It’s no secret travel can hurt the environment. Most travelers, though, would be stunned to know, according to a recent study conducted by Nature Climate Change, curiosity and reverent spirit contributes to 8 percent of global greenhouse emissions. But there are travel-related companies taking responsibility for the damage their businesses cause by finding ways to offset their practices.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Let’s face it, we’re not walking to our vacation. We arrive in some sort of vehicle, but it is the emissions from them that are some of the biggest contributors to global warming. Some airlines, like JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, are trying to lessen their damage. Both companies partnered with carbon offsetting organization CarbonFund.org Foundation, which contributes to programs like reforestation projects that take concrete steps to reverse the negative impact inflicted upon the environment during the course of a typical business day. JetBlue committed to offsetting every one of its flights during the whole month of June.
“We started with June to kick off the busy travel season and inspire customers to join us in offsetting their flights,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability and environmental social governance, JetBlue. Mendelsohn said efforts would reduce JetBlue’s impact by an estimated 700,000 metric tons of CO2. “Offsetting can often seem vague and far away. Actually, it is a measurable way to reduce the impact of a flight.”
CarbonFund.org Foundation calculates the amount of carbon dioxide many activities put into the atmosphere and calculates a way to wipe out that damage by creating a way to offset it like this.
Also a friend of the environment, Alaska Air has a company-wide effort to make the air cleaner by operating some of the most fuel-efficient planes. In addition, Alaska Air asks flyers if they want to offset their trip, during their check-out process, by adding a few extra bucks to donate to the CarbonFund.org Foundation. Alaska Air works hard to recycle most everything on its domestic flights and even composts all of its coffee grounds.
If you’re going to take a train, you can feel good that Amtrak is doing its part by also partnering with CarbonFund.org. Amtrak allows passengers to offset the harm their trip would make to the environment by allowing riders to make a donation to pay for a program that acts to wipe out their footprint. To make that mark even smaller, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner recently introduced clean-diesel electric locomotives to move those daily passenger trains along the coast more cleanly.
Another company that partners with CarbonFund.org Foundation is the New York City-based car ride-sharing service, Juno. Juno takes the ideals that protect the health of the world and includes the people that live within it. It strives to make sure drivers are treated fairly and that customers have the best ones. They also make sure customers can mitigate the damage of the ride by adding an amount into the fare that helps Juno invest in reforestation projects like the one occurring in the 150,000 acres of native forest in northern Minnesota. Ronen Ben David, CEO, Juno, wrote on the CarbonFund.org website, “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to offer our riders the opportunity to make an impact on the environment. We’re looking forward to seeing this program grow.”
If you like the idea of carbon offsets, then you can offset your travels here.
Even the hotels where we stay have an impact on the health of our planet. From the laundry they clean to the products they distribute, the wear and tear on Mother Nature can be severe. Some hotels do their part to offset negative contributions in innovative ways. In 2018, Hilton, which operates hotel brands like the Embassy and Homewood Suites properties, promised to cut its environmental impact in half and donate twice as much to social programs by 2030. Along that line, Hilton partnered with Clean the World to recycle all the partially used hand soaps guests leave behind into new bars that Clean the World distributes to impoverished communities. On its website, Shawn Seipler, founder and chief executive officer, Clean the World, writes, “As many as 2.3 billion people around the world lack basic sanitation and over 3,500 children die from preventable hygiene-related illnesses every day.” Hilton’s promise extends to its plastic recycling program to its water consumption and sustainable food sourcing.
Along those lines, the Velas Resorts, with hotels in Los Cabos, Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta, also committed to operating properties with mindfulness toward the environment. “One of the most important features are for resorts to be carefully designed to exist harmoniously within their environments,” said Juan Vela Ruiz, vice president, Velas Resorts. “There are several areas where our practices are making a difference in everything from water and other resource conservation, waste disposal, and building resulting in LEED designation, to the protection of wildlife and educating guests in local ecology.”
All Velas resorts use biodegradable products for cleaning as well as maintenance of the property and its surrounding landscape. Instead of heating water with oil-based gas, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit utilizes solar panels on the resort’s roof to heat the water before sending it to guest’s rooms. Additionally, Grand Velas Riviera Maya achieved Gold Status through EarthCheck, one of the world’s leading organizations in the certification of sustainable tourism. Surrounded by 206 acres of jungle, mangroves and freshwater cenotes, Grand Velas Riviera Maya reforested 18,000 trees after its construction.
Another of its EarthCheck Gold Status properties, as well as a TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program member, Velas Vallarta diverts 750 pounds of raw food waste daily to a local hog farmer. In addition, the hotel is located on Puerto Vallarta’s Marina Vallarta beach, where sea turtles’ nest from June to December. Volunteers come from around the world to help scientists find and protect turtle eggs, camping on the beach for weeks. Finally, Grand Velas Los Cabos’ Reverse-Osmosis Desalting Plants recycles the water they use back into its surrounding environment, saving 30 percent of water in the laundry process. The residual water treatment facility receives and processes all the water from the entire resort, then used for the watering of all exterior gardens.
A most innovative step to help the planet is the one undertaken by Club Med. By 2020, Club Med resorts in North America and the Caribbean committed to making all the uniforms worn by employees to be made out of recycled plastic. In a statement, the company wrote, “This process not only uses approximately 40 percent less energy consumption when compared to regular polyester production, but in order to create Club Med’s new uniforms, the equivalent of more than 200,000 plastic bottles have already been recycled in the process.” The company said it strives to provide guests with the ultimate relaxation experience, but not at the expense of the environment. “Approximately 75 percent of the company’s resorts are certified under Green Globe for maintaining high standards for sustainable tourism with the goal of increasing that number to 100 percent.”
While large areas of Colorado are experiencing exponential growth with far too many trees being clear-cut (it’s one of the fastest-growing states in the country), it’s still the home for great businesses striving to make the world a little greener. Those businesses include Sherpani, creators of women’s day bags, backpacks and travel bags, including a line of sophisticated, beautifully crafted items made from recycled plastic.
By Hainan Airlines
It’s been almost three years since Category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, wreaking havoc on the island and leaving most residents without electricity and clean water. Tourism, which accounts for 6.5 percent of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product, took a beating, with hotels closed for year-long repairs, airlines cutting service and cruise lines shifting itineraries to other Caribbean destinations. Timing for the hurricane couldn’t have been worse, coming on the heels of the government’s announcement in May 2017 that it was unable to pay more than $70 billion in public debt and thus forced to file for bankruptcy. Large protests and a change of government would follow. Then, in January 2020, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the south side of the island, forcing San Juan restaurants to close while power was restored. And as we write this story, coronavirus runs rampant across the globe with severe economic implications for all destinations, including Puerto Rico.
My youngest daughter and I arrived from Barcelona on the high-speed AVE train (in less than three hours) and entered Westin Palace Madrid in time for the Sunday Opera Brunch — which takes place under the stained-glass cupola of La Rotonda, where daily breakfast and cocktails are served. I’d heard about this event on several occasions when I toured the hotel in 2015, and when my granddaughter and I stayed there in 2017.