Thoughts from our Founder: Travel & Sustainability
Meet Johanna, our founder. Every now and then, she will feature on our blog to offer insight into a specific topic and discuss how YoorToors is engaging with it. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments down below!
Travel is one of my favorite things to do. Ever. I grew up in a touristy region, spent a year of school abroad, and caught what they call ‘the travel bug’ during many backpacking trips in university. Before I founded YoorToors, I was an enthusiastic digital nomad. Leaving your known environment and exploring the great unknown can be a profound and enriching experience. Meeting and interacting with other cultures has gifted me countless, deep learning opportunities that I treasure immensely and am deeply grateful for. Many passionate travelers I have met have echoed similar sentiments.
And yet there is another side to travel, one that is becoming increasingly challenging to navigate. As the planet’s temperature is increasing, tourism’s effect on climate change is becoming ever more apparent. A study by the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) attributes about 5% of all CO2 emissions globally to transport in tourism. A different study published in Nature in 2018 goes as far as to suggest tourism and travel contribute to 8% of all global emissions.
Taking in these numbers, it becomes evident that travel may not be the best thing to do for the health of the planet. And this doesn’t even take into account the social and human rights issues that we see in many places, such as the economic and social disparities along the North-South divide meet, for example. The image of the demanding, white holiday proto-coloniser is all too familiar to me.
Equally, however, in a time where nationalism and divisive rhetoric are on the rise around the world, meeting people in new places and from other cultures is surely a helpful thing to do for global understanding. (As a caveat: This is only the case if done in a respectful manner, of course.)
So where does this leave us? How do we as individuals balance our desire to explore and learn with safeguarding the health of the planet and its people? What can we do at YoorToors as a travel business, in particular, to make a positive contribution?
Today, I have no perfect and definitive answers for you. As a company, we take this very seriously. Sustainability is one of our main values – and for a reason. I grew up in an alpine valley that heavily relies on tourism to generate local incomes and have witnessed first-hand just how challenging it is to reconcile environmental stewardship with the desire to earn a decent living. In the 1960s and 70s this went so far that a national park needed to be established to prevent yet another pristine mountain range from becoming a ski zone. Doing so has been helpful but the challenges of balancing the environment with tourism as a business persist.
I also believe that, in this space, it is of paramount importance to act with transparency to avoid greenwashing. This means that you’ll always get an honest assessment from us of where we are in our sustainability efforts, what we’ve learnt, and where we still need to do more. For example, we don’t currently feel that we can speak on environmental matters from an informed point of view. We need and want to educate ourselves further, before we feel confident that we can take this on in a productive manner. That shouldn’t stop us from featuring the voices of others who already know more about this than we do.
One area we’re doing this already is on social media. Our Social Media Queen Rachael interviews travelers for our weekly series #WhyDoWeTravel on Instagram. In her most recent feature – which I highly recommend you check out, among all the other insightful and candid interviews she’s done for this series – she spoke with @myjourney_responsibletravels. The interview touched upon not only why Andrea, the person behind the handle, likes to travel but also gave advice for conscious travelers. She said: “Think about the services you choose, making sure you support local communities, and minimise the impact on the environment.”
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One of our core values at YoorToors is sustainability. This can sometimes be hard to reconcile with being a travel company – many elements of travel are hard to justify from an eco-friendly standpoint, but there is also something to be said for being more motivated to help save the world when you've seen more of it. We believe there must be a way forward in the future to bring sustainability and travel together, so we couldn't be more excited to have spoken to @myjourney_responsibletravels for our #WhyDoWeTravel feature this week. Read on and head over to their page for sustainable travel tips 💚 𝗪𝐡𝐲 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐥? I travel because I am curious of other cultures and traditions and I want to learn from others and connect with new people. Travel to me means growth, inspiration, and discovery. 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐥 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞? Travel allowed me to be open-minded! I could not imagine my life without traveling. 𝗪𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞'𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐱𝐭 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐥 𝐛𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐞𝐭𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭? Bolivia. 𝗪𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐩𝐢𝐞𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐥 𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬? Travel responsibly! Think about the services you choose, making sure you support local communities, and minimise the impact on the environment. #travelinfluencer #travelbucketlist #travelbucketlistideas #slowtravel #slowtravelling #slowtravelstories #travelrevolution #girlstravellingsolo #girlswhotravelsolo #girlswhotraveltheworld #shewhowanders #girlsgoneinternational #girlgoneinternational #girlsgoneglobal #damestravel #diversifytravel #honesttravel #realtravel #realtravelwomen #travelapps #freetravel #traveltools #travelguides #traveltipsandtricks #travelinspodaily #travelinspogirl #whywetravel #ecotravel #sustainabletravel
Whenever we can travel safely again, this could look as simple as asking tour operators questions and offsetting your emissions through an online tool such as atmosfair, if that is a possibility for you. If you can afford to, it’s a helpful step to take. What’s even better is to consider whether you really need to take a flight within the European continent, for example, where there are many really efficient train and bus connections, or whether that long-haul short-jaunt is an absolute necessity – again, depending on whether you have the privilege of options.
As a travel company, the matter is a bit more complex than on the consumer end. It’s not just our internal proceedings that matter but also the services we offer, especially in light of the fact that we want to make travel more inclusive. Off-setting, for example, is not easily accessible or an option for everyone.
Here’s where we’re at, internally: So far, we are using a green bank for all of our business financials. My work phone is a refurbished old iPhone SE. Using refurbished products is not something we’ve done at scale or for all devices within the company, though. What is a factor here, is that some of the team members are freelance, as well. Our team is actually fully remote and we don’t have an office, so consumption of resources is quite small overall. But of course other factors, like servers, have an impact too.
As a founder, I’m currently participating in workshops on sustainability for startups and have been speaking with companies who are in the process of preparing offsetting solutions for startups (it’s not so easy for small businesses to do). I would ideally like for at least our operations to be climate neutral. At the same time, this is impacted somewhat by the fact that we are a pre-product-launch and bootstrapped company (blog post coming soon on what exactly that means). There is also a workshop by the Global Tourism Sustainability Council that I’m planning on taking before the end of the year to educate myself further and heighten my awareness for this.
Externally and with the products we’re offering, it gets a bit more complicated. Some things such as how our customers are reaching their destinations are beyond our sphere of influence. The only thing we can currently do as a company in relation to our customers’ behavior is to share information and educate as much as possible. Other than that, we can make sure that our tours rely on walking, biking, public transport, and climate-friendly mobility as much as possible. And yet during COVID-19, we considered providing driving tours as an option for socially-distanced and safe leisure-time. Doing so, would come with the trade-off of providing ideas that protect our customers, while at the same time encouraging an increase in traffic and carbon emissions.
If this goes to show for anything, it’s that there are no easy answers. I personally highly doubt that travel will disappear as one of our global megatrends within the coming years. How to navigate this as environmentally-consciously as possible is an ongoing journey of discovery.
As a company, we strive to be transparent, communicate openly, and provide resources and information that help our community in making environmentally-conscious decisions. At the same time, I want to acknowledge again that travel is heavily steeped in disparities of privilege. Off-setting as an idea, for example, involves considerable privilege to begin with. If you feel that you have it, I welcome you to take any steps that are within your power to protect this planet. I’m also looking forward to updating you all on our efforts in this regard with the quarterly review posts that we’ll be sharing – you guessed it – every quarter, so that you can continue to join us on this journey.
If you have any suggestions or feedback on this for us, please feel free to reach out to us through the contact form here, on social media, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.