How You Can Travel Regeneratively And Make A Positive Impact
As conscious consumers, we might think that travel, getting on a plane or getting in a car and heading off to someplace far away, will only result in our creating more waste, making a huge carbon footprint and creating a negative impact on the locations visited. However, of the top 25 solutions to reverse global warming, according to Paul Hawken, author of Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, travel isn’t on that list.
While it is true that flying or driving can put a lot more CO2 in the atmosphere, much of the goal of travel, to learn about foreign people, experience amazing landscapes and interact with a natural environment that excites and engages us, can be accomplished in ways that not only are done with a low carbon footprint, but in a way that regenerates the ecosystems to which we travel.
What does it really mean to travel sustainable? Furthermore, what does it mean to travel regeneratively? What activities can we aspire to accomplish by easily adding to our travel routines which limit our impact and improve the ecosystems and communities we visit?
Fortunately, we can take specific steps to change the way we interact with our planet and the countries we visit. Sustainable tourism aims to make no negative impact to local communities social and the environment. Going green on vacation and offsetting your carbon footprint can actually be easy, and yes–you guessed it– by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Whether you are volunteering abroad or staying at a hotel that practices green/sustainable/regenerative operations, your actions will help raise awareness for fellow travelers and promote an eco-conscious lifestyle. You can be a part of creating that transformation. Here are a few simple items to keep in mind:
Choose to stay at hotels who aspire to the regenerative practices. Search for Regenerative Resorts who are not only committed to being eco-friendly, but go beyond simple green and sustainable practices to improve their local communities and ecosystems. These accommodations will start with water, energy and waste saving techniques. The difference is that they will go further to also work on alternative energy production, on-site water management, waste stream management (from compost to promoting recycling) to getting directly involved in improving the social fabric of the local community through programs in health, education and economic development, and improving the local ecosystem through conservation programs, reforestation and sustainable fisheries.
An excellent model of such efforts is Pikaia Lodge, a luxury eco-resort in the Galapagos Islands, pioneered in environmentally-conscious travel and renewable energy practices. Paul Hawken claims the biggest drawdown to global warming are refrigerants; therefore, by reducing the need for air conditioning systems, atmospheric CO2 also decreases. Each room in Pikaia Lodge has natural cross air ventilation that creates a passive cooling effect, dismissing the need for AC. Additionally, the Lodge collects rainwater that is then filtered and recycled through a wastewater treatment plant, for both cooking and cleaning purposes. Furthermore, the Lodge maximizes energy from the sun, providing natural interior light and solar-heated water, and producing enough power to feed electricity to the other islands. As the 10th most effective solution to reverse global warming, solar rooftops are another key component to look for when choosing your accommodation. Having achieved operating carbon neutral status, the regenerative actions of Pikaia Lodge are an excellent model for long-term preservation of not only the Galapagos islands, but other ecosystems around the world.
A plant-rich diet and reduced food waste are the third and fourth most critical steps to reverse global warming. The farm-to-table movement is a simple and effective method that provides nutritious food and generates less pollution. Not only will you know where your food comes from and how it’s raised, but through omitting the commercial vendors involved in the process, farm-to-table practices are also able to minimize food waste.
Number 11 on Hawken’s list of solutions is regenerative agriculture. By opting to eat at places that promote regenerative agriculture, you are improving soil fertility, enjoying healthier food, increasing biodiversity, and enhancing an ecosystem. Finca Luna Nueva is a perfect example of a hotel demonstrating the farm-to-table philosophy. At the forefront of regenerative agriculture, their Demeter-certified biodynamic farm is designed to reverse the effects of climate change by optimizing photosynthesis, drawing excess carbon from the atmosphere, and creating carbon-rich topsoil. Their delicious and healthy meals are prepared using fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, herbs, and tubers from their farm. From homemade jams, to fermented vegetables, to kombucha, to chocolate milk from the local chocolatier, their kitchen provides a wide assortment of organic ingredients that will satisfy your stomach while also supporting the ecosystem.
