Centered on the Earth

Photo by Sally Guillaume.

These three travel companies offer sustainable opportunities to see — and even help save — the planet.

Aracari

Ahead of its time when it was originally founded in 1996, South American travel operator Aracari is highly regarded in the sustainable travel industry. Founder Marisol Mosquera defines sustainable travel simply as travel that does not destroy the
destination, which in today’s standards means low impact, low-volume tourism. These pillars of tourism have been part of Aracari’s mission since it began, in order to promote natural landscapes.

One of the most important ways Aracari maintains such high standards of sustainability is by educating guests throughout their trips, to “treat the local communities and sensitive environments with great respect,” Moquera states. To follow through, the company works tirelessly with the other businesses they work with to help ensure their self-imposed regulations are effective across the board. For example, Mosquera says the company seeks boutique hotels that are more stringent on standards like waste management, energy consumption, community involvement, et cetera. With these methods incorporated into their business model, Aracari is able to fulfill
clients’ travel needs while making a smaller impact on the surrounding environment.

“People travel to learn and experience new things, and our region is very rich with cultural and natural attractions,” Mosquera says, attractions that they strive to find new ways of highlighting through their bespoke travel tours. One upcoming tour in May 2020 is an eight-day excursion in Bolivia, hosted by National Geographic photographer Max Milligan, based in Kachi Lodge which is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Nestled next to Tunupa Volcano, these transparent igloo tents afford wonderful views and a unique sense of isolation while guests enjoy delicious food, hot water and comfortable accommodations.

Kachi Lodge | Bolivia

Kachi Lodge is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

Photo courtesy of Aracari.

Machu Picchu

Guests can travel to archaeological sites like Machu Picchu with Aracari’s Peru tours.

Photo by Marcella Echavarria.

Another tour featuring Milligan is an adventure through the mountains of Peru at El Albergue Ollantaytambo, where guests can visit local communities, archaeological sites like Machu Picchu, and an organic garden that stretches from the glacial snowline to the tropical cloud forest.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Photo by Stevie Mann.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Cottar’s Safari Camp provides an authentic and individualized safari experience by ensuring a legacy of wilderness, wildlife, comfort and security.

Photo courtesy of Steppes Travel.

Steppes Travel

Steppes Travel creates eco-luxury holiday trips that are tailor-made for people who are interested in wildlife. While it highlights giving a behind-the-scenes look into many different sensible wildlife environments and discovering different cultures, at the core, Steppes Travel focuses on giving back to the environment and communities their teams visit. An avid traveller himself, Rob Gardiner fit in perfectly at Steppes Travel as the Commercial Manager for the Africa sector with his overall knowledge and love for travel. “I love the people that you meet, I love the lessons that you learn from it, and I think it breaks down barriers, changing our perception of different places and alters our prejudices,” Gardiner says.

Gardiner says that the company’s focus on sustainable travel is driven by a need to look after the communities they visit and keep those wilderness areas as pristine as possible. Steppes Travel also works with community members and conservation groups to ensure proceeds are given back to those areas, noting that, as a whole, travel can be a force for good. “If you’re lucky enough to go to Zambia, Tanzania or Botswana on safari, for example, there should be money that goes back into the local economy so they too are incentivized to look after what they have.”

Regarding the tours, Gardiner says that the wildlife aspect is what helps keeps sustainability in mind for both guides and travellers. He notes that often these trips provide a unique educational experience, granting travellers a new, real perspective on conservation while taking part in projects like tracking rhinos in South Africa or working on a jaguar safari project in Brazil. Tourists can go further by becoming ambassadors for certain regions and work with communities around the world to be more conscious of endangered environments.

“As much as possible, we don’t believe in cocooning our clients away from the streetlife in Delhi or living with a nomadic family in Mongolia,” Gardiner affirms. “I think it’s about getting to know the people and about having that personal human connection.”

Undiscovered Mountains

According to Sally Guillaume, owner and founder of sustainable travel company Undiscovered Mountains, her reasons for starting the company were driven by a personal drive to create a better world, “to do things in a way that everyone benefits without exploiting people or environments.”

