Can We Travel In luxury And Be Sustainable?
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
As the owner of a travel company that purports to balance luxury travel with sustainability and off- the beaten path- "Smart Travel" solutions, I often ask myself, Is this a reality? Can we play at the intersection of luxury and responsible, thoughtful travel while balancing the realities of living in a tenuous environmental time? The answers are difficult and the large problems remain to be solved, but in essence, I argue yes. Here are the bigger ideas and steps we at Travel-Well feel bring us as closely into harmony and balance with our mission as possible.
Let us first set the table that there is a problem. If one does not believe that carbon emissions, climate warming, population growth, wealth distribution, over-tourism and how we decide to allocate resources and thought toward these issues, is- worth while- read no more and choose a different vendor.
World population grew from 1.6 billion humans in 1900 to 7.7 billion in 2020. Plane travel has grown from 600 million to roughly 1.4 billion people per year since 2000.(UN World Travel Organization.) We have democratized travel and largely, through conglomerate utilization of economies of scale, technology, exploitation of cheap indigenous workers and cheap inputs, have created the Walmartization of travel (There are NAFTA, off-shoring, increases in travel classes in developing countries at play etc.) Deregulation and mass acquisition of smaller chains, by larger chains, have created boring conglom-oligarchies with their gigantic arched entrances, Disney cum Vegas scema distortions and proletariat cookie cutter lobbies and mega pools. All of these factors have set up the largest load degradation of environment and, at the same time, carbon utilization in history.
There is a better way.
Our aim is not to become paralyzed in environmental hyperbole or hand wringing virtue. It is, however, to help our clients to make responsible choices that combine our travel needs and desires with the best possible solutions to help our earth and her populations of humans and animals.
So often, we see a micro-solution become cause celebre because it is easy and palatable to market and package for mass media. Take plastic straws for example. Will switching out all plastic straws for paper substantively reduce Sea Turtle devastation? Probably not. It is an easy solution and the photos of turtles with straws in their beaks were arresting and pitiable. I argue that a deeper commitment to helping organizations like Sea Turtle Conservancy and reducing one's amount of by-catch by reducing consumption of seafood is the real path toward a solution? It is about choice, thought, education and action, not window-dressing.
Carbon neutral vehicles, wind and solar power, using ones own water container and grocery bags are great practices and we need them, but what is more? What are we doing about large-scale carbon capture, regenerative farming and carbon taxes and offsets(Singapore maintains a robust capitalist market with low corporate taxes while utilizing a smart carbon tax.)
What we at Travel-Well try to do is balance a realistic love for travel, really nice travel... one may argue posh travel- with some responsible action steps toward creating sustainable luxury and wellness travel practices. These are some steps that work for us. They are large steps and we believe- the very smartest bang for the buck to help our earth.
Choose a smaller footprint lodging solution. Air travel is often blamed for carbon emissions but in reality, building new buildings and infrastructure accounts for nearly 40% of carbon emissions. Further, there are the ramifications of sand degredation for use in cement and glass, mangrove disruption and displacement of local peoples. Small, soulful and independent outfits use far fewer inputs and provide an exponential delta between real value point properties and perceived shiny bauble mega-hotel. We like places like The Diplomat Boutique hotel in Merida, Yucatan
Fly closer to home and know what your carbon footprint is. We love all of the world and all of the tropics but we choose to specialize in the US, Mexico, Latin America, Caribbean and some European destinations because they are close. If you choose to travel further afield, we can help just as well. The point is to be educated. Carbon emissions from planes are about 2.5% of annual co2 output. Atmosfair has a nifty carbon calculator and an easy way to buy an offset. For example: I could easily find that Denver to Bangkok equaled 10,125 KG co2, while, Denver to Cancun came in at 1,242 KC Co2. I am not saying to not go to Thailand- Thailand is amazing. The point is that we provide tools for you to be educated and to make a choice.
Choose sustainable vendors by knowing about certifications like GSTC(Global Sustainability Tourism Council. Not all vendors or hotels truly believe in the cause- ask questions and see what their environmental plan is and what their relationship with their local community and people is like.
Instead of adding to over tourism spots like Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Venice, Boracay and Machu Picchu during the most over-touristed times of the year, what about making a different choice like Vis, Croatia in Late September or The Cook Islands instead of Bora Bora? Palau instead of Koh Samui? We are here to guide you to smaller, better, more peaceful experiences. Traveling-Well means not putting up with chaos and not being part of the problem.
Buy offsets: We support and use Sustainable Travel.
The small steps still count: Bring your own water container or learn about Refillmybottle.com- a brand working on increasing refillable stations found using GPS on an app. Reduce single use items and ask your hotel if they have switched out single use shampoos and toiletries. Ask maids not to come to your room everyday. Do you switch out your towels at home everyday? No. think about sustainably caught( fresh from a local pole caught boat) seafood. Learn about local, regenerative farming practices that capture carbon and utilize regenerative farming and ranching practices, eat less, buy fewer fast fashion and trinket peices and invest in heirloom quality local pieces to remember your trip. These are just some actions that can help. Moreover, they are behaviors that align thoughtful actions and behaviors with a larger mission- The ability to sustainably travel while reducing carbon footprint and helping the earth.
What you can do:
Choose smaller, intentional, independent properties.
Make sure the hotel has a real ecological mandate and program.
Fly less, Fly Closer if possible.
Know your carbon footprint and think about offsetting by using an app like Atmosfair or cooleffect.
Make a choice to not overburden an overly touristed spot in the summer.
Give money to an organization that helps and use Charity navigator to vet your organization.
Practice using sustainable, heirloom quality- multi use items.
Bring your own water bottle or join refillmybottle.com.
Take your own linen towel to use for drying after you shower and at the beach. we like www.linenme.com