Rick Steves’s Bold New Climate Commitment
When Rick Steves talks about the condition of the planet, people listen. The author of more than 50 travel guidebooks and host of a PBS travel series, Steves has witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change around the globe, from rising sea levels to extreme weather events to overall global warming.
Introducing the Climate Smart Commitment
Steves is now using his considerable platform to help slow the effects of climate change. His Climate Smart Commitment will donate $1 million annually to fund climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry, and conservation projects in underdeveloped countries, with a portion of the funding going to climate advocacy organizations in the U.S.
The Climate Smart Commitment is noteworthy not only for its $1 million annual price tag but also for rejecting the conventional “carbon offset credits” approach that some businesses adopt, which often focus on funding clean energy projects in North America and Europe. Instead, Steves has chosen to work with organizations that are directly addressing climate change in developing countries, with an emphasis on projects that empower women to take leadership roles as they strengthen communities and help protect their environment.
Addressing the Global Effects of Travel
If Steves’s climate commitment sounds like an act of pure altruism, guess again. That $1 million annual investment is actually what Steves estimates he “owes” to the environment due to the carbon emissions created by the 30,000 travelers who take his European tours each year.
"Right now, our goal is simple," Steves tells Budget Travel. "We aim to mitigate the carbon emissions created when people fly to Europe and back for a Rick Steves tour. Funds for meeting this goal will come straight from our profits." Scientists estimate that the carbon emissions from a single traveler on one of Steves’s tours requires $30 in careful investment to offset.
“We don’t see this program as particularly heroic,” says Steves.“It’s simply ethical. We believe every business should bear the cost to the environment of their activities. That’s just honest accounting. We hope this program will inspire everyone who buys or sells tours to practice the same environmental ethic. This way, long after we are gone, our children will be able to enjoy the same happy travels we have.”
What Every Traveler Can Do
"Every flight or bus tour we take burns fossil fuels, and all travelers need to do their part to address this," Steves says. "Fortunately, there are lots of simple ways to curb your carbon footprint when traveling." Some suggestions, available at www.ricksteves.com/climate, include:
- Make sure your home isn't wasting energy while you're away — turn down the thermostat, unplug as many appliances as you can, and suspend print subscriptions.
- When possible, travel by train — rail travel is very energy efficient. And in Europe it's also generally fast, easy, and comfortable.
- If you rent a car, rent the most fuel-efficient option, and decline any free "upgrade" to a model that's bigger than you need.
- In cities, enjoy the thrill of getting around by bike if you can, and take advantage of Europe's fantastic public transportation rather than relying on taxis. (And remember that Europe's airports are all well-served by easy, frequent transit.) Before taking a bus tour, look into a bike or walking tour instead.
- Be conscious of your energy consumption in hotels. Turn off the lights and air-conditioning when you leave the room. (Many European hotel rooms help you do this already: The power turns on only when the key is in a slot.) On warm days, close the window shutters or curtains before you leave in the morning, and you won't need to blast the air-con when you return. Because room service generates needless laundry, I hang the "Do not disturb" sign on my door and reuse my towel.
- Most of Europe is flowing with great tap water, often available in fountains around towns and cities. By reusing a plastic water bottle or bringing your own refillable water bottle, you not only save money, but also avoid consuming bunches of plastic and reduce demand for water that's shipped overland in trucks and trains.
- Cut down on other wasteful consumption as much as possible. Travel habits prompt many of us to use disposable items much more often than we do at home, but you can reduce this with a little prep: Pack a lightweight shopping bag and keep it in your day bag, and bring a set of reusable picnic ware. Don't pick up brochures, maps, or other materials that you don't need to keep — consider taking photos of them instead. (The fewer brochures that get picked up at tourist offices, the fewer they'll print next year.) Avoid using the individually packaged, itsy-bitsy toiletries supplied by hotel rooms. A single bar of soap and squeeze bottle of shampoo from home can last an entire trip.
- Eat locally: Food that hasn't been trucked long distances is easier on the environment (and tastier). Picnic shop at farmers markets when you can, and avoid chain restaurants. Look for restaurants that use mainly local and organic ingredients (more likely with smaller family-run places; "bio" is shorthand for "organic" in many European languages).
- Patronize hotels and travel companies that promote and practice sustainable traveling practices.
- Notice how Europeans seem to live more while consuming less, and how they live as if their choices can shape a better future. And take home a little of that sensibility as a souvenir.
(Tips courtesy RickSteves.com)
Airport Security Bins May Get Cleaner
Although Budget Travel has always strived to inspire and empower travelers, every so often a decidedly uninspiring and disempowering headline really grabs our audience’s attention. Last September, “Airport Security Bins Are Dirtier Than Toilet Seats” was a surprise hit, maybe because the ghastly headline required no further explanation. A New Hope But there’s hope on the horizon. Microban International (specializing in antimicrobial and odor control technologies) and Security Point Media (specializing in transforming airport security screening checkpoints) have formed a partnership to treat airport security trays with built-in antimicrobial technology that inhibits the growth of bacteria. The treated trays will be deployed at the network of airports currently served by Security Point Media, which includes Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, and other major hubs, by the end of the summer. Security Bins Affect 2 Million Travelers Per Day For decades, Microban has developed antimicrobial solutions for restaurants, hospitals, schools, and other environments with “high-touch” surfaces. (Translation: Surfaces touched by lots of hands all day long, raising the risk of spreading disease germs.) "With more than two million travelers passing through U.S. airports on a daily basis, there is a great opportunity to support the Security Point Media mission,” says Michael Ruby, Vice President of Microban. “We are confident the addition of Microban technology to SPM's SecureTray will be well-received by airport operators and the general population alike."
