My husband and I just returned from a two-week trip to England and Scotland visiting family. We had a blast, making stops in the tiny waterside village of Instow in Devon (southwest corner of England), the bustling university and golf haven of St. Andrews in Scotland, and the quiet Cotswold village of Deddington in Oxfordshire. It was the first international trip we have taken since starting Kutoa, and I was struck by just how many signs of community involvement I saw around every turn.
After sprinting all-out through the airport on our 5-minute layover in Detroit, following the desk attendant waving us into the gate like an air traffic controller, we boarded our flight to London and saw our first sign of “socially green travel.” Our flight attendant handed us our drink with a napkin advertising Delta’s October campaign called “Take Flight for the Fight,” giving travelers the option of purchasing a Minute Maid Pink Lemonade instead of getting a free beverage, with 100% of all proceeds going directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
I pulled open the Sky Mall magazine, whose gadgets and tchotchkes hold an inexplicably high level of intrigue for me, and saw a product called Striiv. Striiv is a nifty little gizmo that attaches to your keychain and sends donations to charities in proportion to the number of steps the user takes each day – all at no expense to the user – so the more you walk the more you give.
While bouncing around on the rickety old train to adorable little Instow village, I looked across and noticed a woman with a canvas tote bag bearing a picture of the globe and the phrase, “Plastic Isn’t Fantastic.” I was tickled – what a great mantra!
On the drive into St. Andrews, Scotland, the city introduces itself with a sign announcing “A Fairtrade Town.” Turns out that being a Fairtrade Town means being licensed and certified by the UK’s Fairtrade Foundation, which aims to promote awareness of fair trade products that support sustainable development around the world. Fair trade products are traded through structures and practices that favor poor and marginalized producers, workers, and their communities.
While sipping some local brew at a pub one afternoon in St. Andrews, I pulled open a fashion magazine advertising a New York-based baby clothing company called Oeuf. Oeuf’s mission statement talks about being good to the planet and good to people, and one part of its line is a 100% baby alpaca wool line made by a self-managing group of women in Bolivia. The proceeds of this Fair Trade alpaca line go directly to these women to help send their children to school, gain reliable healthcare and nutrition, and end the uncertainty of unemployment.
A day or two later I wandered into a quaint little place called the Coffee House and had a lovely latte on a blustery afternoon. While enjoying my coffee and scoffing down a scone, surrounded by discounted china including a funny Prince William memorabilia mug that I almost sprang for, I noticed a certificate in the window advertising the place as a Fairtrade Company. The very coffee I was clutching was a fair trade product that ensured better wages and economic security for a coffee farmer in Kenya.
Back down south in Oxfordshire the following week, my aunt and grandmother were busy organizing a jewelry sale to benefit the British Legion, which support “the old and the bold” veterans (as my grandmother put it). The British Legion runs an annual campaign each fall where donors show their pride with a simple bright poppy badge.
On the way home after a super trip, a sign caught my eye for the Gatwick Airport Community Trust. The Trust is a charity that encourages and supports community-based efforts to develop young people, the arts, sporting facilities, environmental improvement and conservation, improvements to community facilities, volunteering, the elderly, and the disabled. The Trust focuses on areas affected by the operation of Gatwick Airport in South London.
Reclining luxuriously in my economy plus upgraded seat … well, ok, perhaps “reclining” and “luxuriously” may not be the right words, but it was an upgrade, so I’m not complaining … I cracked open my Entrepreneur Magazine and noticed a mention of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation. Ben & Jerry’s, those fathers of invention whom we have all toasted with raised spoons in our own kitchens, are serious about philanthropy. The Foundation donates $1.8 million annually to eligible social organizations across the United States and in their native Vermont.
The variety of socially green initiatives I saw brought an enormous smile to my face. It also surprised me. You know when you buy a new car and then suddenly it seems that everyone has that same car because now you are attuned to recognizing it when you see it? It’s the same with Kutoa and socially green travel. Now that I have started the company and am attuned to the idea of companies donating to their own communities and beyond, I see it happening everywhere I look. Let us know what socially green initiatives you are seeing out there! Join the conversation on Facebook and leave us a post.