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Philanthropy is about giving ‘a hand up, rather than a handout’

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David Krantz from the Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) speaks with Blue & Green Tomorrow about its Travellers’ Philanthropy programme – where tourism businesses and travellers are going to extraordinary lengths.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014.  

How would you define philanthropy?

When we refer to philanthropy, we’re really talking about giving back through time, talent or treasure. Time and talent refer to volunteering, which could be manual labour such as maintaining a nature trail in the case of time, or a voluntarily applying a developed skill in talent. Treasure could be cash donations to a charitable organisation or donated goods (used or new) to a charitable cause. With these forms of give-back, the idea is to improve the world around us.

What is Travellers’ Philanthropy and what does it mean for the global travel industry?

Travellers’ Philanthropy is tourism businesses and travellers making concrete contributions of time, talent and treasure to local projects beyond what is generated through the normal tourism business. This form of strategic giving has tremendous potential for the global travel industry. All over the world, travellers and travel companies are giving financial and material resources as well as volunteering time and expertise to further the wellbeing of local communities and conservation in travel destinations.

Travellers’ Philanthropy is not about collecting loose change for charities; rather, it is about integrating tourism company and visitor support for local communities into the core definition of responsible travel. Travelers’ philanthropy helps support and maintain the unique communities/environments travelers want to visit, which ensures their ability to remain and prosper into the future.

Where does CREST’s interest in philanthropy come from?

Our interest in philanthropy stems from our desire to use travel as a mechanism for stewardship of the Earth and its people, which is at the core of responsible travel. We’ve found that donations and volunteerism here and there at a travel destination do not create a reliable and sustainable form of support, as well-intentioned as they are. But there is a huge desire on the part of tourists to give back, so we’re trying to harness that good will and use it to drive change. In order for travel giving, in all forms, to have lasting impact, it must be strategic.

What challenges are you seeing in philanthropy?

We’re seeing increasing evidence that consumers want to give back. We also know from research for our recent publication, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics, 50% of global consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society, according to a 2013 Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility poll of more than 29,000 online consumers in 58 countries. This represents a 5% increase over a similar poll in 2011.

How can philanthropy add value to ecotourism or sustainable tourism?

Travellers’ Philanthropy is a value added for tourism businesses and their guests. When tourism businesses donate a portion of their profits, for example, they earn good will in the community.  Then when the business needs something in the future from those who live nearby, they are more likely to get a positive response. Community members are also more likely to warmly receive visiting guests from a company that gives back.

From the traveller perspective, it feels good to know that your holiday is about more than just taking for yourself. You’ve come a long way to enjoy a particular place on the planet, and making sure your holiday destination stays wonderful enriches your experience on this trip and the next.

When westerners go abroad, we’re likely to see things we may not be used to seeing at home, such as poverty, illiteracy, pollution, and environmental destruction.  This can elicit feelings of guilt, which one typically isn’t looking for on their next vacation. So having a structured way to ‘do something’ about what we see, makes us feel less like voyeurs and more like part of the solution.

How can tourists and tourism businesses get involved in Travellers’ Philanthropy?

Where and how to get started isn’t necessarily obvious. A good first step would be to contact us at the Centre for Responsible Travel, as we can advise tourism businesses (lodging providers, tour operators, restaurants, etc) on which steps to take first and how to move from there. Soon, we can add the business to our database of companies that are giving back and provide an online giving platform to collect and make secure donations that make a difference.

One first step we often recommend is to take a company policy decision to begin giving back. Start a small task force of staff members or assign one person who will be responsible for any Travellers’ Philanthropy initiatives, then give them the space and support from the top to begin working on it.  The annual or quarterly budget review can be a good time to start, as senior leadership might elect to dedicate a certain percentage of profits to a charitable organisation, or to match donations made by employees.

What are your predictions for the future of philanthropy?

CREST has seen strong growth in Travellers’ Philanthropy since we started looking at the issue over 10 years ago, and we see no reason why the growth shouldn’t continue or accelerate further. It has become both more widespread and more professional over the years, and we expect this to continue. 

David Krantz is CREST’s programme director and facilitates a variety of the centre’s projects. 

Further reading:

Environmental philanthropy: a gift from you to the future

The philanthropists of the future

Sainsbury family’s £165m charity donations top Sunday Times Giving List

Funding environmental issues, armed with research

The Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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