Why Stores and Restaurants are Ditching Plastic Straws

Single-use plastics like straws can harm the environment. Photo by Marco Verch C.C. 2.0.

Single-use plastics like straws can harm the environment. Photo by Marco Verch C.C. 2.0.

You may have noticed that the beverages you’ve been ordering at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant have not been accompanied by plastic straws. Chains as big as Starbucks and establishments as small as neighborhood cafes have been finding creative substitutes to plastic straws, or are just getting rid of them altogether. 

What’s so bad about straws? 

Straws are just one example of wasteful single-use plastic. Hundreds of millions of tons of plastic are produced each year, and a large portion of that plastic ends up in the ocean. It seems like plastic straws is an interesting place to start in the crusade against single-use plastics. However, for an able-bodied person, avoiding plastic straws is an easy way to start reducing plastic use. 

How are things changing? 

Some restaurants have tried to be more conscious about their straw usage by not automatically putting a plastic straw into each beverage. Some establishments will wait for their customers to ask for a straw instead of serving it to them. 

Other establishments—like Starbucks—have developed a new plastic lid that looks like a sippy-cup so that customers can sip their drinks without needing a straw. However, cups like these are difficult for those who aren’t able to pick up their drinks and bring them to their mouths. A straw is literally the only way for some people to drink on their own. 

Therefore, better solutions may be composter-approved paper straws, like Aardvark straws, or reusable glass or metal straws. 

While finding alternatives to plastic straws can make a substantial impact, it should just be the beginning of a global campaign to reduce single use plastics. Hopefully, there will be future campaigns to reduce plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, or single-use containers. 





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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5 Ethical Clothing Brands to Enhance Your Wardrobe

Green Garb for any Occasion

Collecting trash at one of United by Blue’s organized clean ups. Photo provided by United by Blue.

Collecting trash at one of United by Blue’s organized clean ups. Photo provided by United by Blue.

When we think about consumer ethics, our minds don’t normally turn to clothing. We think about reducing plasticware, consuming less red meat, or maybe purchasing an electric car or a bike. However, the production of clothing can involve unfair pay, a lot of waste, and consumption of energy. If you’re looking to add to your wardrobe, try buying your clothes from one of these brands: 

United by Blue’s Albright Rain Shell. Photo provided by United by Blue.

United by Blue’s Albright Rain Shell. Photo provided by United by Blue.

To Outfit Your Outdoor Adventure- United by Blue 



Based in Pennsylvania, United by Blue is more than just a sustainable clothing company. While they use the greenest materials—like recycled polyester and organic cotton—they also act as community organizers. United by Blue sells women, men, and kids’ clothing—for outdoor adventures and just lounging around—as well as accessories and camping gear.  For every garment sold, United by Blue has pledged to remove one pound of trash from natural environments. They do this by organizing waterway Clean Ups in cities around the country. Check out their website for tour dates. Put on a pair of their comfortable off-trail pants, roll up your sleeves on your flannel button-down, and get to work. 


Price Range: most items around $30-100, coats and outerwear $100-200


MATTER’s 2016 Jumpsuit. Photo provided by MATTER

MATTER’s 2016 Jumpsuit. Photo provided by MATTER

2. For Classic Clothes all Year Round- MATTER

There’s a reason why MATTER’s clothing is so uniquely beautiful: the designs are based on ancient and traditional heritage patterns. Design isn’t the only thing MATTER borrows from the past. MATTER takes a “hybrid” approach to their production process. They use the work with artisans who use their traditional means of textile production, while incorporating more sustainable modern means of production in order to make the clothing economical. Additionally, MATTER does not operate on a “fast-fashion” model that produces new lines every season. They take their time to produce their clothing, in order to leave time for their meticulous production and reduce their waist. They make dresses, pants, tops, and scarfs. So, you can wear your MATTER garment any time of the year. 


