Guardians of the Earth: Moments that Made Protecting the Planet our Purpose

Friends of SUITCASE tell us about the moments that cemented their intent to protect and preserve the planet, through sustainable businesses, green enterprises and community initiatives.

It's not just natural habitats and delicate ecosystems that are at risk in a warming climate; human communities and artistic endeavours are negatively impacted, too. For Earth Day - the annual action day for the support of environmental protection - we're championing some of the individuals around the world who are doing their bit to nurture our precious planet, from a field guide working in the Serengeti, to a travel company founder seeking to preserve under-threat heritage crafts, and the brains behind one of the UK's most sustainable hotels.

Reasons to save Earth: moments in nature that cemented our resolve to protect the planet

Joshua Wilfred, a field guide in the Serengeti

Joshua Wilfred

"I was raised in Tanzania, in an African family where respect for nature was of the utmost importance. Our elders taught us how to love and protect our environment, and I grew up knowing that we must preserve this beautiful world in order that future generations will be able to witness its beauty, too.

One of my best memories - and the reason that I decided on a career in conservation - was the first time I visited Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is the only conservation area in the country that protects wildlife while also allowing human habitation. I remember feeling so excited watching the Masai tribespeople interact with wild animals - without any conflict. They have been living this life for many generations and have an innate understanding of the environment. I wanted to be a part of this and share with the world the message that if we love and protect nature, it will also protect us."

Joshua Wilfred is a field guide in the Serengeti, northern Tanzania.

Aukje Van Gerven

Aukje Van Gerven

"I remember being in Ethiopia, cycling from Addis Ababa to the town of Gondar, and passing fields in all different shades of green - not a single plastic bag or soda can in sight. But, while the natural beauty was completely unspoilt, the local population was struggling. This once-in-a-lifetime experience opened my eyes to the importance of reaching out to and supporting local communities, as my tourism dollars were helping families build their own sustainable communities. I believe that growing nature-based tourism in rewilding areas will increase interest and local custodianship for these beautiful wild spaces of Europe, ultimately leading to sustainable communities living side by side with nature and wildlife in rewilded areas."

Aukje Van Gervan is the European Safari Company's rewilding training and tourism manager. The operator offers experiential nature-based travel across Europe.

Brooke Andrews, founder of Rotaro

Brooke Andrews

"I was fortunate enough to grow up just outside of the Canadian Rockies, near Jasper National Park - a place very close to my heart. My favourite memories involve spending time with my family around Lac Beauvert, watching the northern lights. These lightbulb moments triggered in me a deep appreciation for protected space and a sense of there being an inherent responsibility to help our natural landscapes to thrive. Rotaro was born from a very real desire to empower fashion brands to consider their environmental impact and consume more mindfully."

Brooke Andrews is co-founder of Rotaro, a fashion rental service redefining our relationship with clothes.

Emma Stratton, the found of the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall, UK

Emma Stratton

"Living by the coast, you become aware of man's impact on the planet because you're living in such a sensitive ecosystem. Our natural resources are precious and, regardless of what you think about climate change, we ought to minimise our use of these resources for the sake of future generations.

The hotel industry consumes vast amounts of resources and is incredibly wasteful. We wanted to show that there is a different way. By treating environmental concern as a key principle (rather than as an afterthought), we were able to weave new environmental technologies deeply into Scarlet's core design. Out of a deep awe for our clifftop place, we try to live with a balanced relationship with the natural coastal ecosystem here. It's a simple way of living that's about slowing down, using less and appreciating more."

Emma Stratton is the owner of Cornwall's pioneering Scarlet and Bedruthan hotels.

Geetika Agrawal

Geetika Agrawal

"As a design student, I spent my summers working with craftspeople in India. These experiences taught me the value of crafts, their direct connection with natural materials, the artists and makers behind them and how they inspire humanity. I felt enriched. But, I also saw the existential threat that cultures faced due to lack of apprentices, ageing artists, shortages of raw materials and climate change. Helping people to enrich themselves through creative exploration while raising awareness for global culture and helping artists pass on their knowledge became my mission.

Recently, I read a shocking statistic in a study published by the Heritage Crafts Association. There are 130 endangered crafts in the UK alone. I imagine the global numbers are worse. It has deepened our mission at VAWAA to create a tiny impact in preserving the unique cultures and crafts that exist on the planet."

Geetika Agrawal is the founder of VAWAA [Vacation With An Artist], a travel operator offering short-term learning experiences with master crafters and artists.

Tobias and Roberta Zingg

"In our 20s, we travelled through Europe together for a year and our favourite places were those far away from cities, in the middle of nature. On the beach of San Vito Lo Capo, along the coast of Galway and in Sweden's endless forests, we discovered the beauty and diversity of Europe's wilder side. When we began curating the labels for our online concept store, we were sure to seek out sustainable production when choosing brands to stock, even before it was a trend. Since then, we've focused on tackling the packaging waste our business brings with it and have developed a reusable shipping envelope, the Kickbag. It's actually quite logical and simple: after receiving their order, the customer can simply fold the Kickbag and send it back to us free of charge by regular mail. No more cardboard boxes to dispose of, a win-win situation and innovation that makes us very proud."

Tobias and Roberta Zingg are co-founders of Stadtlandkind, a sustainable family clothing store in Switzerland.

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