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What does the EU Green Claims Directive mean for travel?

#environment #green travel #regenerative #regulations #sustainability #sustainable tourism Feb 18, 2024

Balanced Explorations LLC is based in the United States and targets travel for U.S. residents and citizens traveling both domestically and internationally.  However, I think it is important to keep watch on what is happening around the world and how it might impact the travel industry. Since one of the important principles I've based Balanced Explorations on is sustainability, I've committed myself to learning more about both sustainable and regenerative travel.  As of 2023 and 2024, I am a member of the Virtuoso Sustainability Community.  This additional education leads to both awareness of the issues confronting the travel industry as it pertains to sustainability and introduces me to travel partners with sustainable options that are available for me to recommend when planning trips for clients.  


As I've mentioned in videos and other places, there is not currently a place to go to vet the claims of properties claiming to be sustainable.  Even those that achieve particular certifications are only based on whatever specific categories were necessary to obtain that certification.  Those may or may not be the specific sustainability principles that YOU find important.  My goal is to match the trip with the person and their goals for traveling.  Keep in mind that an exact match may or may not exist given the current state of sustainability in travel. 


Last year, the European Union ("EU") took the lead on sustainability by protecting its citizens from greenwashing by enacting its Green Claims Directive.  The laws are in effect consumer protection laws that are meant to protect consumers from misleading environmental claims made by businesses.  In the U.S., we sometimes hear about lawsuits for misleading labeling on foods and that sort of thing.  We don't yet have legislators willing to pass legislation to provide this level of protection to consumers on a national scale.  Instead, we rely on state laws. 


EU Companies  and companies targeting EU residents will no longer be able to base their sustainability claims on carbon offsets.  For those of you who don't know, carbon offsets are used to "offset" a company's unsustainable practices by purchasing "offsets" in projects located in other areas of the world.  These projects may be planting mangrove trees in Indonesia, reforestation efforts, etc.  While I don't think carbon offsets are inherently bad, it is not easy to see the connection between the business and the project.  It appears European lawmakers want proof of actual sustainable practices in the business if they are claiming to be sustainable.  A business can't claim to be carbon neutral solely on the basis of having enough money to fund projects to offset its unsustainable practices.  The claims will need to be verified by an independent body.  You can read more about the reasoning behind the new law here.


The main concerns seem to be:  What are their day-to-day operations like?  Do they use energy efficient HVAC systems?  Have they considered the lifecycle of their buildings, their furnishings, and the food chain?  


Many of the issues seem to arise from "eco" and "green" claims, but sustainability is so much more.  Other considerations to look for are:  Are organic or locally produced foods used in the restaurants?  Are locals employed by the property?  Are the tours operated by locals?  Does the money spent by tourists stay in the local economy?  Are the activities being offered representative of the local culture and keeping it alive for future generations? 


I acknowledge that the environmental aspect and regenerative practices will be necessary to improve life for everyone.  It is not something that is only necessary for the travel industry.  In fact, since the travel industry makes up such a comparatively small part of the global carbon emissions, other aspects of life will need to change.  It is likely that changes in other aspects of our daily lives--including environmental regulations--will lead to the changes that will help sustain and regenerate our planet for future generations.  


Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought as we start the journey towards more sustainable travel.  If you have questions about sustainable travel or want to work with me to plan your next vacation, reach out to [email protected] 

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