Price range: Most items $50-150 

People Tree floral dress. Photo provided by People Tree

People Tree floral dress. Photo provided by People Tree

3. For a One-Stop Shop- People Tree

From dresses, to underwear, to workout clothes, UK brand People Tree has sells it all—fair trade of course. They use sustainable materials like organic cotton, natural dyes, and TENCEL™, a fibre derived from wood pulp. People tree tries their hardest to reduce waste—they even repurpose their scraps to make handmade tags for their clothing! 


Price range: $50-150

Jumpsuit from ABLE’s Spring 2019 Collection. Photo provided by ABLE.

Jumpsuit from ABLE’s Spring 2019 Collection. Photo provided by ABLE.

4. From Jewels to Dresses- ABLE

ABLE makes ethical and beautiful clothing: for women, by women. You can sleep easy after wearing their beautiful jewelry, fun handbags, trendy shoes, and cute dresses, because ABLE publishes their employees’ wages. Many of their factory workers are struggling to make ends meet, so able posts their prices to encourage other companies to do the same—increasing accountability and ethical production. 


Price range: $25-$150

Outdoor Voices store in Austin, Texas. Photo provided by Outdoor Voices.

Outdoor Voices store in Austin, Texas. Photo provided by Outdoor Voices.

5. For Your Workouts- Outdoor Voices

In addition to using sustainable, recycled, and organic materials Outdoor Voices also makes sure to use ethical production. They make men and women’s workout attire with a mission to encourage people to get outdoors. Shop their comfortable leggings, jackets, running gear, and swimwear for your next sweat session. 

Price range: Most items $50-80 


More brands are moving towards a more sustainable and ethical mode of production—this is the trend we should be seeing more of on the runway. 





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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The Possibility of a International Environmental Court

Science professors and organizations are making the case for an international green court, which would fill in gaps in the existing environmental legal order.

Climate change is an existing problem. Scientists are coming up with solutions for keeping Earth habitable, including a possible international environmental court. Gerd Altmann. CCO.

Climate change is an existing problem. Scientists are coming up with solutions for keeping Earth habitable, including a possible international environmental court. Gerd Altmann. CCO.

It’s time to face scientific facts: the world is getting warmer. The five hottest years on record have all been within the last decade. Europe went through a massive heat wave this summer. Temperature changes increase the possibility of extreme heat, drought, floods, and subsequent poverty for thousands of millions of people. Climate change is a legitimate issue, seen especially by extremes in weather patterns, and scientists are pondering possible solutions beyond what is already being done.

Using previously created organizations as inspiration, one idea two scientists have suggested is a climate-based version of the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to the Huffington Post. The main problem is that the current environmental protections (which vary by country) are not enforced by any international agency, and they are failing to cope with the sheer scale of the global problem.

The 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day is less than a year away, and though the idea of getting the court up and running by then probably isn’t possible, soon afterwards would be, if initiative was taken. In 1972, the UN Environmental Programme was created, which coordinates environmental activities and assists countries with creating policies. Subsequent concerns and opinions about the environment from all corners of the world were necessary to bring attention to the problem at the time, but didn’t protect the planet on their own. Countries are now directed to measure their activities, but there isn’t any international organization in place to monitor the loopholes globally when looking at every country’s policies and activities. 

According to the Huffington Post, the International Bar Association and the Coalition for an Environmental Court have also suggested a international environmental court. The World People’s Conference recommended a similar idea, a International Climate Justice Tribunal.

One question the court would need to sort out, if organized, is which charges would be in the scope of the court. Other challenges include different priorities for developed and developing countries, discerned unenforceability of international law, and global cooperation, according to the Inter Press Service. Keeping an open mind when organizing the international green court should help solve problems before they arise. An open forum setting with understood standards should be ideal, as opposed to a criminal court setting. In a similar sense, both the state and non-state clients should be allowed to raise cases for the court. Considering the complexity of the issues likely to come up, the judge or judges assigned should be specialized and capable. Clients should, of course, be found accountable for the decisions of the court. Clear language is necessary as well. If holding states completely accountable seems too positive, then adding sufficient stakes should make it work on a international scale. 

