Not being able to travel because of COVID-19 makes it the perfect time to think about our future travel decisions. Indré Rockefeller, the co-founder of sustainable travel goods company Paravel, chatted with us about sustainable travel. From her life-changing trip to Antarctica to how companies consider more ethical and sustainable materials, she gave us the inside scoop on why the environment is her primary consideration for her personal and business decisions.
How A Trip to Antarctica Catalyzed Change
In 2018, Indré went on a two-week expedition to Antarctica with the Nature Conservancy. Surrounded by climate scientists, marine biologists, and glaciologists, she started to rethink her environmental obligation as a business owner.
The next ten years are the most important in addressing climate change. “We have such a narrow scope of time to address something that is so profoundly impactful to future generations,” says Indré.
The 2018 trip spurred Indré to stop compartmentalizing her personal decisions from her business decisions. As the co-founder of a travel goods company, she recognizes that she can help consumers make more sustainable travel choices.
Making Better Consumer Choices
One way to make more sustainable choices is to just “take an extra minute to see if there’s a better choice out there,” Indré says. It’s easier to choose the easiest, most convenient option. But it’s rare for instant gratification and sustainability to line up.
This could mean waiting a few days for something to ship, choosing an item with more sustainable materials that costs a bit more, or searching for a company that aligns with your personal values. It might not feel like a small change on your part makes any difference, but it’s all cumulative.
Sustainable Fashion + Function
Many consumers believe that a product cannot be made of high-quality materials, sustainable, and at an affordable price point. Paravel is working to dispel that myth with its bags, luggage, and packing cubes.
“Quality is a function of caring. It’s not necessarily a function of expensive inputs. Sometimes higher-quality materials are more expensive, but sometimes it’s a matter of prioritizing quality and prioritizing things that last a long time. You can have luxury brands producing product that isn’t intended to last a long time either. So finding that balance was really important to us,” says Indré.
For example, Paravel uses upcycled water bottles to replace traditional nylon in their products. It’s still a soft, pliable, and lightweight material, with the added benefit of recycling something that would otherwise end up in a landfill. As the base of a limited edition line, Paravel used jute coffee bags from coffee farms to create tote bags with the prints found on the coffee bags.
Paravel aims to improve the lives of the consumers and makers of their products, along with their commitment to sustainable materials. Along with earning outside certifications and offsetting their carbon emissions, Paravel’s ultimate goal is to become the first 100% sustainable travel brand by 2021.
Paravel evaluates each product down to the stitches to make sure each piece is as environmentally-friendly as possible. That doesn’t mean that every component is 100% recycled or sustainable, though. It’s nearly impossible for companies of any size to hit every environmental measure out there while balancing price and quality.
One way that this balance affects brands’ choices is in where a product is built. It isn’t always possible to manufacture locally, especially when larger factories in places like China are better equipped to source a variety of materials.
Paravel’s Aviator Carry-On, for example, is built in Asia. Indré explains, “We built it from the ground up, pushing on every single component part and we found that our manufacturing partners in Asia were the ones best equipped to do that. They were able to source recycled zippers, recycled polycarbonate, recycled aluminum, and recycled lining made from plastic water bottles.”
Indré’s Tips for Sustainable Travel
When planning for a trip, Indré recommends building your itinerary with sustainability in mind. Avoiding layovers means fewer carbon emissions. You can also pay to offset your carbon emissions from your flight or road trip. Staying in an eco-hotel—or at least a local hotel rather than a chain hotel—supports the local economy. The same goes for restaurants and activities.
“This sort of moment of reflection of self-awareness, of asking yourself what you can do to have even a small part of the conversation is, is the first step for everyone,” Indré says.
Another way to travel more sustainably is to contact the companies you use for your trips and ask them about their sustainability measures. Emailing your airline if they offset their flights or calling y9our hotel to ask about the cleaning products they use helps companies know that these issues are essential to consumers. For a company, feedback from their community is a massively valuable asset.
Indré’s Favorite Sustainable Brand
Indré finds that French sneaker brand Veja sets the bar for transparency and consumer education with their sustainability efforts. They use organic cotton, follow fair trade practices, and have a vegan line of classic sneakers. “I always feel like I’m looking forward to their launches because they’re going to be pushing on something new. And I really admire that approach,” says Indré.
The Most Exciting Aspect of the Sustainability Movement
As the sustainability movement grows from a niche sector to a mainstream space, Indré finds that consumer curiosity increasingly exciting.
She says, “So many people—young people especially—are interested in learning about it and are taking deep dives. We’re reading about it, listening to podcasts about it, writing about it, launching businesses around it. And I think that that sort of mass interest is really critical.
The consumer’s voice is so powerful in terms of shaping the direction of corporations and businesses and governments. And we, as consumers, hold a lot of power. The more educated we are, the more curious we are, the more vocal we are, the more likely we are able to create change in the world.”