Focusing on trips located in and around the French Alps, Guillaume wanted to steer away from mass tourism and “build a sustainable approach to tourism both for the communities and the rich natural environments they live in.” In doing so, she built a business that not only focuses on preserving natural environments, but also helps clients to discover authentic Alpine communities, not usually found in mainstream Alpine travel.

Guillaume’s vision of a sustainable world includes less consumerism and a deeper appreciation for experiences. And while Undiscovered Mountains, Steppes Travel and Aracari are all model companies, there is a long way to go in sustainable tourism — from updating local infrastructure to promoting lower-impact travel methods such as train or “green” vehicles. She notes, however, the ethical standards of travel companies have become more and more important consumers in recent years, as well as the destination and activities involved.

From touring preserved natural environments with abundant wildlife and flora on the southern French Alps, to immersive tours in both Nepal and Norway that are launching soon, Undiscovered Mountains will continue to make its mission about serving the environment, which has always shaped the culture around them. “The type of food people eat, the architecture of old buildings, the choice of where villages are situated is all to do with how people have survived living off the land of the mountains for centuries.”

The French Alps

Travelers can learn to paraglide and fly above the mountains on one of Undiscovered Mountain’s paragliding courses.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

From ski touring to dogsledding with huskies, …

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

Undiscovered Mountains offers a wide assortment of winter activities that are fully customisable, all in the French Alps.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently announced the recipients of its 2017 LEED Homes Awards, an annual honor given to innovative projects, architects, developers and homebuilders leading the residential green building market.  
“We believe that every building, especially homes, should be green. LEED-certified homes enhance the health and wellbeing of occupants by providing clean indoor air and incorporating safe building materials to ensure comfort and safety, and they are designed to save critical resources, use less energy and water and save money,” says Mahesh Ramanujam, USGBC President and CEO. “The LEED Homes Awards showcase the most inspired and efficient practices in the residential green building movement. These leaders showcase what it means to create a home that balances aesthetic appeal with real human and environmental needs.”
The recipients include multi-family, single-family and affordable housing projects and companies who utilized innovative and effective sustainability methods in residential spaces in 2017.
LEED Homes Award Recipients include:

Photo courtesy James Shanks.

Project of the Year: The House at Cornell Tech, Roosevelt Island, NY
Developed by The Hudson Companies and Related Companies, Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus features The House,” a LEED Platinum multi-family residence open to students, staff, and faculty. This 26-story full-functioning apartment building uses 60-70 percent less energy than that of a similarly sized typical building.

Outstanding Single-Family Project: Historic District Infill Home, Decatur, GA
Built and owned by SK Collaborative principal Carl Seville, the Historic District Infill Home manages to fit seamlessly into a prestigious existing historic district while meeting the highest standards of energy efficiency and sustainability through its LEED Platinum certification. This 100-percent electric home employs state of the art concepts in design, construction, and mechanical systems.

Photo courtesy Tim Ridley.

Photo courtesy Mark Boisclair Photography Inc.

Outstanding Single-Family Developer: Maracay Homes, Scottsdale, AZ
For over 25 years, Maracay Homes has been a leader in Arizona’s sustainable real estate industry. Having constructed more than 9,000 homes for families across Phoenix and Tucson, Maracay strives to provide homebuyers with smarter choices that serve both their lifestyle and the environment.

Outstanding Multi-Family Project: PassiveTown Phase 3, Building K, Kurobe, Japan
Developed by YKK Fudosan Co., Passive Town Phase 3, Building K is a LEED Platinum low-rise multi-family residence and the first LEED for Homes project in Japan. After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, YKK Fudosan Co. realized the importance of sustainable and resilient design and decided to construct the 3-block PassiveTown community.

Photo courtesy Saito Sadayuki.

Outstanding Multi-Family Developer: The Hudson Companies Inc., New York, NY
Started in 1986, The Hudson Companies, Inc. focuses on urban development in the New York metropolitan area. Committed to quality, each of its developments is designed to achieve green building standards like LEED. They currently have completed over 3,500 housing units and have nearly 5,000 additional units in pre-development or construction.