An international green court should be able to harmonize with existing environmental regulations, provide justice to a broad range of people, create workable solutions for maintaining international standards, and build trust among the global community. Therefore, the forum should be able to start overcoming climate inaction, and enforce that progress for the international group through agreed-upon standards.







NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.


Climate Apartheid: The Prediction for our Future

A road flooded. maxinux. CC by 2.0.

A road flooded. maxinux. CC by 2.0.

Mother Earth is dying and we are only furthering her demise. Not only that, but we are creating an environment and society that will soon be the rich versus the dead, according to Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in his report. “There is no shortage of alarm bells ringing over climate change, and an increase in biblical-level extreme weather events appear to be finally piercing through the noise, misinformation, and complacency, but these positive signs are no reason for contentment,” Alston said. “A reckoning with the scale of the change that is needed is just the first step.”

Alston is quick to call out government leaders, like President Donald Trump, about how complacent they are being concerning environmental issues. Alston states, “Somber speeches by government officials have not led to meaningful action and too many countries continue taking short-sighted steps in the wrong direction.” Alston’s report is not only a call to action—it is a warning.

Alston deems that with climate change will come “climate apartheid”, meaning “the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.” Alston states that, “while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change, and have the least capacity to protect themselves.”

So not only is climate change affecting our environment, but it will affect our lives, threatening to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Alston said. “It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places [where] poor people live and work.”

The risk of a climate apatheid also increases the possibility of “climate refugees”, or people who will have to seek lives elsewhere because the dying environment has made their current home unlivable. In a town in Gwynedd, Wales,  Phil Black reports that the inhabitants of said town might become “climate refugees” given the rising sea levels and how close the town is to those levels. While there are people, such as Lisa Goodier, a project manager attempting to make preparations for those in the town to leave, many of the townspeople refuse to give up their properties or believe the scientific facts presented to them. They would rather stay until they truly have to leave.

It is perspectives like this that make our environmental crisis what it is today. The facts are there, the evidence has been proven, but if we continually ignore what is right in front of our faces, it will be too late. Well, it will be too late for anyone who is not rich because the rich will always have the ability to pay and get rid of anything that inconveniences them.

It is not just about our environment anymore, it is about us, as a human species. If we let things continue how they are, millions will die and it will only be time until we are all wiped out. Alston states, “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

We are responsible for our future. If we don’t take responsibility, or rather, if those who have the money and are making the problems do not take responsibility, it is not just our environment at risk. It is our humanity. 

Nothing will change if those who have the money do not fix the issues. And by the looks of Alston’s report, we need change, now.





OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form. 

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Here’s Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Climate Change

Each of the Democratic hopefuls has made environmental justice a priority. Here’s who stands out in the search for a greener future.

Climate change protesters. Michael Gwyther-Jones. CC BY 2.0

Climate change protesters. Michael Gwyther-Jones. CC BY 2.0

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, signaling to the international community that the United States was backing down from the fight against climate change. Just over two years later, at the 2019 G20 Summit in Japan, Trump indicated his disdain for the essential mission of that fight: “We have the cleanest water we have ever had, we have the cleanest air we have ever had,” he claimed of the United States, adding that wind power “does not work” because it has to be subsidized.

Particularly coming from a president who has described climate change as a hoax, such a statement represented a disheartening and dangerous attitude toward environmental issues for concerned citizens across the country. As 2020 and the possibility of a new POTUS approaches, such voters will be parsing policy proposals to determine—among many other salient issues—who stands the best chance of mitigating climate change. Below are stances on climate change from a few Democratic candidates who stand out in the crowded political landscape.

Jay Inslee. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Jay Inslee. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Jay Inslee (Governor of Washington)

Inslee’s name is practically synonymous with the battle for a greener future: He has made climate change a key plank of his campaign platform, and has released four extensive climate plan proposals, each outranking his competitors in length and depth. Part one addresses clean energy in electricity, cars, and buildings; part two is a 10-year, $9 trillion investment plan; part three discusses foreign policy; and part four recommends stemming the flow of fossil fuels from the United States. Together, the four segments speak to a whopping 41 out of 48 components in the rubric put forth by leftist think tank Data for Progress, which in 2018 created one of the first blueprints for the Green New Deal—the clean energy–based economic stimulus package championed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. As of now, Inslee’s plan lacks proposals to curb waste, increase antitrust enforcement, establish a universal basic income, or found a public bank, but the governor has promised more to come.

