For the 16th episode of Wider Worldview on Fireside, Color & Curiosity founder & CCO Megan Zink interviewed Cait Bagby – host of Climate Collab, owner of Long Hill Farm, and founder/editor of World Threads Traveler – a site dedicated to sustainable fashion, conscious living, responsible travel and eco education. Read on to learn tips for planning travel responsibly and sustainably, plus some of Cait’s favorite apps, websites and resources to make it easier (and even rewarding with perks!).
Wider Worldview is a new live podcast hosted by Color & Curiosity founder Megan Zink that explores the power of travel – how it can change the world: spark new ideas, foster different perspectives, catalyst curiosity and lifelong learning. Join her for interviews with entrepreneurs, educators and explorers and get inspired to tap into travel as an experiential learning and empathy building tool.
Head over to this link to catch the full audio recording with Cait Bagby – but in the meantime, here’s a snippet of the conversation. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
So Cait, can you share a little bit about how you got from point A to point B, where you are now, and some of the responsible travel, sustainability and climate initiatives you’re working on?
Happy accident, I guess, but for me, fashion has always been my upbringing. I remember my mother and grandparents fooling with clothing, various pieces that they once loved that they wouldn’t wear. And so as a child I would spend hours playing dress up, and even as I grew older, I would borrow clothing from some of my friends’ parents especially. It stuck with me, I just didn’t know it at the time. I went off to school and quickly shifted into international relations, wanting to create a better future. And I graduated university during the economic downturn, so jobs were very tough to come by. Necessity is the mother of invention – I had a relative say, ‘oh you know you should start and Instagram account.’ I was fortunate – it did well – this was in the early, early days of Instagram. After about a year, I realized there was a disconnect between what I wanted to speak on with individuals about and my personal love and passion and it just clicked in my brain – I guess the rest is history, as they say.
From looking at your background – you have done so many incredible things and I’ve really resonated and empathized with the magnitude of all the wonderful things you’re interested in. So on the side of ecotourism, responsible travel, sustainable travel – if we’re honest – the world is a scary place right now. Greece is on fire. California is burning. It’s enough to make you want to get away – but even travel uses precious resources. I think a lot of people feel the same way – right – everybody’s super overwhelmed. So, could you share a little bit about what it means to travel responsibly and sustainably?
Everybody’s starting point is going to be different, and that’s where this parallels with fashion beautifully, or just sustainable living in general, you start with what you can adopt within your own life. And that is going to look different for every individual, but combined, those impacts make an enormous difference. So, as I go through some of these examples, keep in mind, it really is where you can start and where you can grow. It’s not about tackling everything at once. That’s an important takeaway because otherwise, it can get very overwhelming incredibly quickly.
The most sustainable thing – I mean, no one wants to hear this – is not to travel. The second most sustainable thing is to travel locally using local transport. So that doesn’t include flying. Camping – but camping is obviously not for everyone. Some people may want to go into a city, catch an art exhibition. These are very general guidelines. When it comes to sustainable travel. I think what we need to keep in mind first and foremost is the definition according to the UN, because there’s always debate on what definition is correct.
Sustainable tourism essentially takes into account current and future economics and social and environmental impacts and it addresses the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and the host communities. So when you’re thinking about traveling in a more sustainable manner, those are the things that need to be kept in mind. And when we’re talking about economics, okay, we can kinda put that on a backburner because if you’re keeping the host communities in mind, you’re already creating a good economic impact for that country or community. And so that also implies you’re leaving a good impact between social and environmental impacts as well.
Let’s dive into that a little bit. So responsible travel through impacting the host communities – are there maybe one or two things people can think about when they’re booking a trip?
Something that speaks to me the loudest is socially-responsible travel, which is to directly uplift local communities. So that may be getting off the beaten tourist track, going out to the local neighborhoods, eating local cuisine at family-owned restaurants. And once you get off that beaten track, I promise you are going to have some of the best experiences you’ve ever had in your life because everywhere I have traveled, locals are so quick to tell you about their lives, and invite you in for some of the best food experiences you’ve ever had. So it essentially comes down to investing your money and spending your money with the local communities, outside of all-inclusive resorts or outside of the well-known tourist centers.
It also has to do with giving back to local conservation efforts and community projects. You can work with a local organization to do a beach cleanup. But again, keep in mind, it needs to be run by a local operator, not a larger overseas organization that has 30 people on the ground.
Do you have any go-to resources for people when they’re thinking about travel planning and doing their research, any favorite websites or general best practices that people can keep in mind when they’re doing that research?
I think one of the things we’ve learned over the past year in particular with COVID is to be more thoughtful, or hopefully, a lot of people have learned. Sustainable travel and living sustainably requires thoughtfulness on a different level, it requires slowing own, not in actions, but in our thought processes. That being said, we know that the world is not slowing down. In fact, we’ve seen an uptick once again. But there are resources out there.
Glooby, I believe it’s a Swedish company, is a booking site where you can filter whether you’re looking for a LEED-certified hotel, public transportation, local cuisine, things like that. TripZero offers carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are a very big industry right now, specifically in the travel and aviation industry – essentially, you are paying someone to emit less. So you’re not cutting your carbon emissions, but you’re paying someone else too cut their carbon emissions. And carbon offset is different from carbon capture – where an organization might say something like, ‘for every x kilometers you fly, we’re going to plant a tree to help draw down carbon out of the air.’ And offCents is a real-time carbon tracking app with offset opportunities and credits. So let’s say you’re in Madrid and you’re tracking your route, you can find what the more environmentally-friendly option will be and you’ll get credit to your account.
These are all awesome resources – thank you for sharing! And they certainly can make a difference. Speaking of, I was wondering if you could share a highlight of how people who are listening or reading this interview might be able to deal if they’re feeling anxious about responsible travel and how to plan a trip.
It starts small. I think we have to keep in mind that it’s estimated that only 3% of the global population travels. It’s a very small percentage. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of our impact, we absolutely should. But the tourism industry is massive. And the carbon footprint just for aviation is between 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – or carbon emissions. That being said, we need to give ourselves grace. I speak about grace a lot. We need to have an understanding that most people are trying to do the best they can.
And so if you want to travel, go travel. But do your research. If you can, travel locally; if you can, take a direct flight over a multi-leg flight. If you can, take public transportation. If you can, stay with the local community and stay away from all-inclusive resorts. Ask if your food is seasonal or if it’s locally produced. And by the way, it’s going to create incredible conversations that are going to open up so many experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have. But give yourself some grace. You’re not going to be able to conquer it all – and the reason for that is that we operate within global systems that are not conducive to 100% sustainability, we are a long, long way off. So do what you can and ask questions – continually ask questions – I think that’s the most important thing.
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