RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS: Balancing Travel and Environmental Awareness
Sven-Olof Lindblad, Founder, Lindblad Expeditions, discusses the challenges and rewards of balancing travel and environmental awareness.
Sven-Olof Lindblad was born in Switzerland and traveled extensively with his father, renowned adventure-travel pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad, who led some of the first non-scientific groups of travelers to Galapagos (1967) and Antarctica (1966). For six years, Sven lived in East Africa photographing elephants and wildlife in Kenya and assisting filmmakers on a documentary on the destruction of African rain forests. In 1979, he launched Special Expeditions (now Lindblad Expeditions), a unique travel company aimed at offering marine-focused expeditions aboard small ships for adventurous travelers.
Sven’s vision of his guests visiting a unique location, learning about it, and leaving it intact the way nature created it, has positioned Lindblad Expeditions at the forefront of environmentally sensitive expedition travel. His mission is simple: to provide travelers the opportunity to discover for themselves the natural, cultural and historic regions of the world and to provide thoughtful approaches that make such travels enriching, responsible, safe, fun and memorable. Sven is a member of the General Assembly of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Blue Ocean Institute and National Geographic Conservation Trust. He is a past Board of Directors member of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature and is a past member of the Bi-National Advisory Board of the San Diego Natural History Museum. He is a founding member of the Galapagos Conservation Fund and founding chairman emeritus of Tourism Cares, associated with the United States Tours Operators Association.
Don George: Sustainable travel is an integral part of your company’s DNA. Looking back, what are the accomplishments you’re most proud of with respect to mitigating your impact on our planet? What are you least proud of – or in other words, where do you feel there is still significant work to be done? Knowing what you know about the transportation options for adventure travel, what recommendations do you have for travelers who aspire to make the most informed choice?
Sven-Olof Lindblad: We have tried to implement a culture that minimizes resource use in wasteful ways. The reality, though, is that we still burn fuel and we still fly people to our ships. In an ideal world, I would have state of the art new ships that are the most energy efficient. But the cost is impossible to make work.
So, I’ve always taken a position that business and life are never perfect and any activity has consequences. What I try to do is create activity where the positive consequences outweigh the negative, resulting in a net positive effect in balance. I believe we have largely accomplished that by fostering reverence and understanding for the world’s essential natural systems amongst thousands of influential people.
Of course there is still the option of offsetting emissions on your travels, but this has become debatable in terms of effect. So my advice is this: Admit that you’re adding to the problem the minute you leave your home, then use the knowledge and experience of your travels to offset that in real ways by becoming a greater champion for the many issues which unfold as a consequence of traveling and opening up our minds.