Inslee on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “Victory is the only option against climate change, because without victory there is not survival.”

Polling numbers: 0.4 percent.

Bernie Sanders. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Bernie Sanders. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Bernie Sanders (US Senator, Vermont)

Given that Sanders hails from the Green Mountain State, it’s no surprise that going green is high on his political agenda. In the Senate, he has introduced carbon-pricing legislation and pushed for the Democratic Party to embrace a carbon tax, but his stance on climate change can be traced back to well before he was elected senator in 2006: Videos are available from 30 years ago of him discussing the issue. During his 2020 bid, Sanders has been enthusiastic about the Green New Deal (also an unsurprising development, given that Ocasio-Cortez worked for Sanders during his 2016 campaign). In April, he released his climate platform under the heading “Combat Climate Change and Pass a Green New Deal,” citing upgraded public transit, a ban on fracking, and an end to fossil fuel exports as key tenets. Yet despite his long-running push for improved environmental policy, Sanders’ proposals fall short of some more specific and nuanced iterations put forth by competitors like Inslee.

Sanders on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “Not alone, and not, certainly, just by doing what has to be done in the United States.”

Polling numbers: 14 percent.

Elizabeth Warren. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Elizabeth Warren. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0


Elizabeth Warren (US Senator, Massachusetts)

Rather than releasing policies focused narrowly on climate change, Warren has taken a different tack, addressing the issue through the lens of public lands, the military, and domestic industrial development through three distinct proposals. And running through each of these manifestos is the thread of Warren’s policy centerpiece: getting money out of politics and out of the hands of massive oil conglomerates. Her latest proposal, which is also her longest, fleshes out some of the tenets outlined in the Green New Deal, suggesting a Green Industrial Mobilization that earmarks $1.5 trillion for low-carbon tech; a Green Marshall Plan that encourages foreign countries to buy American clean energy tech; and a Green Apollo Program that invests $400 billion in energy research and development over a decade. Taxing wealth and corporate profits would provide funding for the ambitious plans, which have led Greenpeace to place her as tied with Sanders in its climate scorecard.

Warren on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “I believe that the opportunities for the next president are enormous. We can show worldwide leadership.”

Polling numbers: 13.8 percent.

Kamala Harris. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Kamala Harris. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Kamala Harris (US Senator, California)

Harris has supported and co-sponsored the Green New Deal, but her 2020 bid has otherwise made limited mention of climate justice. Past actions, however, show at least some commitment to the issue: As San Francisco’s district attorney, she established an environmental justice unit, and as attorney general, she launched an investigation into Exxon Mobil to see whether the company lied to shareholders and the public about the risks posed by climate change. During her time in Congress, she joined with five other senators to file a brief on behalf of San Francisco and Oakland in their climate damages lawsuit against fossil fuel companies, pointing to massive spending by the industry to quash climate concerns and influence lawmakers.

Harris on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “There’s no question that the next president has within her capacity to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Polling numbers: 15.2 percent.

Joe Biden. Chad Cassin. CC BY-SA 2.0

Joe Biden. Chad Cassin. CC BY-SA 2.0

Joe Biden (Former Vice President)

As part of his lengthy legislative career, Biden has the distinction of being among the first to introduce a climate change bill in the Senate: the Global Climate Protection Act of 1986, which called for an EPA national policy on the issue. In concert with President Obama, Biden built a notable record on climate change, particularly with the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2016 and the initiation of auto fuel economy standards that slashed emissions levels. Nevertheless, Biden has faced scrutiny for missing crucial climate votes earlier in his career—including the 2008 Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, regarded as the strongest climate change bill to reach the Senate floor. Despite his support of the Green New Deal, Biden initially put forth a “middle ground” approach to environmental policy in the early days of his 2020 run. Facing subsequent criticism from activists and lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, he replaced that suggestion with a proposal that aligned more closely with those of his competitors, and which allocates $1.7 trillion in federal spending to climate policy over the next decade.

