The Eco Aesthete: Acts of Human Kindness in Travel

The Eco Aesthete: Acts of Human Kindness in Travel

hotel expert Juliet Kinsman reckons being a
considerate traveller is as good for your mood as having a steamy
holiday romance. Here, the founder of Bouteco highlights the heroes and shows you how to
make the world a better place through your travels.

Sustainability doesn’t just mean solar panels. It’s about having
a positive impact – not only for the future of the planet but by
bringing a little joy to people’s lives. Being kind, basically. In
an era of metrics-obsessing and constant work-talk of ROI, in which
big corporate brands only seem to care about profit margins and
optimal operations, it warms my cockles when I hear of human
kindness in business: companies having a culture which promotes
pride and respect and being considerate to each other is worth

It’s hard to talk about gas-guzzling jets in a green-themed
conversation, but I recently delighted in a lovely story from
Singapore Airlines. Not the usual carbon-offsetting
press-friendly initiative, but a tale of the award-winning carrier
flying out Edinburgh-based
digital orchestra Drake Music Scotland to their mother-state for
True Colours, an Asia Pacific Festival of Artistes
with Disabilities. It’s not just boutique
that have my heart a-fluttering – it gives this
jet-setter a thrill to hear about a luxury travel brand promoting
positive social initiatives – especially when it comes to the arts
and less able-bodied.

A hotel group that doesn’t chime with me particularly for its
eco creds but which has a special place in my heart is LUX*
Resorts. Persand at LUX* Grand Gaube joined their
housekeeping team in 2004 and has been a “trolley boy” for 14
years. He is meticulous at his job. He is also entirely without
hearing. As part of their project called “For One Of Us”, the hotel
partnered with an institution so that 40 team members from various
departments could learn sign language. It’s Persand’s only form of
communication and through this he feels at ease in his workplace.
Next year, those who have learned sign language will be working
towards the advanced level by 2019, with 30 more enrolling in the
beginner’s course.

Business gurus might tell you that demonstrating kindness in
commerce is sending personal notes to your customers, or surprising
them with free gifts. But that seems far from altruistic to me. I’d
rather hear about them being nice people who do nice things to make
the world a better place – not just sweeten up their consumers to
make bigger deposits in their shareholders’ coffers.

Bruce Poon Tip is the Trinidad-born Canadian founder of G
and the author of Looptail: How One Company Changed
the World
by Reinventing Business. Bruce’s travel company has
created over 50 social enterprises bringing underserved communities
from Peru to Vietnam, into the sustainable-tourism chain, resulting
in improved education as well as jobs. He began hosting small group
trips in 1990, to bridge a gap between backpacker holidays and more
formal group expeditions; now G Adventures culturally immersive
tours are all about kind-spirited connections between humans.

In Bruce’s book, a foreword from the Dalai Lama extols the value
of businesses that “understand that human dignity, freedom and
genuine well-being are more important than the mere accumulation of
wealth”. Exactly! And many of the projects G Adventures has
cultivated sustain whole communities through their business’s
all-important ripple effect. In Peru’s Sacred Valley, the kitchen
and training programmes they helped set up to feed the thousands of
travellers they bring annually, provide an empowering opportunity
for the Peruvian women who now receive monthly salaries, health
insurance and pension funds through this project. His triangular
business theory shows how a non-profit can work for a for-profit
company to create change-making sustainable projects – the
non-profit regulates the projects and the for-profit makes it
successful and brings in the revenue which benefits the community
at large.

Bill Bensley is one of the world’s biggest designers. But for
someone so mega and whose work is so flamboyant, he’s also
incredibly humble and down to earth. It was only when having a cup
of tea with him in Bali I discovered all the work he’s done through
his Shinta Mani Foundation. His
Cambodia-based NGO has been supporting education, employment and
healthcare in incredibly underprivileged villages around the world
since 2004. Bill was so upset to discover how many newborns in
Cambodia were at risk from unclean water that he went and sourced a
thousand filters and personally distributed them. “When I first
travelled deeper into countryside and I saw the malnutrition and
real poverty, it made me cry,” says Bill said with his usual smile,
but with such touching sensitivity.

Which makes you ask yourself – what can I do next time I travel?
The smallest steps in the right direction can make a big difference
– especially when 1.2 billion of us are travelling every year. Jon
Rose is the founder of Waves For Water, which provides
access to clean water for millions while sidestepping the
challenges faced by traditional philanthropic initiatives.

“Guerrilla humanitarianism is about taking a no-nonsense,
stripped-down approach to determining the essentials needed to
complete a task,” says Jon. “Sometimes it’s best to take matters
into your own hands, bringing a solution directly to a problem,
under the radar and around the red tape.” Jon’s journey began with
a trip to Indonesia, where the pro surfer thought to take a few
water filtration systems. While he was aboard a boat off the coast
of Sumatra, an earthquake destroyed the nearby city of Padang,
resulting in a thousand lives lost and 100,000 made homeless. “I
managed to get water filters into the hands of rescue workers to
help those who were most in need of clean water – that was really
the start.” Since then, Waves For Water has expanded into a
specialised clean water task force known as the Clean Water Corps,
which combines a “no-nonsense guerrilla humanitarianism attitude”
with the expertise of military veterans to apply and implement
strategic humanitarian initiatives to the major global issue of
water-borne disease. So that I can be an evangelist with first-hand
experience, I’ve just signed up to be a courier to take water
filters to Indonesia too, since I travel there often – oh go on
then, you could be super kind and support this initiative too.

I’ll leave you with wise words once shared by Princess Diana:
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward,
safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for
you.” Word.

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