As our tan lines fade and the sound of the ocean becomes a distant memory, how can we ensure that our new knowledge and shared experiences in protecting Mother Earth will follow us when we revert back to our daily routine? As a nature-based tourism operator, obvious steps can be taken to further “green” a destination and educate guests while in country. Throughout my travels, however, I have noticed a gap in the model — for many, concern and education ends at checkout.
For years now, I have debated the best approach for delivering eco-friendly lessons that will resonate with visitors well after their departure. While I have come to the conclusion that there is no single tried-and-true method, it is certainly worth our time to keep trying.
Bodhi Surf & Yoga, taking steps in the right direction
In 2016, Bodhi’s Ocean Guardian Digest launched to offer tips and resources to help better our planet once we return from vacation. To participate as an Ocean Guardian (whether you have stayed at Bodhi or not), all you have to do is sign their Ocean Guardian Pledge to help protect the world’s oceans. That’s it — a fairly easy initiation. From there, you receive 12 “Ocean Guardian Digest” emails (one per month), along with three action items. Each themed reminder encourages you to reduce your environmental impact and green your daily life.
Since its inauguration, Bodhi’s OG Digest is still striving for improvement.
Teaming up with Dr. Carter A. Hunt of Penn State University, research is being conducted to “study the pro-environmental behavior of travelers following their nature-based tourism experience in Uvita-Bahia Ballena, Osa, Costa Rica” (taken from the official abstract).
Ocean Guardians are asked to participate in follow-up surveys investigating their actions in the previous month. Question examples include:
A. As part of the Ocean Guardian Pledge we sent you an email last month asking you to participate in “Plastic Free Tuesdays:
• I did participate in “Plastic Free Tuesdays”
• I did not participate in “Plastic Free Tuesdays”
B. In the past month I participated in “Plastic Free Tuesdays”:
•# of times
C. In relation to your participation in “Plastic Free Tuesdays”, please indicate the extent to which this was A RESULT OF RECEIVING last month’s OCEAN GUARDIAN ACTION ALERT email:
The feedback not only assists Penn State in studying tourist trends and behaviors, but also helps Bodhi enhance their post-visit experience — which is where we, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), come into play.
Collaborating to improve the Ocean Guardian Digest
As a platinum-level sponsor of CREST, Bodhi generously donates trips every year to further support our research in sustainable tourism. Together, we’re linking up to give the OG Digest a preferred facelift. Our goal is to expand into a 24-month digest, with each month sharing only one or two action items. With this, we hope to avoid “just checking the boxes” and instead, really focus on manageable practices to habitually incorporate into our routine. By the end of the summer, we strive to engage even more participants with updated written content, plus some much-anticipated new media from the Bodhi team.
As we undergo this project, I take pride in my organization, my alma mater, Bodhi Surf & Yoga, and most importantly, the Ocean Guardian Participants, for going above and beyond the typical travel experience and taking greater strides to commit to a healthier planet.
For those reading, we ask and encourage your collaboration — please leave a comment with your thoughts, ideas, and feedback for what WE can do to help YOU through the Ocean Guardian Digest.
Written by: Ellen Rugh, CREST Intern
Ellen is Philadelphia native and is currently pursuing her Master of International Affairs and Natural Resources/Sustainable Development from American University in Washington, DC and the University for Peace in Costa Rica. Ellen became interested in sustainable tourism through her undergraduate research on ecotourism in Peru and Central America, and is interested in continuing cultural exploration and sustainability through tourism research.