Biden declined to be interviewed on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change.

Polling numbers: 26 percent.

Cory Booker. Anne White. CC BY-NC 2.0

Cory Booker. Anne White. CC BY-NC 2.0

Cory Booker (US Senator, New Jersey)

Climate change is far from the hottest-button issue for Booker, who tends to focus instead on topics like gun control, racial justice, and health care. Still, he was one of the first legislators to support the Green New Deal, has voiced support for a price on carbon, and has pointed to nuclear energy (which supplies more than one-third of New Jersey’s power) as an alternative to fracking. And while such moves may be largely tactical, Booker has pledged not to take fossil fuel money in his presidential bid as well as publicizing the fact that he is a vegan.

Booker on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “It’s not going to be one person in one office—it has to be a movement, a renewed commitment in our country and across this planet.”

Polling numbers: 2.2 percent.

Pete Buttigieg. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Pete Buttigieg. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0


Pete Buttigieg (Mayor of South Bend, Indiana)

As the youngest candidate in the race at just 37, Buttigieg has a personal stake in the matter of climate change, given that his generation is one of the first to substantively feel its detrimental effects. “It just gives you a very different relationship to political decision makers and decision making,” he told The Atlantic on dealing with environmental justice as a millennial. Like most of his competitors, Buttigieg has endorsed the Green New Deal, and the climate platform he released in May describes full implementation and a 100% carbon-free society. That could include a major role for the rural communities in his native Midwest: At a town hall in June, he described how improved soil management could help mitigate the climate crisis.

Buttigieg on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “This is a generational project. It’s going to have to be a national project.”

Polling numbers: 5.2 percent.














Beto O’Rourke. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Beto O’Rourke. Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0

Beto O’Rourke (Former US Representative, Texas)

On May 1, O’Rourke became the first 2020 candidate to release a comprehensive climate plan, which defines a binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. economy by 2050. Unlike Inslee’s target of 2045, however, this goal raised the ire of some environmental groups, who asserted that O’Rourke should have aimed for as soon as 2030. And although O’Rourke signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge two days after issuing his platform, he accepted more than $550,000 from oil industry sources during his Senate bid against Ted Cruz—the second-highest number among the candidates after Cruz.

O’Rourke on whether it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change: “It’s going to take this entire country, and it’s going to take this country leading the entire world.”

Polling numbers: 2.4 percent.



At a point in the race where the strength of actual policy proposals is often eclipsed by intangible factors like electability and charisma, voters still have a while to wait before realistic options for environmental justice begin to coalesce. Until then, temperatures will keep ticking up, waters will continue rising, and communities in the United States and across the globe will keep hoping for a leader with the power to reverse the inevitable.




TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.




What You Need to Know About Beyond and Impossible Burgers

Why plant-based meat substitutes are good for you, and even better for the environment.

Impossible Burger. Photo Provided by Impossible Foods.

Impossible Burger. Photo Provided by Impossible Foods.

There has been a lot of buzz recently around plant-based meat substitutes—especially since Beyond Meat just went public in May at a nearly $1.5 billion dollar valuation. Two of the most popular meat substitutes on the market, Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods, have been astonishing consumers at their resemblance to actual meat. These products look and taste like the meat products they are modeled after. 

What makes them different? 

Impossible Foods’ main product is their burger. And while the Beyond Burger is probably the most well known product that Beyond Meats offers, the company also offers “ground beef,” two flavors of “sausages,” and “beef crumbles.” However, it is possible to mash or crumble the Impossible Burger to create meatballs, pizza toppings, or even tacos. 

Additionally, the products differ in their main protein ingredient. Beyond Burgers’ main protein source comes from pea protein, while Impossible Burgers get their protein from soy protein concentrate. 

