Do you remember when an eco-lodge actually meant a hotel or lodge that followed principles and systems to minimize the impact on the local environment? Or when a sustainable business actually indicated a company’s ability to sustain the environment around them? Over the years it seems like any company with a set of recycling bins has adopted these trendy adjectives to attract the eco-conscious consumer. These labels have become so commonplace they have lost their substance and to a degree their marketing power. Well scoot over eco-lodges and sustainable businesses, there’s a new enviro-adjective in town and it hasn’t been bastardized yet, it’s called Regenerative, and coupled with travel it has the travel industry buzzing.
What is Regenerative Travel?
Last August The New York Times catapulted the newest enviro-phrase, regenerative travel, at the travel industry and turned it mainstream. Regenerative travel is the principle of leaving a place you visit in a better state than when you arrived. At the rate we are tearing through the earth’s finite resources, sustainability is no longer enough. The philosophy acknowledges the need to regenerate local eco-systems for carbon offsets, to stop the decline of local wildlife populations due to habitat loss and preservation of the natural world for future generations.
What Does a Regenerative Travel Company Look Like?
Amazonas Explorer has been inspired by Peru’s rich natural environments since the ’80s. In 2007 Machu Picchu was voted one of the seven wonders of the world and anticipating the need for a regenerative initiative spearheaded by a local tour company, we decided 2007 would be the year we joined 1% for the planet. The pursuit of doing more for the local environment and people led us down a rabbit-hole of certifications that brought us to where we are today, a regenerative travel company. The main certifications that guide our ethics are:
- 1% for the Planet
- In 2007 We became the first Peruvian member of 1% for the Planet, we are still the only Peruvian Tour Operator that’s a member. We donate 1% of our turnover (not profit) each year to help reforest the Lares area with native trees. Since 2007, with other contributors to the project, we have planted over 1 million trees with ECOAN.
- Certified B Corp
- In 2017 we became the first tour operator in Peru to pass the assessments to be a certified B Corps, putting people and planet before profit.
- Carbon Neutral
- All our office and client trip emissions are offset with the Peruvian based company Regenera that locally offsets carbon to help preserve local ecosystems. Currently, our carbon is offset in a sinkhole in Manu National Park, one of the most biodiverse places in the world.
- Carbon Positive
- At the beginning of 2020, we became Carbon Positive by planting two trees, for each traveler, for each day they travel with us in Peru. Read about some of our tree planting projects here.
- Travelers Against Plastic Member
- Peru struggles with plastic and almost anywhere you go you will find plastic discarded on the side of the road or in the middle of a field. We pledged to work to reduce the number of plastic water bottles used by travelers. We ask travelers to bring their own bottles to refill. We also try to work with only hotels that offer free water refills rather than offering plastic disposable bottles.
How Do You Know if a Company is Really Regenerative?
Surprise, surprise, companies are already trying to claim the title and fortunately, most of these affiliations take time to complete. Most of the certifications and programs listed above have participating companies publicly listed on their websites. A quick glance at a company’s website usually lists any environmental accolades they have received. A simple Google search with a company’s name and the word sustainability will typically bring a timeline of a company’s green initiatives. Ask a company about its partners and Google them. Many travel companies will have their environmental credentials for their own company, but then partner up with companies that don’t follow the same principles, for lower prices. Luckily, with the current search engines spotting an imposter can be as easy as asking a few questions and pressing a few buttons.
Trend or New Industry Standard?
While we would love to see a global movement where the entire travel industry embraces regenerative travel, it seems the consumer will ultimately drive its longevity. Currently, consumers are starting to ask more questions about the impact of their flights, how they can offset emissions, and are becoming aware of the significant impact their money has on the places they visit. Even Google has recognized the importance of being regenerative prompting the launch of Google Sustainability which collates data to make ideas actionable with emerging technologies for a healthier planet.
According to the “Economic Impact 2017 Peru” report by the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC), international tourism inflows rose by 7.7% in 2016, posting faster growth than anywhere else in the Americas, and above the global average of 3.9%. Numbers like these, while positive for the growth of an economy, leave an impact on the local environments and historical sites. Hopefully, the pandemic will be a wake-up call, that our pre-pandemic environmental standards were just not good enough. Trend or new industry-standard, we are hoping regenerative travel is here to stay. In the meantime, cheers to regenerative travel, and let’s hope the name doesn’t lose its integrity like our other trend-setting enviro-adjectives, may they rest in peace.