At SabbaticalHomes.com, we have always incorporated sustainability into our mission. When Nadege Conger founded the website in 2000 as a way for academics to rent, share and exchange their homes, she saw this a way to support the academic community while also increasing the utilization of existing homes worldwide.
We were thrilled to spend time interviewing Professor Rachel Dodds and learning more about her passion of sustainable tourism. She is a professor at the Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) in the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Rachel Dodds has always loved travel and much of her professional life has been dedicated to helping people experience new places while decreasing their impact on the environment. As a teenager, she became aware of the environmental impact of travel. On a trip to Mexico, she was horrified by raw sewage floating down the beach. In response, her father said, “You can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution.” And that simple sentence has served as a guide for her since; she most definitely has chosen to be part of the solution.
Getting to Know Dr. Rachel Dodds & Her Latest Book: Are We There Yet?
Rachel studied in Canada and Australia and then obtained a PhD in the U.K., specializing in sustainable tourism. In addition to her academic responsibilities at Toronto Metropolitan University, she has also served on several boards and runs a website, sustainabletourism.net.
Professor Dodds has recently published Are We There Yet?: Traveling More Responsibly with Your Children, co-authored with Dr. Richard Butler.
The book has just been nominated for the USA Today Readers Choice Family Best Gift Ideas and has received a 5 star rating on Goodreads. This is her most recent book and one of her more mainstream titles; much of her other work consists of academic texts. Both her academic and mainstream published work share the same focus of sustainable tourism, or as she puts it “whatever it takes to move the needle.”
When we asked Rachel about some of her favorite things to teach in her college classes, it makes sense that she embeds sustainability into her introduction to marketing classes as another way to move the needle. This includes projects like creating destination marketing videos for different destinations that also showcase responsible tourism practices.
Additionally, students analyze and write about destinations that are difficult places for locals to live in due to overtourism, with the goal of encouraging students to rethink how we approach tourism, travel and the environment.
In her “spare” time, Rachel developed another company, Klevrplaces.com. It is a smart, integrated dashboard that makes it possible for destination marketing organizations to manage the data they collect and make better decisions on the capacity they can manage. She often hears people talking about overtourism and blaming the destinations, so she and a partner designed Klevrplaces.com as one way for the destinations to resolve that friction.
Making Small Changes to help the Environment at Home & when Traveling
After working in the sustainable tourism field for a long time, Rachel has some surprisingly easy tips for people who want to help the environment and local cultures. She advocates starting with small changes and starting at home. Her view is that habits at home will naturally translate to habits when traveling and that small behavior changes can be exponential over time. Instead of a budget-challenging big, expensive ideas like owning a net zero house or buying an electric car, a few starter ideas can go a long way.
Sustainable habits at home
- Bring your own water bottle or coffee cup wherever you go
- Take a 5-minute shower versus an 8-minute shower (the number of gallons of water you’ll save cumulatively in one year is impressive)
- If you’re a parent traveling with kids, bring reusable snack containers. There are generally leftovers and you can also easily buy snacks like fruit or an avocado for when you’re on the go, saving you the need to buy a packaged snack every single time
Tips for sustainable tourism while traveling
- Realize you’re a guest and treat places responsibly
- Eat at a local restaurant
- Stay in a local home versus a large chain hotel (find a place to stay on SabbaticalHomes.com)
- Consider home sharing, especially if you’d like to live like a local and are interested in more budget-friendly options
- Before you buy souvenirs or trinkets, check if they are made in that location (benefitting local businesses and small entrepreneurs) versus made in another country and shipped there
- Some in sustainable tourism would say to avoid flying, but Rachel’s opinion is that it’s not as easy to do in North America as it might be in Europe. So, if you need to book a flight, fly direct, take less luggage (saves carbon) and consider using a search engine to identify flights that have a lower carbon footprint or lower emissions. It’s actually possible to see this now!
Improving sustainability: for travel partners
For the travel and tourism industry partners that Rachel consults with regularly, she gives advice that is practical and easy to follow (in addition to more detailed proprietary recommendations):
- Label recycling & landfill waste containers with pictures so people who speak different languages can use them correctly
- Don’t expect to have consumers ask what they should do, but suggest a few things that are easy to do (see list above!)
Why Responsible Travel Matters
Whether you are planning travel with children or just hoping to decrease your personal carbon footprint, we hope you enjoy reading about our conversation with Professor Rachel Dodds. At SabbaticalHomes.com, we fully support her goal of how to make the world more responsible when we travel. Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought and solutions that you may be able to use in your own travels.