Sustainability

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Healthy People, Healthy Planet

Wildland Trekking believes in acting responsibly as we grow.

Conservation has been a core part of our mission at Wildland since the beginning. For years we have supported the conservation efforts of local non-profits and associations affiliated with each of our destinations. This support has taken form as financial contributions, strategic partnerships, auction donations, volunteer projects and more.

What became increasingly clear over time however was that protecting our very special destinations (like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Torres del Paine, and Kilimanjaro National Park to name a few) only works if we – as humanity – can protect the planet. These pristine refuges are not islands, disconnected from the rest of the world. They are 100% dependent on the well being of our world as a whole. This important realization was the spark that lit our sustainability mission, to go hand in hand with our conservation efforts.

The NEED for Sustainable Travel

Three hikers walking toward snowy Patagonian mountainWorldwide, travel and tourism has become a staggering $3 trillion dollar industry. Its growth often outpaces global GDP, and all long term markers point to continued, explosive growth.

These revelations are ultimately unsurprising when you look at the travel landscape as a whole. Modern technology has made globetrotting around the planet profoundly easy, when contrasted with literally all of human history before the mid 20th century.  Take your pick on how you’d like to travel: plane, helicopter, yacht, sailboat, cruise ship, bus, rental car, RV, conversion van, motorcycle, bicycle, on foot and many more. Additionally, the internet has put nearly every destination at our finger tips where travel can be booked in seconds. On top of that, social media is now flooded with people doing nothing but traveling and posting images and stories about their exploits, which is further exploding demand. Finally, young people say they are less interested in “things” and more interested in “experiences,” and travel is the #1 item on their list of desired experiences.

Together, all of this information paints a picture of a tsunami of tourists impacting nearly every corner of the planet in the coming decades.

And here’s the rub. Every visit by every tourist to every destination in the world has an impact, positive or negative – on the local community, the local ecosystems and our planet as a whole. The food travelers eat, the transportation they use, the people they hire, the lodging they book, the tours they join – these are all choices that have dominoes with big question marks. Where did the food come from, who grew it, how was it grown? What impacts does the transportation have on the local air, the roads, the climate as a whole? Are the businesses ethically run, do they have fair labor practices, do they hire child labor…etc.?

The answers to these questions, and many more, determine the individual impacts of each traveler’s choices. The impact of each choice is ultimately small, but $3 trillion worth of small impacts is an avalanche of effect influencing every corner of the globe.

THE WILDLAND philosophy

Hikers walking toward camera

The key philosophy behind our sustainability mission is a deep conviction that if approached conscientiously, tourism can create very positive outcomes locally and globally.

The four key ingredients to creating positive outcomes are:

  1. Travelers and companies having awareness of their impacts and taking personal responsibility for ensuring sustainability.
  2. The travel being educational to expand travelers’ environmental awareness, their empathy toward their fellow human beings, and their understanding of the limitations of their home culture.
  3. Travelers and companies eliminating or offsetting the negative impacts of their travel such as waste production, pollution and carbon emissions.
  4. Travelers and companies actively contributing in thoughtful ways to local economies and communities and to the conservation of local air, water, food supplies and regional ecosystems.

At Wildland, our primary focus since 2005 has been points 1, 2 and 4. Through our sustainability mission we are now ambitiously expanding our commitment into the third point as well, to lead by example toward a healthier planet by eliminating or offsetting the impacts of our trips.

The categories of our renewed focus fit into the following categories:

Reducing Single Use Plastics

Single use plastics include everything from Ziplock-style bags to food packaging to plastic water bottles and more. These plastics have become a plague for the environment. Many of them end up in the ocean and are broken down into tiny particles that build up in the bodies of almost every type of marine life. As an illustration of how important this initiative is, one well documented study found microscopic plastics raining down from the sky in the Pyrenees Mountains of Southern France. Humanity must alter its use and disposal of plastic, and from our perspective it begins with us.

Reducing Downstream Waste

We maximize recycling to the greatest extent possible. This includes waste recycling with plastics, aluminum, glass, fuel canisters, oil and more. But it also extends to our use of gear and equipment. We donate used equipment to nonprofits like Grand Canyon Youth so these items can be used for an entire life cycle, even if they’re beyond the quality of a commercially guided trip.

GOING CARBON NEUTRAL

Without a healthy climate, we – as a species – have nothing. Our major moonshot at Wildland is to reach carbon neutrality. This includes everything from guests’ airplane travel and local shuttles to the production and transportation of the food and gear we use on our trips. We are at the beginning stages of conducting a full audit of our carbon impact — to measure what we burn, and thereby establish an understanding of the baseline climitary impact of each of our trips. We then plan to creatively reduce where we can, and conscientiously offset the remainder through a combination of carbon sequestration and traditional offsets.

 Support of Human Communities

We recognize that sustainability is impossible if human communities are unsupported, and people are poor, hungry, uneducated, lack connection with the natural world, or worst of all, are negatively impacted by tourism. Unfortunately in many places throughout the world, including in America, some or all of these problems are present. It is a crucial part of our mission to support human communities. We accomplish this through support of organizations like Feed the Children, Grand Canyon Youth and others. We are also working to increase minority youth access to wild spaces in the USA, which we believe is an important component of race equality. Finally, we are sensitive to the impacts our trips have on local communities, and work to ensure Wildland has a positive impact.