- Özgür Töre
Vegan Travel Asia by VegVoyages has become a signatory of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, officially launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).
In addition to focusing on the goals stated in the declaration, they pledge to go a step further and focus on reducing specific food-related emissions as well.
As a mission-focused company, Vegan Travel Asia collaborates with local communities to help conceptualize and develop grassroots tourism programs that are environmentally friendly, socially impactful, vegan, and cruelty-free. They invest 50% of their profits into the communities they work with, through programs focused on social impact, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, education, and conservation.
“Our team, which is made up of 5 friends from 4 different countries and 4 different faiths, and the communities we collaborate with, have seen firsthand the effects animal agriculture is having on our environment and communities. From diminishing fish populations and coral reefs, environmental pollution from growing factory farm practices, and severe freshwater and food resource challenges facing ever-growing populations, to deforestation, coastal degradation, and labor exploitation that often comes with larger-scale animal agriculture and fishery industries. Traveling vegan as well as tour operators and hotels simply offering more plant-based options is something long discounted in many responsible, sustainable, and eco-friendly travel discussions; we hope to change that," said co-founder Zac Lovas.
Through a unique ‘community-based storytelling’ model of tourism, Vegan Travel Asia creates journeys during which their guests are encouraged to interact meaningfully and respectfully with local communities, and build intimate cultural contexts of the places they visit. Their journeys seek to enable a deeper understanding of the other, the environment, the planet, and everyone’s interlinked coexistence within it. Their trips are described as community-based storytelling, meets travel, meets veganism – all in one.
“Traveling vegan is not a contradiction to local cultures or communities, but just the opposite, it is very much complementary to local cultures as plant-based dishes have traditionally been a significant part of many communities’ daily meals in the Asian countries we live in and our guests travel to,” explained co-founder Suresh Sharma.
Their trips are designed to travel by land whenever possible; offset flights through small community forests that benefit local villages or educational institutions; support community-based environmental programs; choose accommodations with a low footprint, including homestays, and family-run guesthouses/hotels where possible; explore national parks and protected marine life reserves in collaboration with local conservationists and wildlife protectionists; minimize single-use plastic waste through reusable water bottles, avoid the exploitation of all species and emissions of animal agriculture by working closely with community kitchens to reinstate or develop local vegan recipes; as well as no animal rides, zoos, “selfie ops” with animals, or animal shows. “You can't offset cruelty - you have to abstain from it,” they say.
As a signatory to the Glasgow Declaration, they pledge to take further action working towards a goal to become net-zero by the end of 2025. In addition to developing a climate action plan that includes the statistical benefits of their trips plant-based meals, they will also share their progress publicly; use science-based targets based on the IPCC’s advice to reduce and offset their emissions; align their plan with the tourism industry, to measure, decarbonize, regenerate, collaborate and finance climate awareness and action; work collaboratively with other signatories and the broader tourism industry to address all major sources of emissions in tourism, including animal agriculture (food-related emissions are among the top 3 contributors of tourism emissions, especially given that the consumption of animal products is higher during leisure and business travel ); and introduce more cruelty-free visions into the tourism industry, by advocating for tourism that respects both people, animals, and environments alike.
“I have seen drastic environmental changes in my community in India over the years. To lessen the impact on the local environment, to lessen the impact on food and water resources, and to make the increasing amounts of tourism sustainable for communities, is to be a responsible traveler,” concluded co-founder RK Singh.
 Nature Climate Change, 2018: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0141-x#MOESM1