Sustainability Series: Aaren Prody

1. What made you start to think more about making more sustainable choices when traveling?
    – I believe that my journey started a little bit before I began traveling, but the glue that really made plastic pollution and other unethical practices a reality for me was my first solo trip abroad to Bali, Indonesia. So I am originally from the United States where all of our trash is out of sight, out of mind, and basically everything is seen as a commodity. With that being said, once I set foot in a place that was dealing with a trash problem first hand, it really opened my eyes to what’s REALLY going on. From then on, I made it a point to learn more about the plastic pollution issue and I ended up watching a documentary on Netflix called Plastic Paradise that helped me move forward in moving towards a little waste lifestyle. Plastic pollution aside, it was really my transition into a vegan lifestyle that opened my eyes to unethical animal tourism and the current state of the planet. So I guess it has been a domino effect since around 2014, but I believe seeing it all in person changed everything.
2. How would you define sustainable travel to someone who isn’t sure exactly what it is?
    – I would define sustainable travel as traveling in a way that doesn’t create a negative impact on the destinations we choose to travel to. Negative impacts can be new westernized restaurants put in place above mom and pop shops, countries relying solely on tourism for money, mass-produced souvenir shops overtaking local artisans and creating large amounts of environmental waste, it all comes full circle and goes directly with how we spend our money, and we want to put our money towards local guides, local shops, and not contributing to over tourism.
3. You recently pledged to fly carbon neutral, can you explain briefly what this means and what steps you will be taking to offset your carbon emissions from traveling?
     – I am REALLY stoked to start flying carbon neutral. Flying contributes to 12%/20% of carbon emissions that go into the atmosphere due to transportation, so what my pledge to become a carbon neutral flyer means that for every single flight that I take, I am going to be donating to a carbon offsetting project that will ‘counter’ the carbon I put into the atmosphere by reforestation, reef restoration, giving underdeveloped communities access to clean water, and so on. I am going to be donating money towards non-profits projects that will help me achieve this goal and I hope to one day attend one of these so that I can put my time and money into giving the people or the planet a better life. The other steps I will be taking to offset my carbon emissions while traveling is by donating to carbon offsetting projects (as I mentioned before), flying with more sustainable airlines, take more direct flights, walk more, carpool, hire local drivers rather than hiring my own car, support sustainable companies and products, reducing my waste, reusing and repurposing old products, and recycling the waste that I do create. I also follow a little to zero waste lifestyle, so I am really passionate about creating as little waste as I possibly can.
4. Reducing plastic use is a step that many people are taking to help reduce their environmental impact, what are your top tips for avoiding single-use plastics whilst traveling?
    – The first thing that I make sure of is to be prepared. To fully prepare myself for most of the things I will encounter on the road, I carry around these zero waste swaps: hydro flask, reusable utensils, reusable straw, cloth napkin, takeaway containers, bamboo toothbrush, zero waste toothpaste, mineral deodorant, stainless steel razor, diva cup (for all my ladies out there), solid shampoo + conditioner, muslin shopping bag, and biodegradable sunscreen. I accumulated these slowly over time and having these makes it so easy to avoid single-use plastics. My next tip would be don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to ask for an alternative. It’s not weird or ‘hippie’ to care about the planet, so refuse that straw, ask if they can put your food in your own container, and bring your own cup if you need to. It’s going to make people ask questions and hopefully, it’ll spark a change in them as well.
5. If you could only give one piece of advice for people looking to make their traveling more sustainable, what would it be?
    – At first, it’s going to seem like being more mindful is a huge “inconvenience”, but essentially what you are doing is re-training your brain to think about what we are contributing to. We have been conditioned to consume consume consume, so there will be days that you forget your items or maybe something wasn’t what you thought, but this entire experience is to learn, spread the message, and be more evoke positive change during our time on the road.

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