Be Green: The Planet Will Thank You!

When you know all about the terrible things plastic does to innocent sea creatures and the fact that it basically never goes away, you become conscious about using plastic utensils or reducing energy. However, if you’re disconnected from the world of sustainability and haven’t learned much about plastics or just avoid anything related to environmental doom and gloom on a regular basis, it’s easy to not think about how to save energy and reduce waste.

During my internship, I tried to make daily life in the office a little greener. Our company trademark color is green, so it’s an easy tie in and I even used the slogan “don’t just wear green, be green” in one of the tips. It’s hard to inform people on how to change their ways without making them feel as if you’re scolding them. Sure I can tell someone, “don’t use that plastic knife, it’s bad for the environment,” but if they’ve been working all day and are just trying to cut into the leftover dinner they brought for lunch, they really aren’t in the mood to be lectured.

I made a sign and posted it in the office kitchen as just a friendly reminder of how people can do their part. These tips are also incorporated into the sessions I created for teaching the home office staff about sustainable tourism, just as a reminder on how to make travel and daily life better.

I did have a people ask me about the sign. I always use reusable utensils that I wash and keep at work. It’s positive to see that some of the office staff has started to do the same. A lot of people were happy to tell me that they do carpool to work, something that is especially beneficial for those that live up to an hour away.

Another positive improvement that has come from this “Be Green” campaign is more recycling in the office. Even though we don’t a formalized recycling program in the office, people have started to question why and hopefully one will be implemented soon. There is a paper-recycling bin and many people now take their extra office papers to this bin instead of putting them in their regular trash cans.

Below are the tips from the Be Green campaign:

  • Climate Change (1).pngFill it up: Skip the bottled water and use a refillable water bottle at work. There’s always cold, filtered water in the kitchen for you to fill it up with!
  • Bring your lunch: Reduce waste by packing your lunch with reusable utensils and Tupperware containers. Hey, it’ll even save you money!
  • Travel Green: Find members of the Home Office Team who live near you and carpool to work. This will also help save you money and make your commute more fun!
  • Go Dark: Turn off the lights when you leave and remember to shut down your computer when leaving for the day.
  • Recycle paper: Not only can you help out by printing less documents, but also remember to recycle your leftover papers in the bin by the main printer.
  • Start small: Every little bit helps to make the planet a better place. Don’t just wear green, be green!

 

 

 

 

How Can We Make Sustainable Tourism Catch On?

I truly believe that sustainable tourism is the way of the future and with the leadership of major travel companies, we can make huge strides in making sustainable tourism mainstream. What I have found throughout my internship is that people want to make travel better and they are genuinely interested in learning about sustainable tourism and responsible travel, however they still don’t fully understand and to be honest, I don’t think the travel companies really understand how to fill in the gaps. Some companies tout their sustainable practices proudly while others hide them pages deep in their website. Everyone uses different terms like community impact, environmental commitment, global citizenship, sustainability, our promise, etc. and for travelers, this information can be confusing and vague.

As a part of my webinar series I created for my internship to present to travel agents, I tried to explain sustainable tourism in the simplest way possible:

  • Sustainable Tourism: “Tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”… while ensuring “future tourists and tourism businesses can enjoy and profit from the same destinations.” (A combination of UNESCO wording a wording from Sewing Seeds of Change)

Basically:

  • Sustainable Tourism is Better Tourism
    • Better for the traveler
    • Better for the community visited
    • Better for the planet
  • Sustainable Tourism is about being a Responsible Traveler

And most importantly:

  • ANY type of travel can be Sustainable Travel 

What I’ve found when discussing sustainable tourism with people at the office and with travel advisors is that the buzzwords ecotourism and voluntourism always come up. These are great but I always stress these are part of sustainable tourism, but not quite the whole package.