Outstanding Affordable Project: Crescent Crossings Phase 1, Bridgeport, CT
Crescent Crossings is the result of a collaboration between JHM Financial Group, Crosskey Architects and Viking Construction, who wanted to create a durable, welcoming community with low tenant utility bills. The first phase of the four-part project achieved LEED Platinum in 2017 and resides in an area once riddled with crime and violence. However, the creation of the Crescent Crossings community will help vanquish old reputations by fostering a healthy, safe, and vibrant community.

Photo courtesy Mark W. Lipczynski.

Outstanding Affordable Developer Builder / Developer: Native American Connection, Phoenix, AZ
Part of Native American Connection’s cultural heritage is its mindfulness to how our actions affect future generations. Therefore, incorporating LEED into its work is an important step as it gives their tenants a higher quality of life while ensuring a healthier future.

USGBC also recognized “LEED Homes Power Builders,” a distinction USGBC established to honor an elite group of developers and builders that have exhibited an outstanding commitment to LEED and the green building movement within the residential sector. In order to be considered a LEED Homes Power Builder this year, developers and builders must have LEED-certified 90 percent of their homes/unit count built in 2017. Homes at any LEED certification level are eligible for consideration.

2017 LEED Homes Power Builders include: (*Represents a company that also won a LEED Homes Award):

Construction Rocket Inc.

JHM*

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

The Dinerstein Companies

Metro West Housing Solutions

Forest City Realty Trust

MHI Dallas

Gerding Edlen

Koral & Gobuty Development

Frankel Building Group

AMLI Residential

C&C Development

Alliance Residential

Carmel Partners

Native American Connections*

The Community Builders

Thrive Home Builders

Active West

Millennium Mission, photos courtesy The Dinerstein Companies.

This female-led, boutique interior design firm is leaving a positive and lasting impression on the environment.

500 Waverly

The Design High, an eco-friendly firm, specializes in designing and staging residential buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan with high profile projects including 63 Wall Street, 1N4th, 265 East Houston, LEVEL and 507 West Chelsea.

 

Whether it’s using tiles that are made of recycled contents or local materials to avoid shipping, Design High does its best to preserve the environment.

 

When it comes to design, the team must follow its clients’ requests. However, the team does its best to educate clients and offer eco-friendly options when possible, according to Founder and Creative Director Highlyann Krasnow.

In addition to encouraging an eco-friendly design, the team donates monthly to the Natural Resource Defense Council and Earthjustice. “We want to make sure some of our profits end up in the right place,” says Krasnow. “Ultimately, they’re not creating anymore land, this is the place that we live. I want to, at least, try to leave this planet better off than I found it.”

 

Design High also maintains a green office environment by avoiding the use of paper, banning all plastic and paper cups, and using notebooks made of recycled materials.

507 West Chelsea

LEVEL

“We are very conscious of how we use our land. That is how I grew up, and it was important to me to bring that to the company as well,” says Krawnow on her decision to start an eco-conscious business.

 

Recent advances in technology and the mass production of eco-friendly resources have made it easier to be environmentally conscious in 2018 than in recent years. “I think people are starting to see that something has to be done,” says Krawnow, who notes an increased push toward sustainability in recent years.

Lead by a group of five women, Design High hopes other woman are inspired by the company’s success. However, Krawnow notes that the company’s lack of men was not purposeful. “We are all women,” Krasnow jokes. “But we’ve tried to hire men, it just ended up this way.”

 

She does believe, however, that the female-led team brings unique perspective and balance to a typically male-driven scene. “We do work on a lot of construction sites, and we are really the only woman,” Krasnow jokes. “It is important to feel empowered, and to not let that be intimidating. I think we bring a nice ying to the yang.”

LEVEL

Krasnow has an important message to both men and women who are considering entrepreneurship — “I think that the best advice I could give is just not be too scared to try.”

 

“It is very intimidating, there was a lot I didn’t know. I think you have to give yourself some time to let it work without giving up on the idea,” says Krasnow, who says it took at least two years for her to feel confident that her business would succeed.

Photos courtesy of The Design High

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