Although there are solutions to enhance fuel efficiency of electric automobiles, ships, mass transit, and airplanes, unless the use of these transportation methods is cut down, the consumption will outweigh the improvements. For that reason, avoiding excess consumption whenever possible and opting for mobility without fuel is vital. In Drawdown, Hawken expresses the benefit of sharing resources–ridesharing has no implementation costs. When planning your vacation, consider destinations where walking or biking is accessible.
Chobe Game Lodge operates in harmony with the environment to give guests an intimate experience with the natural beauty of Botswana. As the first electric-powered safari operator, you can explore Chobe National Park in one of their environmentally-conscious, game-drive vehicles or a fully solar-powered, electric-powered boat. Move quietly and effortlessly across the untouched wilderness and help protect this highly sensitive area on their state-of-the-art safaris. These regenerative modes of transportation provide a unique experience to discover Africa while still reducing carbon emissions.
What better way to leave a mark on the place you visited than volunteering? Whether it’s a volunteer project focused on protecting wildlife, educating children, or conservation efforts, the opportunity to get involved is an excellent tool for regenerative travel. Educating girls and family planning are the sixth and seventh most important solutions as stated by Hawken. Women are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming, which hurts humanity’s overall resilience. To improve the future of life on this planet, a visit to the local school or village during your stay is pivotal to addressing climate change.
4 Rivers Floating Lodge aims to create interactions between local people and their guests. Through several community projects, this resort has been successful in educating, improving quality of life, and protecting the region’s wildlife. The projects are geared toward and conducted with children, since they are the ones with the power to change the future. The Tatai river and waterfall clean-ups are still ongoing projects that teach the urgency of reducing waste and protecting the environment. The most recent project, “Build the Koh Kong Khnong School,” will fabricate sustainable infrastructure for the school so that students can optimize access to necessary developmental training and resources. By dedicating the time and energy to volunteer on your trip, you will not only be making a lasting difference, but you’ll also create unforgettable memories.
Traveling is one of the best sources to gain knowledge. When you witness a new culture, you are furthering your education in one of the purest forms. Though you may not realize it in the moment, your learning experience could be supplying another’s. Coming in at number 6 on Hawken’s list of solutions is educating girls. This solution may not be as obvious as some of the ones mentioned earlier, but it is extremely important to note because education lays a foundation for communities. Through the empowerment of young girls and women, their knowledge will serve as a powerful lever to curb population growth. Having fewer and healthier children lowers emissions, thus contributing to a healthier planet. Furthermore, women can be instrumental in economic growth. As effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, they are resourceful and resilient, ultimately generating a productive and nourishing environment.
Your journey to a new country can contribute to the empowerment of women. African Bush Camps participates in numerous projects focused on education, community empowerment, community infrastructure, and conservation to ensure long-term sustainability of the camps and protection of these vulnerable wildlife areas. By taking social responsibility, their efforts have contributed to empowerment of these rural communities and improved their quality of life. They have created opportunities to support orphaned children through scholarship programs, covering school fees, improving school infrastructure, and Life Skills Workshops. They continue to brew success through their partnership with Precious Life Foundation, providing hospitality and catering internships within the safari industry for young women. The African Bush Camps Foundation creates opportunities in which members of the community can become self-sustaining and independent. As a responsible tourist, not only will your stay at an African Bush Camp donate $10 US dollars to one of the Foundation’s projects, but you will also expand your own education while fostering another’s developmental growth.
Positive changes to the way you travel will enhance your experience by allowing you to give back to the place in which you are vacationing, while also offsetting your carbon footprint. Engage in your environment and connect with locals to fully enjoy the benefits of traveling, and don’t feel guilty doing it! After making a few of these changes, you’ll notice it’s easier to implement into your travel routine and you’ll be able to inspire other travelers to do the same. The opportunities to experience a regenerative lifestyle, get involved, and immerse yourself in nature are more attainable than you think!