Bodhi Surf School’s Ocean Guardian Journey is the title for our corporate social and environmental responsibility initiatives, an area in which we are constantly learning, growing, and developing. We have the utmost respect for the ocean, for nature, and our environment, and we strive to give back to these beings without which we would not exist!
Getting away from the word “Sustainability”
Sustainability. sustainable |səˈstānəbəl|
1 able to be maintained at a certain rate or level: sustainable fusion reactions.
• conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources: our fundamental commitment to sustainable development.
Sustainability pertains to the four interconnected domains of ecology, economics, politics, and culture, but is usually associated with the environment, and the ability for an entity to maintain itself in a particular environment (without depleting or overusing it and to allow it to continue providing said entity with all that it needs to survive and thrive). For any such entity to strive to be sustainable in any of these areas means, in short, that they not take more than which can be replenished, and that they give back enough to ensure their continued ability to take. In our lifetime, as we’ve witnessed countless environmental horrors and have watched the depletion of our natural resources, “being sustainable” has become a much sought-after goal.
For the Bodhi Surf School founders, we wish we could be sustainable. While the operational aspect of our business is designed to feed our physical bodies by putting food on our table, our philosophy of turning our business into an entity that does good is food for our souls. For those familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our pinnacle need — self-actualization — would include reducing our impact, reversing some of the damage that’s been done, and inspiring others to do the same.
In our heart of hearts, if we could, as a business, leave zero footprint while still being able to operate and thrive, we would do it, in a heartbeat. However, that’s an impossibility for any business, and really, for any individual. We will all leave a footprint, no matter how hard we may try. With that in mind, we’ve always been a bit wary to use the term “sustainable”, which for us, implies that we are “zero-impact”. In our publications, we’ve always tried to pair the word “sustainability” with words like “try, effort, goal, work towards” because we don’t feel comfortable claiming anything even close to sustainability.
The reality is that people from around the world are showing a clear interest in trying to undo some of damage we’ve done, and so it’s become a very lucrative business opportunity for businesses to claim sustainability. There are many entities and organizations that are trying to measure sustainability and impact reduction in different spheres (think LEED for construction, Rainforest Alliance for agriculture and tourism, etc.), but it’s a lofty goal that can end up being confusing to consumers and costly for small businesses. With little to no penalization for describing oneself as “sustainable”, the risk is that any company can put in very minimal environmental effort and then claim sustainability. Something that, for anyone who actually strives towards sustainability and actually cares about it, is worrisome.
It’s the journey that matters, not the destination
So we’ve established that being completely sustainable is impossible. Which, while slightly disheartening, is very important to wrap your mind around, and in our opinion, shouldn’t be a reason to step down from the challenge. For us, sustainability can be thought of as a journey: one can always do more, and one should constantly strive to try harder. At Bodhi Surf, we do more to reduce our impact every year as we become more established as a business, and we know that every year will give us more opportunities to do better and be better.
The ultimate goal is to do business — to provide something that we feel we are uniquely qualified to provide. If the ultimate goal was to leave as little impact as possible, we probably wouldn’t be able to have a business at all, we would have to live off the grid somewhere and spend our time growing food. The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, and in our society, it is important to be balanced; we want to continue offering what we offer while at the same time striving to do it in such a way that allows our environment, our community — our raison d’etre — to stay healthy and continue to thrive. Most importantly, to use the unique opportunity that we have being business owners, surfers, and yogis to try and be a positive influence for those we come into contact with.
The journey paradigm works nicely when thinking about individuals, because everyone is at a different stage in their life journey and also in their sustainability journey. It also works nicely for businesses: ones that that are just starting out may not be able to do as much to reduce their impact as one that has more years under its belt. Additionally, huge industries and governments of developed countries, and especially those who impact the planet negatively must do more, because they can, and really, because they have to. The journey model is very useful to be able to observe those who are ahead on their path towards sustainability and become inspired by them. At the end of the day, we can all learn from each other, and should continually aim high.
