We invited Vicky Smith Founder of Earth Changers to talk at our Going Green in 2018 online summit on the 24th April 2018 and share her tips for going green on holiday. Ahead of the event we wanted to interview Vicky to find out a bit more about why she wanted to participate and get her opinion on the most pressing green issues we face today.
Why did you want to get involved in the Going Green in 2018 Online Summit?
Fashion and tourism are hugely linked. When people travel, they take little more than clothes. When they’re planning a holiday, they plan what clothes to pack and new ones to buy. Fashion shoots are done often in attractive destinations. There are fashionable ‘in’ places, which sometimes fall out of fashion too. In sustainability, we’re all concerned about longevity and I’d love to work to bring some of the sustainable places I feature together with sustainable fashion brands as a backdrop to demonstrate their values.
But the parallels don’t just end there. The fashion industry is the 4th most polluting industry in the world. The travel sector has a bad reputation for heavy pollution and carbon impact too, largely because of aviation.
Like fashion, there are huge challenges with water, energy, waste, transport, logistics, equality, employment and human rights. And in tourism, complex outfits of many materials, we also consider food, construction, culture, host communities and biodiversity conservation.
Tourism can destroy the very people and places it wants to visit, slowly killing itself with negative impacts and unsustainable growth. Travel is, quite possibly, the most suicidal of sectors.
But it also the sector which reaches into most corners of the world, creates 10% of global GDP provides 1 in 10 jobs worldwide (WTTC, 2016). So its potential for positive impact is enormously transformative.
However the travel sector lags behind others in sustainability, in consumers’ awareness, understanding and what to do to act in a better way, possibly because its complexity masks transparency. We need travellers’ and tourists’ awareness to drive demand to better standards. We need a Travel Revolution Week for the world too.
What issues are you most concerned with right now regarding the future of our planet?
The issues are so many, so enormous, and often half a world away, I think it’s difficult for people to get their heads around, let alone understand that their day to day actions can help.
For that reason, I’m a big supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals, because it breaks down global UN policy to more digestible chunks. I have written extensively on how tourism inter-relates with each of the SDGs – in all areas, it can either create negative impacts, or it can create positive impacts, as a transformative force for good.
For me, the issue over-arching all the SDGs is Climate Change, because its contributory factors and consequences are so far and wide, and our existence depends on mitigation; and underpinning everything is Poverty – and tourism can support livelihoods and great global distribution of wealth. Many of the poorest countries are those most rich in biodiversity and culture.
What are the most challenging aspects of going green and being more eco-friendly for you?
I think it is hard to be good at everything, and not everything is black and white, like tourism.
As a traveller I was concerned about responsible tourism from around 2001, and involved as a tourism professional since around 2005. Travelling in remote areas, I was very aware of the importance of using organic toiletries, and one of my formative memories was roadside piles of tattered plastic waste in Kenya which didn’t have the ability to deal with it. But living on a game reserve in South Africa, cutting down on meat consumption wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, let alone sustainable fashion, and I hadn’t reduced my plastic consumption at home in the UK then.
Now, I’m based one of the world’s top cities, where there’s fantastic recycling opportunities and access to brilliant ethical retailers online and off line. But big food retailers are still obsessed with plastic, and smaller specialist retailers are few and far between (though improving), and more expensive – especially on a start-up budget.
I also speak to friends and colleagues around the world, such as in Cape Town or Las Vegas, dealing with water shortages. I can watch my consumption, especially with smart meters, but I’m also aware I’m at the mercy of a water company and its management – but working as I do in tourism, I know only too well the one thing that suppliers will respond to is consumer demand so it is up to all of us to create change.
You can find out more about Going Green 2019 on your holidays and sustainable tourism with Vicky on at our next event on Earth Day 2019.