Press Release

Travel Authority and Activist Rick Steves Launches Annual Million-Dollar Commitment to Climate Smart Travel


Website: www.ricksteves.com/climate

NEW YORK, NY, May 29, 2019—As an author of over 50 guidebooks on European travel and host of a popular travel series on public television, Rick Steves has introduced Europe and its myriad fascinations to travelers across America. As a traveler, he has seen the effects of climate change around the world, and he is passionate about doing what he can to slow those changes down. Steves is deeply concerned about this issue, so he is taking direct and decisive action to repay the toll that travelers have on the environment — backed by a million-dollar annual investment.

Steves' tour company, Rick Steves' Europe, is proud to announce its Climate Smart Commitment: an innovative, forward-thinking, and pragmatic program to account for the carbon emitted by its tour members when they fly to and from Europe. Starting in spring 2019, Steves' company will donate $1 million annually to fund climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry, and conservation projects in underdeveloped countries. A portion of this money will also support advocacy organizations in the US whose work is crucial to sustaining climate-smart efforts around the world.

Typically, private businesses that adopt an environmentally friendly policy purchase "carbon offset credits." These credits are managed by brokers to help fund clean energy projects, such as solar and wind technologies, often based in North America and Europe. Rather than taking this conventional approach, Rick Steves' Europe has chosen to work with organizations that directly address the problem in developing countries — emphasizing projects that empower women to take leadership roles, protect their environment, and strengthen their communities.

Based on figures from scientists and development experts, it takes roughly $30 of careful investment in environmental initiatives in the developing world to mitigate the carbon emissions created by a single traveler flying to and from Europe. Each year, Rick Steves' Europe takes about 30,000 travelers on its tours. Doing the math and then rounding it up, Steves estimates that $1 million annually is what his company "owes" to the environment. Drawn from the tour company's profits — not passed along to the customer via higher prices — Steves' investment in the environment is strongly linked to the company's core value of demonstrating good global citizenship.

"We don't see this program as particularly heroic," says Steves. "It's simply ethical. We believe every business should bear the cost to the environment of their activities. That's just honest accounting. We hope this program will inspire everyone who buys or sells tours to practice the same environmental ethic. This way, long after we are gone, our children will be able to enjoy the same happy travels we have."

For 2019, Rick Steves’ Europe has announced the first three recipients of the grant funding:

  • Project Concern International
    Works in developing countries to empower women and promote climate-smart agriculture.
  • Bread for the World
    Lobbies our government to adopt climate-smart policies.
  • ELCA World Hunger
    Works in developing countries to help small family farms be climate smart.

Additional partners will be announced later in the year. “Many of our projects will have nuanced goals,” says Craig Davidson, Chief Operating Officer of Rick Steves’ Europe. “We like to think of it as creating a diversified mutual fund of climate-smart projects where the primary investment is in people and the future.” To sustain the long-term impact of this initiative, the company will revisit its portfolio every year to ensure that the most effective organizations are getting the support they need to make a difference. That means its 30,000 annual tour members can be proud to travel with a company committed to positive change.

 


RICK STEVES is the author of Travel as a Political Act (Avalon Travel, February 2018), as well as 50 guidebooks on European travel. He took his first trip to Europe at age 14, visiting piano factories with his father, a piano importer; at 18, he began traveling on his own, funding his trips by teaching piano lessons. For decades, he’s spent four months a year exploring and researching in Europe. In addition to running his successful tour program, he hosts a popular travel series on public television, Rick Steves’ Europe, and a weekly national public radio show, Travel with Rick Steves.

Program Descriptions

Rick Steves' Europe's Climate Smart Commitment (40 words)

Travel is a major contributor to climate change. To help mitigate our impact on the environment, Rick Steves' Europe is investing $1 million each year in climate-smart nonprofits and advocacy groups. Learn more at www.ricksteves.com/climate.

Rick Steves' Europe's Climate Smart Commitment (80 words)

Travel is a major contributor to climate change. Carbon emissions from transatlantic flights, in particular, are a major threat to the environment. As a company that promotes (and profits from) travel, Rick Steves' Europe will self-impose a carbon tax by investing $1 million per year in organizations that support conservation and climate-smart agriculture in underdeveloped countries — with an emphasis on projects that empower women and strengthen communities — as well as organizations that advocate for climate-smart legislative policies. Learn more at www.ricksteves.com/climate.

Rick Steves' Europe's Climate Smart Commitment (140 words)

Travel is a major contributor to climate change. Carbon emissions from transatlantic flights, in particular, are a major threat to our environment. As a company that promotes (and profits from) travel, Rick Steves' Europe feels that it’s ethical to account for our travelers' impact on the environment. Many travel companies purchase “carbon offset credits,” which are managed by brokers and fund clean energy projects in wealthier countries. Instead, we're annually investing $1 million in a portfolio of organizations in order to directly fund climate-smart agriculture, conservation, and agroforestry in underdeveloped countries — with an emphasis on projects that empower women and strengthen communities. We’re also supporting organizations that encourage our federal government to adopt climate-smart policies. This way, the next generation can enjoy the same happy travels we've had. Learn more about our initiative and the thinking behind it at www.ricksteves.com/climate.

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Social Media Posts

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YouTube Video

Link: https://youtu.be/1S4IIEV_CZE

Title: Rick Steves' Climate Smart Commitment

Description: Travelers face a dilemma: While international travel is one of the best ways to become a better global citizen, every flight emits damaging carbon into the atmosphere. Fortunately, it's possible to mitigate this environmental toll. Each year, Rick Steves' Europe invests $1 million in a portfolio of nonprofits that are making a big difference. That means that each traveler who flies to and from Europe to take a Rick Steves' Europe tour can enjoy the peace of mind that they are traveling carbon-neutral.

While there are many ways to do this, we believe the best approach is to pursue long-term solutions: climate-smart projects in the developing world, combined with advocacy to shape legislation in the US. Visit www.ricksteves.com/climate.

Script: Hi, I'm Rick Steves in Ethiopia, witnessing how climate change is impacting people in villages like this. It's clear: climate change is a reality and it's hitting the poorest people in the poorest countries hardest. It's also clear that when we travel abroad, we contribute to climate change. That's why at Rick Steves' Europe we're funding organizations that run climate-smart projects in the developing world. We call it our Climate Smart Commitment. Each year, we're investing enough to mitigate the carbon created by the thousands of travelers who fly to join our Rick Steves tours. This is a small but important first step and we're proud to challenge other travelers and tour companies to join us. It's time we all take climate change more personally and pay back the environmental cost of our travels. Happy travels...no, happy carbon-neutral travels.