Time To Think About Our Choices
While 2021 will be forever remembered as the second year of the COVID pandemic, it was also notable for another distressing phenomenon – extreme weather.
From snowstorms in places that usually don’t get snow, to monsoons and flooding, and a heat dome that literally burned down the town of Lytton, B.C., climate change grabbed headlines all over the world.
These extreme weather events are linked to greenhouse gas emissions – which traps heat in the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise, as well as sea levels. The largest generator of these gases is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
Canada has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below its 2005 emission levels by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. But is there something we as individuals could be doing to curb carbon emissions?
That’s a question The Divine Destination Collection co-founders Deb Niven and Allison Frame have been thinking a lot about lately, especially when it comes to minimizing the effects of travel on climate change.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, the total carbon impact of a single flight is so high that avoiding just one trip can be equivalent to going car-free for a year.
“Like a lot of people, climate change has made us become more mindful of our actions and the consequences of those actions,” says Allison. “So, Deb and I are thinking more deeply about where we want to travel once the pandemic is over and find ways to lessen our carbon footprint.”
What is sustainable travel?
Sustainable travel covers everything from making sure the natural behaviour and habitat of wildlife is not disturbed, and helping preserve the culture of indigenous groups, to being aware of what the hotels and airlines you use are doing to reduce emissions.
“It’s now becoming common to ask hotels and resorts what they are doing to combat climate change,” says Allison. “Some purchase carbon credits to off-set their carbon emissions, but we really want to know what actions they are taking to reduce the amount of carbon they release.”
Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada, is one of 290 members of the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), which is committed to cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2050 by developing new technologies, such as sustainable aviation fuels, as well as creating more efficient operations to reduce the amount of fuel they use. This includes reducing weight on flights, using more efficient aircraft, and matching the right aircraft to the right routes.
“But sustainable travel is not just the responsibility of hotels and airlines, it’s about the choices we in the travel industry make when we plan our itineraries,” says Allison. “Deb and I have always been committed to leaving a place better than when we found it by making a donation to a local charity – and now we are also considering green, sustainable practices in everything we do.
THE BURDEN OF PLASTIC
On top of harmful greenhouse gases, the world seems to be sinking under a pile of plastic.
Before the pandemic, it looked like we were making progress on cutting down on single-use plastic. A great example was the rallying call to eliminate plastic straws.
But since COVID struck, the use of single-use items like disposable masks, gloves, and sanitizer wipes have increased.
“The Canadian government’s plans to ban single-use plastic will hopefully make a difference, but we have also been inspired by the creativity of people to find alternatives to plastic,” says Allison.
Eco-tableware company Stroodles makes pasta straws and edible spoons, plates, and cups, and ChopValue has recycled and transformed almost 50 million discarded wooden chopsticks into beautiful and functional objects like tables, coasters, and cheese trays.
There are also individuals and organizations that are dedicated to finding a way to reduce the amount of garbage we produce.
Celebrated Canadian jewellery designers John and Cynthia Hardy stepped away from their successful jewellery business in 2007 to help build a more sustainable world through education and design.
Distressed by the amount of plastic garbage they were seeing in their adopted home of Bali, they created Sampah Jujur – which means “honest trash” – to buy plastic and other waste. By creating an economy for plastic and waste, it has encouraged others to pick up trash and keep Bali beautiful.
Their daughter Elora is also making a difference through her sustainable bamboo housing company, Ibuku. Since bamboo is so fast-growing, and a new generation of shoots pops up the following year, the company maintains a sustainable supply of bamboo by harvesting from mature bamboo clumps on the islands of Bali and Java.
Another organization that particularly resonates with Deb and Allison is Clean the World. They distribute recycled soap and hygiene products from hotel and resort partners to families in countries with a high rate of pneumonia, and diseases such as cholera.
And there is the Oceans Plastics Leadership Network, which is dedicated to bringing global leaders together to create a set of standards for companies to follow to divert the 11 million metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean each year.
What can we do in our daily lives to make a difference?
Can one person really make a difference when it comes to climate change, or the huge amounts of plastic ending up in the ocean?
As environmentalist David Suzuki says, “In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”
He also outlines 10 things each of us can do to make a difference, from eating less meat and taking public transit, to voting for leaders at all levels of government who take climate change seriously.
“We know our loyal Divine Destination Collection travellers love to travel, but we also know they want to protect this beautiful planet we live on,” says Allison.
“That’s why we are committed to finding more sustainable ways to travel.”
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