The Impossible Burger looks a little more realistic than the Beyond Burger. It appears to “bleed” thanks to the Heme molecule an ingredient called soy leghemoglobin. The Heme molecule is found in every living plant and animal. Since it’s found most abundantly in animals, it’s what makes meat taste like meat. Impossible Foods use the Heme molecule in soy roots. In fact, Impossible Burgers taste so much like actual beef, that some vegetarians and vegans don’t like to eat them because it creeps them out! 

Why are they good for us? 

Meat increases risk of cancer by 16% and risk of heart disease by 21%. By eating a patty that looks and tastes like meat—without the added cholesterol—we can satisfy our cravings without having to worry about health risks.

Why are they good for the environment? 

Aside from the fact that less animals will be killed if more people switch to meat substitutes, plant-based substances are made more sustainably than meat products. 51% of greenhouse gas emissions result from raising livestock and producing meat products. 45% of global surface area is reserved for livestock systems. Imagine the greenery and nature that could be preserved with just a fraction of that space! 

So, for your next summer barbeque, try switching to a Beyond or Impossible Burger. Your guests will barely notice the difference. 





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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In the Czech Countryside, a City Eaten Alive by Its Own Beauty

Since the fall of communism, Český Krumlov has transformed from relic to hotspot—but has it lost its authentic appeal along the way?

Český Krumlov. Alan Bloom. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Český Krumlov. Alan Bloom. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Czech capital of Prague is known the world over for its storybook beauty, manifesting most dramatically in the towering gothic facade of the St. Vitus Cathedral and the sprawling tableau of red rooftops visible from atop Petřín Hill. Yet just over 100 miles away is another sparkling jewel in the Czech Republic’s crown: Český Krumlov, a city of only 13,000 residents whose 13th-century castle and picturesque riverbanks have brought it not only recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site but also an increasing influx of tourists that now threatens its very identity. 

Former Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, which lasted from 1948 to 1989 before it was ushered out by the Velvet Revolution, left much of Český Krumlov in disrepair. Yet the city’s neglected state lent it a sense of mystery and charm. In the years since, Krumlov—much like the country’s capital, Prague—has been transformed into a tourist wonderland, with historic buildings being renovated and revitalized and ensuing increases in tourist income bolstering the city’s economy.

City streets. Hindol Bhattacharya. CC BY-SA 2.0

City streets. Hindol Bhattacharya. CC BY-SA 2.0

As the city has changed, so have the demographics of its visitors. In an interview with Radio Praha, Krumlov’s mayor, Dalibor Carda, explained that an initial boom of Austrian and German tourists after 1989 gave way to an influx of Americans, many of whom settled in the city indefinitely. Today, for locals—whether native-born or transplants—the off-season is a thing of the past, with tour groups flooding the city on a year-round basis. “[I]f you want to have a pristine Krumlov,” writes Jan Velinger in a piece for Radio Praha, “you have to get up very early to ever have its romantic streets, or overlooking castle, ramparts to yourself.” Fed up with the unrelenting crowds, locals have largely migrated to the outskirts of the city, resulting in an exodus of local businesses: Bakeries, hardware stores, and family-owned shops are now difficult to find, having been replaced with bars, restaurants, and hostels catering to short-term visitors.

One of Český Krumlov’s bars, popular among tourists. kellerabteil. CC BY-NC 2.0

One of Český Krumlov’s bars, popular among tourists. kellerabteil. CC BY-NC 2.0

In some respects, Český Krumlov has moved to mitigate the encroaching tendrils of tourism, notes reporter Chris Johnstone, pointing to a ban on advertising and the exclusion of cars and buses from the city center. Moreover, just this June, the city established a tariff on buses in an effort to regulate the influx—up to 20,000—arriving each year. The plan is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic, although Salzburg and other Austrian cities have imposed similar measures. Now, all buses rolling into Krumlov must book in advance, navigate to one of two designated stops, and pay the toll of CZK 625, approximately $28.