Umbrella for all Corporate Social Responsibility actions
Formerly, sustainability was the term under which we grouped all of our impact-reduction initiatives. However, moving forward, in an effort to do away with that term and to hone in a little more on our goals, we are naming our responsible business practices the Ocean Guardian Journey. As the old saying goes, “all things go to the sea” and as a surf and yoga school, all of our impact-reduction strategies will have some effect on the ocean.
We operate out of a coastal community, and many of our services revolve around the ocean. Being near the ocean, playing in it, working in it, living near it, benefitting from it. We are lucky that our local beach is part of a marine national park, which keeps it very clean and unpolluted. For us, the idea of protecting it is mostly a philosophical issue: we feel connected to the ocean and that we owe it so much. But it could also be considered a bottom line issue — if our ocean becomes dirty, if the marine animals start to disappear, if it turns into a trash pit — where would that leave us as a business?
Bodhi Surf’s Ocean Guardian Journey
We have several ongoing initiatives which constitute the Bodhi Surf School Ocean Guardian Journey, measures that have been designed to give back to our community, to help maintain the health of our environment (which, here, is predominantly marine-oriented), and to energize the people that we come into contact with to take an active role in shaping the world into a better place.
- Travelers’ Philanthropy Program
- Ocean Guardian Pledge
- Ocean Guardian Contest
- Service & Surf Saturdays
- Yoga for the Community
- Blue Marbles & Blue Mind connections
We also make an effort to participate in different community projects and to take advantage of opportunities to help others with their initiatives, whether it’s by donating our time, capital, or support. Read up on some of the Bodhi Initiatives from 2013, here.
Your Ocean Guardian Journey
One of our main goals as a surf and yoga school is to help inspire others to become environmental stewards. We know that a positive experience with nature is one of the best incentives to take care of nature, and we feel that we are in a unique position to help facilitate these types of experiences. For one thing, we get to spend time with people when they are very receptive: they are here on vacation, they don’t have the distractions of home and work in the way, and they are at least somewhat out of their element and thus open to suggestions. For another, our work is to provide experiences that can be very mind-opening and we get to do it in a place that is exotic, serene, and bursting with natural beauty and vigor. Finally, our surf lessons and yoga classes all feature a healthy dose of shout-outs — to the ocean, to nature in general — because it’s important for us that our guests realize how important they are to these activities, and really, to our general wellbeing.
With that said, upon their departure, we encourage our guests to sign Bodhi Surf’s Ocean Guardian Pledge. The pledge has ten fairly broad suggestions for actions that people can take, no matter where they live, to reduce their impact on the ocean and on the planet. One thing that the pledge highlights over and over is that it doesn’t matter where you live, your actions have an impact on the planet. Those who sign the pledge are eligible to participate in our annual Ocean Guardian Journey contest, whose aim is to celebrate and promote the individual actions that people carry out and ideas they have to protect and preserve the world’s oceans. We also encourage our guests to give back via donations of time or resources, either in their home communities or their vacation spots. We have our own Travelers’ Philanthropy Program by which we afford our vacation guests the opportunity to donate a portion of what they spend with us to one of three locally-based non-profit organizations. Guests can also donate additionally if they so choose.
We understand that making the decision to become a mindful world citizen and choosing to really try to reduce one’s impact can be a daunting task, but a necessary one. As Leonardo DiCaprio so aptly put it in his speech at the 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York , “the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish”. For us, focusing on the negative is not the way to tackle this problem, but neither can we forget what’s at stake (everything) just because it’s scary or inconvenient. It’s a journey: we are all on our path, and must constantly strive to do the best that we can. Because in life’s special moments — when we catch the perfect wave, or meditate after a powerful yoga session — we really know how amazing it is that we are alive and able to be living these perfect moments, and how much we all need to make sure that we and future generations can keep experiencing them.
Thank you to Melissa Rejeb Photography for help with the pictures