NYC Theater: The Museum of Broadway Is Coming to Times Square
The Museum of Broadway is set to launch in the heart of New York City’s theater district next year, offering visitors a behind-the-scenes look at some of the city’s greatest shows and musicals of all time. The “Great White Way” The part of Broadway between 42nd and 53rd streets – including Times Square – is considered the home of American theater. Known as the Theater District or the Great White Way thanks to its blinding neon billboards, this famous stretch of street attracts millions of people to theater shows every year. Broadway is one of the major draws in New York City and this past season, attendance was up 9.5%, according to Broadway League. A New Pop-Up Museum Next year a pop-up museum will showcase why its appeal is so enduring. Visitors will be taken on a journey from the birth of Broadway up to the present day through a variety of immersive exhibits. Open to visitors of all ages, the Museum of Broadway will focus on three main components: the evolution of the theater district from Lower Manhattan to Times Square in the 1800s, the making of a Broadway show, and landmark blockbusters that defined eras of Broadway. It will also showcase actual costumes, props and scenery used in famous Broadway shows. “We are excited to welcome the new Museum of Broadway to Times Square in 2020. No visit to New York City is complete without seeing a Broadway show, and now with this new pop-up museum, visitors can further immerse themselves in the history and legacy of one of our City’s most iconic draws,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. Opening in April The Museum of Broadway will be presented by three-time Tony-nominated producer Julie Boardman and marketing executive Diane Nicoletti. It’s scheduled to run from April through December 2020.
TSA Workers Are Moving to the Southwest Border. Will Airport Security Be Affected?
CNN reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to send up to 175 law enforcement officials and up to “400 people from Security Ops” to the Southwest border to assist with immigration duties, according to an internal email obtained by CNN. TSA May Face Depleted Resources According to the CNN report, TSA acknowledges that the “immediate need” at the border presents “some risk” of depleted aviation security. The effort will not involve TSA’s airport screeners—the most visible part of the TSA’s daily activities—but will involve employees who work in behind-the-scenes security roles, including monitoring airport security lines, conducting airport sweeps, and working with local and state law enforcement officials. Will Your Travel Experience Be Affected? Because the move of TSA workers to the border will not initially involve uniformed screeners, chances are most travelers will not immediately experience longer lines or wait times at airport security. However, the effect on behind-the-scenes security initiatives—arguably as crucial to TSA’s mission as routine screening—remains to be seen. TALK TO US: If you experience longer-than-usual wait times at airport security, please share your stories in the comments below. This story is evolving, and Budget Travel will continue to follow developments that may have a direct impact on air travelers.
Travel News: Airbnb Experiences for Music Lovers
You might sound good singing in the shower or rocking the mic at karaoke, but now you can take your show on the road—no tour dates required. With enthusiastic hosts in destinations near and far, Airbnb Experiences (airbnb.com/experiences) gives travelers the opportunity to dig deep into local cultures with interest-specific adventures, and if you're looking to put your musical chops to the test, there are plenty of options available. Spend time in a Los Angeles recording studio, create your own beats with a DJ in Brooklyn, or try something farther afield—the ancient art of taiko drumming in Tokyo, perhaps, or flamenco guitar lessons in Sevilla? Whether your interest lies in performing, songwriting, or making the instruments themselves, the home-sharing platform is encouraging aspiring entertainers to take center stage. School of Rock Dreaming of bringing a stadium of fans to their knees? Channel those air-guitar skills and step into the studio. In Burbank, you can book time with an award-winning producer to write, arrange, and record your own song, and you’ll come away with an MP3 of the finished product, as well as a deeper understanding of how the recording magic happens. To get a feel for the operational side of things, look to Nashville’s fabled Music Row, where you can schedule a songwriting session with a professional or learn the ropes at a working studio. Can’t get enough K-Pop? Head to Korea, where you can train with a vocal coach and record your tune. You’ll walk away with a short music video and your song on CD—a guaranteed chart-topper, naturally. DJ Dreams If getting behind the turntables is more your speed, DJs from coast to coast can help. Talk shop with a Grammy-winning producer in L.A. who will lead you through DJing 101 and send you home with a record from his stacks, or go vinyl shopping with a Brooklyn DJ who will show you how to create a sample and produce your own beat. Overseas, you can become a mix-master in Paris or pick up the tricks of the house-DJ trade in Medellín, to say nothing of the scenes you can experience in London, Berlin, and Havana while you're there. Go Off-Book To see how the sausage—errr, music—gets made, tour a ukulele factory in Honolulu, where you’ll lay hands on the instruments and watch the craftspeople at work; for a truly immersive experience, check out a three-day itinerary with a historic violin maker in Paris, which includes an introduction to the city's musical heritage, time in the workshop for a peek at the process, and a demonstration of the finished product, plus a concert outing to cap things off. From harp lessons, taiko drumming, and traditional dragon flute in Tokyo to the seven-string guqin in Chengdu to Indian finger drumming in New York, there’s a world of instruments just waiting to be played.