April 22 is Earth Day, an initiative originally conceived in 1970 to raise global awareness about environmental issues worldwide.
Calling for “a billion acts of green” in 2015, this annual day of support has grown rapidly over the years. Gradually, awareness about our collective responsibility to live sustainably seems to be taking hold. This year Earth Day events will take place all over the world to promote the idea that we should be protecting the environment in every way we can, and the responsible travel movement in particular has been gaining speed in recent years.
But we shouldn’t wait for Earth Day to start being conscious of our impact on the planet. There are a huge range of little things that everyone can implement into their daily lives and travel routines to start making a positive difference. For the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, here are 45 simple going green tips for travelers wanting to make a difference, both at home and abroad.
We’ve always felt a special connection with the Galapagos Islands. Not only because it’s an incredibly unique haven for nature/wildlife enthusiasts and an impressive model for responsible ecotourism management, but also because our trip there in 2011 really helped launched this site.
One of our favorite memories is our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island. It was there that we learned about the important scientific research the Charles Darwin Foundation has done since 1959 in an effort to conserve this unique ecological treasure, including bringing the Galapagos Tortoise back from the brink of extinction, eradicating invasive species and advising the government of Ecuador on how to manage Galapagos National Park sustainably.
So we were shocked to learn that the Foundation was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy a few months ago after the local mayor shut down their gift shop, which brings in an average of $32,000 a month. The problem came when the gift shop began selling items such as swimsuits, chocolates and artwork, and local vendors groused that the CDF’s shop was impacting their revenue. This was part of a larger issue in which locals complain that international tourism (which is largely based on small island-hopping cruises) doesn’t benefit them directly.
As we prepare for a return trip to the Galapagos Islands in June, we decided to reach out to Charles Darwin Foundation Executive Director Swen Lorenz to discuss the Foundation’s history, mission, problems and potential solutions, as well as why its scientific research is essential to conservation of the Galapagos Islands.
If you were enraged when ISIS extremists bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq, or in 2001 when they dynamited the 6th-century Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, you were probably feeling equal doses of anger and helplessness. These were both physical marvels, and we watched them senselessly annihilated by ignorance and hatred.
But traditional customs and culture can die, too. That’s why UNESCO created an Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which covers cultural traditions in dire need of protection. This list contains plenty of the things you would expect– song, dance, festivals, crafts and arts. But it also contains many more unusual, protection-worthy practices which are on the brink of destruction.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage traditions covered below all caught my eye because I’m either personally familiar with them or they made me pause as I read through the list. They’re listed here in no particular order, other than whimsy:
Visiting Madagascar had been a dream of ours for a very long time. We imagined lush rainforests teeming with wildlife. We imagined colorful birds, playful ring-tailed lemurs, chameleons ambling across tree branches and other Madagascar animals as far as the eye could see.
When we finally traveled to Madagascar last summer, we found the place amazing and terrible at the same time. Decades of uncontrolled logging led to a loss of nearly 50% of Madagascar’s rainforest between 1950 and 2000. With deforestation came a decrease in biodiversity, with several lemur and other Madagascar animal species (many unique to the country) now endangered or extinct.
Luckily, the Malagasy government created a great network of national parks, where poaching and illegal logging are strictly controlled and tourists are only allowed to visit with a guide. The Madagascar I saw in national parks was the one of my dreams, with lush nature and plenty of wildlife to see.
Viewing the wildlife of Madagascar is a completely different experience from safaris in the African savannah. You don’t travel on a vehicle, you walk, led by a skilled guide and pisteurs, a network of animal-spotters that tell the guides where animals are likely to be seen.
Madagascar animals are small, and therefore harder to spot. Lemurs are not much larger than a monkey, and some chameleons are no more than a couple of inches long. So spotting them in the wilderness is not at all easy.
Still, wildlife-viewing in Madagascar is a wonderful experience. You’ll see animals that cannot be seen anywhere else, as the island is home to more than 800 endemic species, from lemurs and the cat-like fossa (the baddie in the Madagascar movie) to dozens of chameleons and colorful birds.
Last year at this time, I was unexpectedly nominated to run for President-Elect of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
Mary and I discussed the opportunity at great length, but I ultimately had to decline for a few reasons: 1) It was a 3-year time commitment; 2) We were in the process of launching our blogger-driven creative services agency, Green Travel Media; and 3) I wasn’t sure how closely our clearly-defined goals for the blogging industry aligned with those of the PTBA.
A year later things have changed for us dramatically, and I’ve decided to accept my nomination for President-Elect this time around. The main reason can be boiled down to this: My combination of Experience, Connections and Strategic Vision will not only benefit current members of the PTBA, but will improve the blogging industry on the whole and the relationship between travel bloggers and travel businesses.
