My impact on the world and sustainability have always been a priority for me. My teachers would tell my parents that they wouldn’t be surprised if I was made Minister of Social Justice one day. I’ve volunteered a lot, protested to save parks and trees, and worked with Greenpeace and incubated social enterprises. As a marketer, I was always aware of my responsibility. There were even times when I turned down campaigns, despite having no other clients, because I didn’t want to contribute to the sales of oil or alcohol companies. I built CSR programs, collected garbage and supported people living in extreme poverty. Making the world a better place has always been part of my personal purpose.
I’m an environmentalist. And a digital nomad. Is that paradox? Let me explain why not exactly.
When I joined Hacker Paradise I had only one concern: my footprint. In fact, if we consider flights alone, my impact is terrifying. The emission from my global wanderings since I began working with HP is currently at 11000 kg of CO2. To put this in perspective: the sustainable emission per capita per year is set at 2300 kg. An average Indian person’s emission is about 1800 kg/year. If you are a meat-eater, your food-related emissions are at about 600 kg/year.
My reaction to the realisation of my footprint? I offset it all. This was a moral criterion I set for myself. Out of the many options I chose atmosfair because I like that they not only support carbon neutralization projects but also do it in places like India, Rwanda, and Nepal. India has a piece of my heart so I usually donate there. I’ve donated a total of €250 this year. And while I am completely aware that this isn’t a long-term solution to the environmental predicament we find ourselves in, I still consider it a minimum requirement for myself.
So, I do what I can when it comes to offsetting CO2 emissions, but I also know that these emissions are not the full scope of the issue. Sustainability cannot be simplified to one single area or metric. It’s not just about what you eat, use, or waste. It’s as much about your mental health as it is about your physical health and environment. When your feet are itchy and wanderlust pulls your soul, staying where you are is not sustainable for you. If you take a look at United Nation’s Sustainable Development goals you see how complex and holistic the matter is.
To help people relate to the SDGs, Futerra, the London-based creative agency, translated the SDGs into Good Life Goals, a set of personal actions that all of us can take to help support the global goals.
#1 Help end poverty (No poverty)
#2 Eat better (Zero hunger)
#3 Stay well (Good health and well-being)
#4 Learn and teach (Quality education)
#5 Treat everyone equally (Gender equality)
#6 Save water (Clean water and sanitation)
#7 Use clean energy (Affordable and clean energy)
#8 Do good work (Decent work and economic growth)
#9 Make smart choices (Industry innovation and infrastructure)
#10 Be fair (Reduced Inequalities)
#11 Love where you live (Sustainable Cities and Communities)
#12 Live better (Responsible Consumption and Production)
#13 Act on climate (Climate Action)
#14 Clean the seas (Life under water)
#15 Love nature (Life on Land)
#16 Make peace (Peace, justice and strong institutions)
#17 Come together (Partnerships for the Goals)
Sustainability, but make it move.
From this broadened perspective we as digital nomads have a good impact in many ways: we think twice before buying anything, as we know we will have to throw out something else to fit it in our bag. We live out of a suitcase so we learn how little we really need. We don’t have cars and don’t have the heating on at home for an entire winter. Paper towels in the office aren’t a thing anymore. We cooperate, we teach, we learn. But most importantly we have a global mindset like no-one else.
We know what it means to have limited access to water in Cape Town as we go there every year. We know fellow nomads stuck at airports because of hurricanes; friends and family evacuated in California due to the wild-fires and we collect trash on the beaches of Indonesia. We see the world through our eyes and our hearts — not only through the media. We are correspondents: we cross cultures and mindsets and build a global community. To solve global problems we need this global community. We are peace-builders, we are sensors. To stop traveling is not a solution, to travel more consciously is a step towards it.
If you want to contribute to my research on sustainability-related habits and attitudes of digital nomads, click here and fill a survey. Participating will help you to evaluate the most important areas where you have an impact on the environment. It will also help me to understand what are you currently doing so I can work on more tools and methods to support you to be more sustainable
So what else is there for me to do? #FridaysForFuture — indeed as a travel-program facilitator I can’t go on strike. Instead, from now on I will organize my work in a way that I can focus on sustainability initiatives within Hacker Paradise on Fridays. I will:
- Keep raising awareness about the importance of sustainability and ethical traveling in the groups I travel with.
- Continue working on my in-depth research to find areas of improvement.
- Encourage people who travel with us to take their little steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Look for opportunities to volunteer and bring our groups there to make a difference locally.
- Write posts about things we’ve done that fit the sustainability model.
- Create the company’s first impact report based on UN SDGs and set goals for better measurement and better impact next year.
There are many small things we can all do to decrease our footprint and our friends at e-co spaces created the ultimate guide for sustainable roaming to help you.
Change is coming — whether we like it or not. We don’t need a handful of people doing it perfectly. We need billions of people doing it imperfectly. I’m grateful to work for a company that supports my efforts towards a more sustainable digital nomad life and is open for ideas to be more conscious about our impact.