As the Community Impact Manager in Australia, I take environmental sustainability very seriously. I love that our travel programs expose students and staff to the world, fostering cross-cultural connections and transformative experiences, but I know that comes with great responsibility.
I’m proud to say that at Rustic Pathways, we have a company-wide commitment to reduce our impact on the environment. For more than 20 years we’ve been working with local partners on environmental conservation efforts, supporting local economies,and educating students on how to be stewards for the environment.
With programs in 17 countries, local offices in 7 of those countries, 12 base houses, and more than 10,000 students traveling with us each year—we’re operating on a large scale. When we require all student travelers who visit the beach to use reef-safe sunscreen and encourage them to have reusable water bottles, that starts to have a real impact (and the corals are grateful!).
Here are some other ways we partnered with Mother Nature in 2018.
Rustic students contributed to community service projects that led to:
In addition to these results in communities that have a positive impact on the environment, Rustic students are developing the skills, habits, and mindsets our programs are designed to foster.
“My time in the Dominican Republic showed me that we need to be just as curious about our oceans and our impact just as much as we care about other matters, like education, or the economy,” said Sarah Altieri, of Pacific Palisades, California, who participated in Marine Life and Coastal Restoration in the Dominican Republic in 2018.
We’re proud of the work we’ve done, but no matter how far we’ve come, we strive for more. We’re doubling down on our global operations to implement additional sustainable practices in the 17 countries where we work.
One of the ways we’re supporting our commitment to implementing the Sustainability Levels throughout our global operations is through our Eco-Ambassador initiative. We have a representative in each of the 17 countries where we operate who champions the incorporation of environmentally-friendly practices in their country.
Each Eco-Ambassador performs routine assessments of our operations to determine which practices they need to implement to meet each sustainability level. The Eco-Ambassadors work with the country teams to determine which level their country is currently achieving, then set tangible goals to reach the next level.
Here are some examples of the work Eco-Ambassadors and Rustic Pathways teams are doing around the world:
Meet Tiko Ratumatua! He manages the Sun, Sand and Surf Cafe at the Fiji Eco-Lodge Basehouse. Our Fiji Eco-Ambassador, Vili Tui, works alongside Tiko to ensure the cafe continues to be 100% plastic free by eliminating the use of metal straws and reusable cups and dishes.Nearly 1,500 students and staff stay at the Eco-Lodge Fiji each year, many of whom stay for a few nights, amounting to roughly 4,500 plastic cups being saved each year.
In addition to all this plastic-free goodness, Tiko also sells handmade totes, pouches, and bags sewn by local Fijian women, which promotes economic development initiatives in Fiji.
Marine Life and Coastal Restoration students frequent the local fruit stand in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic (…dreaming of passion fruit and mango smoothies). This summer, more than 200 students will meet Luz Maria, the warm and welcoming owner of this local favorite spot.
In 2018, our travelers started bringing reusable cups and Tupperware to make sure that single-use plastic or styrofoam wasn’t used by any Rustic students or staff. Each summer we save about 1,000 styrofoam containers from ending up in a landfill or (more importantly) the ocean, which is just steps away from the fruit stand.
Peru Eco-Ambassador and Country Director Kelly Moynihan restructured her country’s program packing lists to require that students bring biodegradable soap on programs to keep the natural places they visit clean and thriving. This is especially important when camping and staying in communities where the shower water goes directly back into the ground.
Rustic Gear now sells many of the items we now ask that students pack, including reef-safe sunscreen, reusable bags, and reusable water bottles are sold. Or students can find these items wherever they shop online. Whatever you bring while traveling with Rustic, we encourage students to consider their impact on the environment.
If you’re traveling with us in the future, make sure you ask your program leaders what sustainability level they are on. Our staff love talking about how we are a travel company who wants to leave a positive and sustainable mark on this world!
Click below to get more information about our global impact at Rustic Pathways.
Australian born and raised, Laura holds a Bachelor degree in International Development from Australian Catholic University. Gaining experience in the field, Laura has travelled to Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand and East Timor aligning her two major passions of travel and community development. Back home in Melbourne Laura founded a not-for-profit organisation which provides basic-essentials to communities in need. Laura is now the Community Impact Manager for Rustic Pathways Australia, and is committed to creating meaningful volunteering and service opportunities, meeting the needs of our community partners.