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Green Travel

Okay, as an immigrant and avid traveler, I'd be the last person in the world to tell you not to travel. Please, GO TRAVEL. It's important. It helps you see firsthand the impact the west has on the world, the way other cultures do things, and the way underneath all the superficial stuff, we're all the same. So by all means travel, but do so responsibly. Most of us may not want to admit it, but the moment we leave the west, we're walking dollar bills. And the choices we make when we travel have a huge impact on the environment and the cultures we visit.
So how can you plan a green vacation?
Actually, it's easy.
If you're still in the planning stages, it might make sense to:
* Travel in your own back yard:
Most Canadians haven't really explored their own amazing, exotic country. So if you can (and if you can convince your stubborn Canadian spouse) plan a local trip. A ski trip is way greener than a plane ride to Cuba
* Take the bus or train instead of driving of flying. You'll leave a smaller footprint.
If you ARE going to fly, stop packing liquids and gels in your hand luggage! You're not going to get away with it, they ARE going to take them away and all of it's going to end up in the landfill. So don't!
Also, pack light: Easier said than done when being green, but the lighter your bags, the less fuel you'll consume if you drive or fly.
Pack lunch (in reusable containers): Not only will you be eating healthier for less money, you'll save on fast food waste.
Buy carbon credits: For those on longhaul trips or with a painful case of scruples, you can buy "carbon offsets" or credits. Basically your money will go towards green or sustainable businesses that will then emit fewer greenhouse gases. Too complicated? Think of it this way: You're going to be eating more than your fair share. So pay someone else to eat less.
By the way, carbon credits are a complicated business (but worth your while). To figure out which credits are good (and to avoid scams) check out the David Suzuki Foundation's primer on carbon offsets.
Meanwhile, have a little cash and want the trip of a lifetime? Take a tour with Kepri. It's a Montreal travel agency co-founded by Anthony Chamy, the charming gentleman in the photo above. They will show you a side of your destination that isn't in any guidebook and will help you make choices that are environmentally AND socially sustainable.

First of all, they use a formula that's pretty unique. They get someone who's a local in both point of origin at destination. Quite simply, someone like me (born in Mumbai, India--now a Quebec resident) to take tourists from here to the India that I know. So your guide will have cultural sensitivity to BOTH cultures--the visiting one and the host one. This will allow him/her to better facilitate a genuine cultural exchange.


The opposite of the typical tourist experience. Instead of saying, "here's some money, now dress up and entertain me", Kepri's groups go in and do workshops with the locals. So you can learn to sift for gold, sculpt pottery or build boats in a 3000-year-old technique. The activity is fun and educational for the tourists and provides something valuable and tangible to the locals (eg: the fishermen get an actual useful boat that they can use to fish with. This is important because their boats are perfectly biodegradable and wear out every three months). Plus you're sending the message that locals don't have to change their culture for your pleasure. You're interested in what they do... and you'd like to be involved.

Kepri steers clear of the typical all-included resort package. So yes, it's more expensive (more on that later), but the idea is to actually nourish the cultures you visit. Instead of all your money ending up in the hands of a western multinational, your contribution will actually help improve the lives of locals in the places you visit.
Kepri usually partners with individuals who have a strong bent towards social justice and fair trade. So the choices that you make as a group will be greener and more culturally sensitive.

What usually happens is this:

Government wants to protect the environment and attract tourists.
So government kicks out indigenous peoples from forest and declares it protected territory.
Displaced people are forced to work in resorts that house tourists who come to gawk at local flora and fauna.
Locals miserable.

The Kepri vision works this way:
Adventure guide understands value of local traditions (even if they may need updating).
Adventure guide helps create an interaction between tourists and locals that is mutually pleasurable and beneficial, but that also has a focus on sustainable development.
Change comes from within and locals find more sustainable updates to the ways they live.
Everyone's happy.

Scrolled down to here right away, eh? Can't say I blame you.
Okay, a trip with Kepri isn't exactly budget.
Two weeks will cost you $2000 CAD
This could be to India, Peru, Egypt or Greece.

What this includes:
* Lodging
* All meals
* Snacks
* Water and fruit juice
* Tips
* Excursion fees, internal transport costs

What it doesn't include:
* Air fare (yeah, ouch)
* Alcohol
* Gifts (like the prezzies you buy for the folks back home)

So my question is this. Do you think you would book a vacation with Kepri or a similar company despite the higher cost? Is being socially just and environmentally sustainable worth it to you? Leave me a comment or call our talkback line: (514) 597-5626

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