In celebration of World Tourism Day, September 27th, Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Magazine editor-in-chief Liz Fleming spoke with Zach Vanasse of the TreadRight Foundation, The Travel Corporation’s not-for-profit organization that strives to protect the environment and the communities they visit, ensuring that they will remain vibrant for generations to come.
Zach Vanasse of the TreadRight Foundation
Zach, can you give us a brief description of what the TreadRight Foundation does and what your role is within that organization?
We are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to making sure that we keep the places we visit vibrant. We’re focused on wildlife, culture, water…everything and we support organizations working to sustain them by providing funding from The Travel Corporation. As Program Manager, my job is to look for the projects we might want to support, set them up with funding and then keep the Foundation up to date with what’s being accomplished through vehicles like our newsletter. It’s a great job!
What’s your background and what brought you to the TreadRight Foundation?
I started in the travel industry as a writer and spent four years writing for an online trade magazine. After a few years in the industry, I heard about what seemed like a great opportunity for me, because I’d always been interested in sustainability. When I accepted the job with the TreadRight Foundation, it was important to me that I would be working for people who weren’t just ‘greenwashing’ but were really putting their money where their mouths are. I was really pleased that they wanted to partner with organizations around the world that are already working on successful sustainability projects. We’re a travel organization, so what we do best is travel. What we want to do is help those whose job it is to really understand and promote sustainability.
Manitobah Mukluks - The Storyboot School
Can you give us an example of one of the organizations supported by the TreadRight Foundation and the kind of sustainability work they do?
Manitobah Mukluk is an organization that has a project called Storyboot School in which indigenous teachers teach indigenous students the art of mukluk making. Working with the Bata Shoe Museum, they created a program to teach kids the art and the tradition of mukluk making. This ties into some important cultural touchstones and fosters a space where students can come together with teachers to learn a traditional skill. It’s a very Canadian experience and while last year was their first go-round, I can certainly see it expanding in future.
In light of disappointing changes in participation in the Paris Agreement, how important do you think Canada’s role is now in safeguarding the planet for future generations? What should we, as a country and as individuals, be doing?
Canada is in a very good position to be one of the countries to take the lead now. With the U.S. signalling that they’re going to be pulling out, we have the opportunity to move forward. We’ve been talking about how Canadian travel organizations can show the world our appreciation for what needs to be protected and Canadian travelers can contribute significantly ….provided that we come together.
The TreadRight Wildlife Initiative supports leading organizations whose collective efforts help to cover the entire chain of the illegal wildlife trade.
The TreadRight Foundation encourages all travellers to ‘tread lightly’ on the land as well as on our rivers and oceans. Can you explain what’s meant by that concept and offer a couple of concrete suggestions for responsible, sustainable travel?
The expression “Tread Lightly” offers a pretty concrete visual because we all realize that it’s inevitable that we make an impact on the places we visit. We ask that people be conscientious – perhaps creating an ambassadorship by learning some of the language of the country they visit so they can connect with the people there, buying locally produced goods, reducing power and water usage – those are all good suggestions. We need to ask ourselves this - are we behaving as responsibly as we would at home? Is the impact we’re making both minimal and positive?
What has been your proudest moment since coming to the TreadRight Foundation?
In my three years with the TreadRight Foundation, my proudest moment was early last November when we finished the first session of the Manitobah Mukluk school and had a graduation ceremony, with dancers and presentations. That was our first experience of an in-Canada project, and I was so happy that it took place in my home city, in 2016, with a world that was still in shock from recent events.
What is the importance of World Tourism Day?
We need to recognize the importance of coming together and this day will show us that many great organizations are beginning to work together and serving as a catalyst for better things around the world. I’m most looking forward to seeing the TreadRight Foundation’s journey of sustainability joining with that of other organizations because there are so many opportunities on the horizon to work on great projects together. There are endless opportunities to do good.
The best thing individuals can do to join us is to support our project partners and you’ll find links on our website: www.treadright.org