This is my promise to you: During my three years with the PTBA, more new bloggers will join, more travel industry businesses will want to work with us, and more bloggers will make more money doing work they can be proud of. And I’ll explain why and how…
At age 46, I’m considerably older than the average travel blogger. I believe the wisdom that comes from extensive professional experience is CRUCIAL to leading and building a new organization like the PTBA.
I’ve been managing businesses since I was 18 years old. I majored in Music Business, so half of my course load was in Business, learning everything from sales and marketing to management and accounting. That foundation of education helped me develop the strategies that wound up making Green Global Travel successful. And I’ll continue to use that knowledge to develop outside-the-box strategies that can benefit the blogging industry on the whole.
I became a professional writer while still in college, and I’ve supported my family as a full-time writer for 20+ years now. Working my way up to Managing Editor at my first job, I built up a 15-city network of publications, managing dozens of writers and working with PR people from the entertainment, sports, travel and hospitality fields. I know the ins and outs of the media world as well as anyone, and I’ve shown through my work with GGT how that knowledge can be of benefit in the blogging world.
As a blogger, I’ve been devoted to freely sharing information that can build up our industry from day one. After seeing how certain bloggers treated newbies looking for help, we launched the Business of Blogging Facebook group as an educational resource in 2012, when GGT started to take off. We immediately established a database of helpful blogging-related articles there that anyone can access, and we’re constantly adding to it. Through our internship program, we’ve mentored dozens of bloggers on everything from writing and social media marketing to branding and business strategy.
Lastly, through Green Travel Media we’ve provided paying work to nearly two dozen bloggers in the first six months, with plans for further expansion of our team of talent this year. Collectively, these nearly 30 years of management, media, blogging, teaching and mentoring experience give me all of the qualifications we need in a PTBA leader. I’ve been leading teams all my adult life.
Last year, in anticipation of our “How To Build a Better Blogging Brand” talk at TBEX, we surveyed every PR and Marketing person we knew in the travel industry, including many major DMOs, tour operators, PR agencies, hotel chains and more. We sent the survey out to nearly 2000 industry professionals in our database, and got over 200 lengthy responses.
We asked them each 15 questions related to how they’ve worked with bloggers, how they’ll work with bloggers in the future, what they look for in the bloggers they work with, the challenges they’ve faced in the process, and how we, as bloggers, can improve our craft. What we learned is that, while blogger/brand relations have come a long way, there are still a LOT of negative perceptions about bloggers, a lot of unprofessional blogger behavior, and many agencies who don’t work with bloggers much as a result.
What I believe the PTBA needs are leaders who are connected with and respected by the travel industry, in order to bridge the gap that divides bloggers from PR/marketing professionals. We need someone who has extensive contacts in the traditional media world, who can be an outspoken advocate for working with bloggers and exemplify the type of professional blogger they’ll want to work with. And we need someone who can reach out to companies who might never have worked with bloggers before and help them understand why and, more importantly, how they should do that.
That’s precisely what I’ll be doing during my speaking gigs at Canada Media Marketplace and the New York Travel Festival this month. It’s precisely what I’ll keep doing, whether I’m elected to the PTBA or not. And if you look at GGT’s track record over the past 3 years– during which we’ve worked with dozens of companies who had never worked with bloggers before– it’s what we’ve been doing all along.
Below are my primary goals if I’m elected as President-Elect of the PTBA:
• Work with Laurence Norah and Craig Martin to understand the challenges the PTBA is currently facing, and develop a strategic plan to overcome them.
• Improve communications, both among PTBA board members and with PTBA members, via a monthly newsletter.
• Engage in dialogue with current, past and future PTBA members on how we can make the organization more beneficial to its members.
• Establish a comprehensive resource of educational materials for bloggers to develop their craft, and push for more education for up & coming bloggers who might one day qualify to join.
• Double the PTBA’s blogger membership.
• Strengthen relationships with major travel industry organizations such as Destination Marketing Association International, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, The International Ecotourism Society, the Society of American Travel Writers, etc. for the strategic benefit of the PTBA.
• Improve communications with PR/marketing companies in the travel sphere (many of whom have no idea the PTBA even exists) and help transform how they think of bloggers.
• Quadruple the PTBA’s industry membership.
• Improve transparency in the PTBA’s finances so that members understand how fees are being used, and why.
• Encourage growth and innovation of the PTBA by leading periodic brainstorming sessions amongst board members.
I believe we are at a critical juncture in the evolution of blogging, and I believe that my experience, connections and vision make me the perfect candidate for leading the PTBA forward. Our big picture goal is the same as it has always been– to strengthen and improve the blogging industry on the whole, and to create a future in which more professional travel bloggers can make a respectable living doing respectable work for respectable companies.
Nobody will work harder to make this dream a reality than Mary and I. We hope we can count on your vote, and are happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments! Thank you for your time and attention. –Bret Love