred chauffeur service whose rides are all carbon neutral due to their diligent adherence to a carbon offset programme. According to Jens Wohltorf, CEO and co-founder of Blacklane, “Ride services have a special obligation to take care of both passengers and the planet. Quality rides without compromising the environment benefit travellers, drivers and the world. They also align companies’ business travel needs with their sustainability goals.”
As for the 1 Hotels group, their allegiance to the earth movement is impressive, from the moment you walk through the door. “The world is beautiful, and we want to keep it that way,” is their signature. And they’re certainly trying hard in cities that are known for never sleeping or turning the lights out: New York and Miami, for two. Singita resorts in Africa, meanwhile, is towing the line when it comes to living life in the green, for everything they do and everything they touch is with a thought to the environment, wildlife conservation and the community, something they’ve been at for 25 years and counting. The message here is that we should be on the lookout for those companies that care and favour them over others. We need to be aware.
At LuxuryBARED, we’re doing just that as we look ahead. Claire Parsons, LuxuryBARED’s executive director of global relationships, commented, “Many of our customers are signing up for the overall idea of becoming part of the emerging ‘slow travel’ trend, going to fewer places and spending more time in each,” she said. One destination where the idea has taken solid ground is the beautiful, spiritual Shakti Himalayas in Ladakh, India. Here, a more gentle pace is celebrated by visitors who embrace nature and, for the most part, spend their time walking or cycling everywhere they wish to go.
As for me, watch this space, as I’ll be back before earth day next year with a far lower carbon footprint score than this years’ clocked in at, even if it means living in a yurt, wearing used clothes and growing everything I eat.