Air travel is among the most destructive things human beings do. It produces massive quantities of greenhouse gases, and the impact of those GHGs is multiplied by the fact that they are released at such high altitudes. When greenhouse gases are dumped into the atmosphere, that is an irreversible process that will impact the climate for hundreds of years. Many travel providers encourage the purchase of carbon offsets to counter the GHG emissions from travel. It would indeed be convenient and comforting to know that the impact of your travel is completely nullified by the purchase of carbon offsets. Unfortunately, the reality is not nearly so neat. Even though many offset companies are reputable and promote quality projects, there is no true equivalency between the greenhouse gases released by travel and the offsets purchased to mitigate the negative impacts of that travel.
So what are the best things you can do to address the impact of your travel on the climate? Altruvistas recommends that our travelers not to think in terms of offsetting the impact of their travel as a simple solution. Your travel will have an impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. That is inescapable. While it is important to limit air travel, Altruvistas also knows the transformational and beneficial power of travel. Thus we do recommend a voluntary contribution to help manage your carbon emissions. If you would like to voluntarily contribute to a renewable energy project in country, ask our program officers in country, they can help you. Or while planning the trip we can identify an entity in the destination we are visiting to benefit. Lastly, you may also manage your flight emissions by going to Native Energy.
Our hope is that our travelers will be motivated to engage in activities in their own communities to support social, economic and environmental justice. The best way to address the greenhouse gas emissions of travel is to be the most effective advocate you can be, day in and day out, all year round.
Manage your Carbon Foot, or Flight, Print
Two resources to better manage your emissions we recommend are Sustainable Travel International (http://sustainabletravel.org/) and Green Globe International (http://www.greenglobeint.com/). They help identify the opportunities to reduce your carbon emissions can reduce the impact of rising energy costs. We know that carbon management is important to our partners. After all, in the U.S. alone, an impressive 40 percent of Americans now state they would consider shifting their patronage to travel providers that demonstrate environmental responsibility As Altruvistas grows, we look forward to implementing carbon management approaches to our business, including operations management, itinerary development, procurement, and branding, as well as community, employee and investor relations. As we look for our partners in country we will look for properties that are locally or nationally owned first and then secondarily examine if they offer services and products that promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and waste management.
Minimize your Ecological Footprint
Altruvistas Journeys travel beyond the normal tourist “beaten path”. We venture out of cities to engage with rural communities or indigenous communities. Often our site visits include hikes or excursions to an environmentally-impacted area. Due to the sensitive biodiversity and areas facing environmental devastation, as well as the general fragile nature of backcountry areas, these lands cannot support insensitive and careless activity. The key is to minimize your impact by leaving little to no trace of your visit. Please visit the organization, Leave No Trace (http://lnt.org/). They provides helpful information to visiting back country areas with the utmost respect and least impact.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your site and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, litter, and toilet paper if no trash cans are provided. Be very thoughtful about plastics and batteries.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- To avoid erosion, and in many desert areas, damage to the delicate cryptobiotic crust, stay on main trails. To avoid damage to intact biodense areas in the Amazon for example, please stay on the paths or trails.
- Respect other visitors and locals; protect the quality of their experience.
- Let nature’s sounds prevail – avoid loud voices and noises.
General Etiquette for visiting Host Communities:
Each host and indigenous community we’ll be visiting is unique. While we recognize and respect the distinct cultural and spiritual norms of each and every community, there are a few universal guidelines to visiting indigenous and rural communities in general. Please see the ALtruvistas Orientation Letter for specific articles and resources on specific information about each country we’ll be visiting and pay attention to during your welcome orientation. Please take our Code of Conduct to heart in our Booking Terms and Conditions. Our guidelines might seem like common sense to a majority of us, but it is always useful to refresh your memory on appropriate etiquette to avoid embarrassment when visiting a community outside your own.
Altruvistas Journeys ask you be mindful of the sensitivity surrounding the protection of Indigenous spiritual ways from being comodified, exploited and appropriated. We are deeply honored and recognize the privilege that’s been extended to us to be invited onto indigenous lands and hold audience with some of the most amazing social and environmental leaders in our host countries. Please keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Please don’t enter a home or any other space uninvited.
- Please don’t knock on a door and asked to be shown around.
- Please don’t yell or throw objects, especially in or near sacred sites.
- Please do not enter any areas that are marked off-limits. If in doubt, ask.
- Please stay on the designated trails and established route unless accompanied by a tour guide.
- Please don’t disturb or remove animals, plants, rocks or artifacts.
- Please keep lands clean. Do not litter, burn debris or bury trash. Please place refuse in trash containers.
- Keep in mind that the use of alcoholic beverages and firearms are strictly prohibited on most areas.
- As any tourist should, please be respectful when it comes to photography. Cameras are not always welcome, and you should secure permission before photographing, videotaping, sketching or audiotape recording any event or person.
- When you do take photos, keep in mind that a gratuity is always appreciated. In fact, don’t be surprised if he or she requests a fee for posing, since many communities have grown weary of exploitation by outsiders.
- Spiritual events are of religious nature, and should be accorded the same deference as a church, mosque or synagogue or prayer service, even if community members behave informally.
- Try to be unobtrusive when visiting a performance or event and do not interrupt ceremonies. Be patient and considerate – don’t push to the front of a crowd or block anyone’s view. Remember that you are here to watch; there is no more rewarding or thoughtful way to visit ceremonies than to be inconspicuous and quiet.
- Unless absolutely apparent that it is okay, do not applaud during an event.
- Remember that religious matters are very private and personal, probing questions are not appropriate, even the most “well intentioned” question.
- Some traditional ceremonies are not open to the public, so if you are asked to leave, don’t take it personally and please leave quickly and quietly.
- Visitors to communities should remember that silence is almost like a Statement at times. If you say something and you are met with silence, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the person you are talking to is ignoring you. Sometimes folks speak their minds when they disagree with the speaker and may remain silent when they agree or have no special opinion.
- Don’t Touch! If you aren’t sure, don’t touch it. A visitor might see shrines from many different cultures, including highway-side markers remembering lost loved ones, which is a thoughtful memento left by locals. Some types of shrines are more easily recognized than others. Shrines are placed by sincere individuals and not meant to be disturbed. If you come upon a collection of objects anywhere on a tour, and you aren’t sure what to do, respect the wishes of the person who left the offerings and take your attention elsewhere.
- While sharing a meal with locals take cues from your host community members; many communities have very strong norms they might not eat with one hand, they may serve elders first, they many not chatter during meals.
Some Thought Provoking Resources:
- Carbon Trade Watch http://www.carbontradewatch.org/ (specifically, “The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins”)
- “Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power” http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/summary.shtml?x=544225
- Who Will Profit from Native Energy? (via Project Censored) http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/25-who-will-profit-from-native-energy/
- DNC Boondoggle: Carbon Credits Fund Broken Turbine July 26, 2008 http://uddebatt.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/carbon-credits-fund-broken-turbine/