When we travelers fly, we contribute a lot to climate change. And as a promoter of travel and a tour organizer, I’ve long been aware that my business is a part of the problem. I’m excited and proud to announce that Rick Steves’ Europe is taking action to make our tours climate smart.
As travelers, we often see and experience climate change: floodgates installed to protect medieval lanes in the south of England from rising seas; no more summer skiing in Switzerland; massive storm surge barriers built to protect Rotterdam; retreating glaciers in Norway; and Italians crowding into Sweden each August to escape their record-breaking summer heat. And in the poor world, I’ve seen it too: Guatemalan families whose “hunger season” traditionally started in May now begins in March; Ethiopians adapting with new drought-resistant seeds; life-sustaining topsoil across the Global South threatened by rain that now comes in violent torrents.
Climate change is real. It hurts poor people in poor countries the hardest. And as travelers, we need to be honest: We’re contributing to it. One roundtrip flight to Europe emits as much carbon, per person, as six months of driving. (Fortunately, mitigating our impact is not a huge deal. Anyone who can afford to travel can afford to travel climate-smart.)
My colleagues and I have decided it’s time to take responsibility. So, starting this year, Rick Steves’ Europe will invest $1 million a year in a portfolio of nonprofits that fight climate change and help the people it’s hitting the hardest develop in a climate-smart way.
That’s right — we’re taking one million dollars out of our profits, every year from now on. Scientists and development experts figure it takes about $30 of careful investment in environmental initiatives in the developing world to mitigate the carbon emissions created by one tourist traveling from the United States to Europe and back. We take about 30,000 travelers on Rick Steves tours each year…but we’ll round it up and “owe” $1 million annually to be a climate-smart tour company.
Now, Rick Steves travelers have the peace of mind that they’re supporting a climate-smart tour company. And together, we can help the next generation enjoy the same happy travels we have.
I believe it’s time we take responsibility — both personally and politically — to fight climate change. And for our business, this is a big step in the right direction. Read more about our innovative Climate Smart Commitment — and our thinking behind it — at www.ricksteves.com/climate.