How Boston-based blogger Alison Abbott is helping travelers live a sustainable lifestyle while exploring exotic destinations.
For designer and entrepreneur Alison Abbott, sustainability is more than a buzzword. She’s turned her passion for conservation into a successful career as a content creator and an adventurer who is always eager to share how she’s minimalizing her carbon footprint. What initially began as an eco-friendly home remodeling website quickly turned into a platform for conveying helpful travel tips to the eco-conscious explorer. Abbott’s ambition is to help travelers “renovate” their journeys and their lifestyles to reflect their passion for conservation. She encourages her readers to buy locally, reduce their carbon footprint, and make sustainability an integral part of their vacation planning.
Abbott takes her advice a step further by encouraging travelers to avoid more popularized destinations and take a chance on lesser-known locales, so as not to strain over-saturated tourist ecosystems. We spoke with Abbott to learn about her journey and discover how she motivates her audience to live their lives in sustainable shades of green.
Innovation & Tech Today: Green with Renvy offers more than just travel advice; it also offers tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle. When did environmental stewardship became such a core focus of your life?
Alison Abbott: Well, I’ve certainly taken a circuitous route to get where I am today. After college, I started designing clothing and lifestyle items manufactured in the Philippines. That certainly was where I fell in love with travel because I was back and forth quite a lot to Asia.
But I think when you have children, it sort of presses the reset button on beginning to think about everything that’s going on around us and certainly their future and what they eat and just how they’re going to develop. So, that was probably where I began thinking about all of this. My kids are starting to feather their own nests now, so that was probably 25-30 years ago.
From there, I started renovating houses and looking into ways that we could do it sustainably. I wanted to get all these resources out to people and that was when I started Green with Renvy. It was an interesting process trying to learn all about blogging and the web because it definitely was not part of my background. I was more of an artist and designer. So that’s how that whole piece of it started.
I&T Today: What tips would you offer travelers to make their own journeys more sustainable?
AA: Eco-friendly travel is a popular catchphrase right now and there’s a lot of greenwashing going on. I spend a lot of time on the internet researching different travel companies, looking at the hotels they use, if they employ local guides, seeing what’s local, and trying to eat the local foods. Traveling during the shoulder season is a super way to try and make your travel a little bit more responsible because it helps all these people that are operating restaurants, just to keep them in business year-round.
There are also a few different apps I use. One of them is called Happy Cow, which is a really good food app for traveling. It gives you information about restaurants and what’s local in the area. If traveling in the states, there’s a company called Edible and they have magazines around the country that focus on the sustainability movement. Those are available online. So, usually if I’m traveling in the U.S., I’ll look to the closest city and see if they have an issue of the magazine. They feature lots of local restaurants and chefs and are a great resource for finding locally-sourced food and places to eat.
I&T Today: You were recently designated as one of 2018’s Best Boomer Travel Blogs. What sets your site apart from the competition?
AA: I think the adventure piece is definitely unusual and the eco-friendly part of it is something that not everybody is doing. I also like to travel to places that are not on everyone’s radar. With over-tourism and the problems taking place right now in places like Peru and Barcelona, where you find people out in the streets protesting that tourists are coming to their destinations, the places I pick are with that in mind, and it creates an interest that I think people are curious about.
A lot of the time, the first question everyone asks me is where I’m going next. I might not have the answer to that – and they are always a little bit surprised when I tell them. Because of that, they are interested in following where I’m going and seeing what I post and what the places are all about. Perhaps they’ll consider that destination in the future.
I&T Today: How do you choose which place you want to visit next?
AA: I do a lot of research, as I said. I love looking through cookbooks that are very heavily story-oriented. I would be happy taking a cookbook to bed as my nighttime reading and often find places through them. Naomi Duguid wrote a cookbook, Burma: Rivers of Flavor, and I couldn’t wait to get to Myanmar after I read that because her photography was so incredible and the flavors sounded amazing. So, oftentimes, that’s one of the resources that I use to find places that are a little bit unusual.
I&T Today: What is the main message you hope to convey to your readers?
AA: I hope people will take the time to think about traveling responsibly. I think it’s something people can incorporate into their travel plans very easily just by doing a little research and supporting local artisans and makers, food growers and restaurateurs, and travel guides. Those are easy things to do when you travel, and I think they make a huge difference in the local economy and help these smaller places or indigenous cultures continue to survive and be sustainable. So, that’s the takeaway I’d like people to think about.