F13220573_1186658298014017_7508145138412162820_o.jpgor example, I recently went on a Fathom cruise. Fathom is well known in the travel industry right now for being the first American cruise to sail to Cuba in recent time. The cruise line also sails to the Dominican Republic where passengers take part in Impact + Travel activities on shore and also engage in social innovation workshops on board. The shore excursions include reforestation efforts, teaching english, assisting at a woman’s cooperative, and laying cement floors for families. While many guests on board really bought in to the whole “we’re making a difference” thing, I felt a little disenfranchised. These aren’t feelings I included in my webinar series – because I do think Fathom is a great way for some people to take baby steps towards sustainable tourism – however I just couldn’t help but feeling like Fathom missing the boat on creating an amazing sustainable tourism opportunity. For instance, the cruise line doesn’t have an environmental commitment listed on their website and the only mention of one on board was to please reuse your towels and don’t throw anything overboard. The excursions don’t allow for travelers to make meaningful connections as you only interact with people for minutes at a time in some cases.

If sustainable tourism is going to catch on, companies need to go all in. If you’re going to have travelers volunteering, have them recycling and avoiding plastic straws too. If you’re going on an ecotrek, make sure the money is going back into the community. If you’re leading a cultural immersion tour through Europe, interact with the locals, take your trash with you, and find a fuel efficient bus. While researching sustainable tourism options through the vendors available to travel advisors, it’s difficult to produce a list of lots of companies that have truly sustainable cruises and tours rather than just bits and pieces or an overall company goal to “protect the planet” that has no measurable initiatives attached.

While we wait for companies to go all in, I made sure to stress in my webinars that travelers need to be responsible travelers. This means acting out pillars of sustainable tourism and knowing that the rest of the world might not catch up as quickly, but eventually if we all focus on protecting the environment, supporting communities, and preserving cultures, sustainable tourism will catch on.

Cruising into a Sustainable Future

For my ACE, I secured a position with Cruise Planners as a sustainable tourism and responsible travel intern. Cruise Planners is a travel franchise company that supports home-based travel agents across the United States selling both land and cruise vacations. At CP, people believe that travel makes a difference in people’s lives… and it does. People who travel are happier, are more connected to the world around them and are making happy memories that they can look back on for the rest of their lives.

When I first sought out my internship with CP, I could have never imagined a more positive work environment full of people really excited about their jobs. My internship came about after I communicated with the Human Resources director and Public Relations director and explained my sustainable tourism coursework and how sustainable tourism could help Cruise Planners. Throughout the country, there are around 1500 CP franchisees who are home-based travel advisors. At Home Office, where I work, there are around 100 staff members, many of whom support the franchisees (each franchisee is individually known as a travel advisor) in some way. In addition to research I would be doing to understand sustainable tourism offerings available through CP and throughout the tourism industry and how sustainable tourism could be promoted to potential travelers, I would be helping to create webinars, social media posts, infographics, blog posts, etc. that related to sustainable tourism. As a part of my internship, I would be helping educate both the staff at Home Office and the franchisees on what is sustainable tourism.

As a student in sustainable tourism, we learn that even major tourism brands like Disney are doing incredible things in regards to sustainability even though they aren’t “eco-tourism” operators as sustainable tourism is so much more than just a jungle trek in Costa Rica. Part of the challenge – and fun – of my internship was getting to teach people about sustainable tourism. In order to do this, I would first need to figure out what sustainable tourism and responsible travel options CP offered. I went through and really looked at the different vendors to see what companies were doing sustainable things – think innovations to make cruising better for the oceans – and what different travel options were for people wanting to have a more sustainable impact – think shore excursions with a volunteer focus. Cruise Planners offers all types of travel (not just cruises) through seemingly billions of vendors. When you think cruises, you probably think Royal Caribbean and Carnival, then maybe Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian or Holland America. The reality is, there are so many cruise lines including some companies that have just 20-80 people on each ship. If a potential traveler were to go to a travel advisor and say “I want to go on a sustainable cruise,” the travel advisor might have no idea what they are asking for or how to help them, and that’s the fun part of my internship. Getting everyone to see all these vacation options in a new way. In future posts, I’ll get in to more details about the materials I created to help educate people on sustainable tourism, as well as the realities of life outside of the PCGS bubble where not everyone thinks with the same sustainable mindset.

For now, enjoy this great beach photo I took of when I first moved down here as well as a picture from a CP training I attended where I learned about the company from a travel advisor perspective. Hopefully one day these training events will contain entire sustainable tourism segments, but for now I’m just excited pretty excited with a webinar and other digital communications!