Tourism has inspired not only legislative changes, but also works of art—as in the case of “UNES-CO,” a 2018 project by renowned conceptual artist Kateřina Šedá. Responding to the profound impact of visitors on the distribution of local populations, Šedá conceived of a work that involved relocating a group of individuals and families to the heart of Český Krumlov for three months at the height of the tourist season. The participants were provided with starter apartments and jobs “on the basis of what Krumlov most needs,” which Šedá deemed to be “the pursuit of normal life.” The title played on the city’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site and on the Czech words “unést” and “co,” meaning “take away” and “what,” as in “What do visitors get out of this place?” Šedá, whose work often involves social themes and who is famed for relocating an entire Czech village to London’s Tate Modern in 2011, stressed that the project was not intended to be a show for tourists, but rather a social experiment.

Houses along the banks of the Vltava River. P. N. CC BY-SA 2.0

Houses along the banks of the Vltava River. P. N. CC BY-SA 2.0

On the opposite side of the artistic spectrum, Huawei—the Chinese electronics behemoth currently facing scrutiny from the U.S. for potential security issues—announced in January that it would build an exact facsimile of Český Krumlov at its headquarters. The Huawei campus, which lies just outside of Shenzhen in the city of Dongguan, will also count Granada, Verona, Paris, Budapest, and Bruges among its plethora of reconstructed European cities. “I heard about it when they started preparing it,” commented Cardo. “The fact that they [are] building it without at least contacting the city does not sit well with me.”

The Krumlov replica may well draw more Chinese tourists, who already represent the largest segment of visitors to the historic city. Yet for embittered locals, the mini-city could be a grimly apt representation of what their home has become: a mere palimpsest of its original iteration, and a cautionary tale depicting how capitalism and tourism can spur unwelcome transformation.






TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.

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Shanghai Forever

'Urbanologist' and media artist JT Singh has captured the vibrance and massive scale of Shanghai’s skyline, streets, and infrastructure through a series of experimental projects viewed by millions (This is Shanghai, Walk in Shanghai, etc); hence, contributing greatly to the city's growing global status. With this new film, he turns to the Shanghai of its residents, the lives that revolve not around the city’s 4000 skyscrapers, but around the simpler ways of living, the local charm, and the familiar corner.

ICELAND: Beyond the Lighthouse

It opens with a shot of an iconic looking lighthouse perched atop a giant cliff. From there you'll see one of the country's famous black sand beaches, one of Iceland's many epic waterfalls, a lava field, several fjords, a glacial lagoon, as well as views of some of the world's most stunning mountains. You'll even get a glimpse of some of the famed Icelandic horses!

Saving India’s Most Sacred River

Each year, about 8 million tons of flowers are dumped into India’s rivers. As flowers hold a sacred place in Hindu rituals, they are often thrown into the Ganges, India’s holiest river. Unfortunately, pesticides and other chemicals from these flowers are mixing with the water, exacerbating an ecosystem already plagued with pollution. Enter HelpUsGreen, an organization that has begun collecting the waste flowers and upcycling them into products like incense, soap and biodegradable styrofoam. Through the group’s efforts, they’re addressing an environmental threat while giving the flowers a new life.

In India, Using Plastic Waste as Tuition at a New School

A school combines accessible education with environmental responsibility through a creative program.

Photo of plastic waste by  John Cameron  on  Unsplash .

Photo of plastic waste by John Cameron on Unsplash.

In 2016, Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar founded Akshar School in Assam, a state in northeast India. Initially, the school struggled to enroll many of the children living in the area. Most families could not afford private school tuition, and relied on the $2.50 per day wage their children could make working in the nearby stone quarries.

In the winter months, many families in Assam burned plastic waste to keep warm, unaware of the health and environmental hazard this created. The fumes would often linger in Akshar’s classrooms, and ended up giving Parmita and Mazin the idea that would transform the school.

Instead of tuition, Akshar began requiring students to bring 25 plastic waste items to school every week. “We wanted to start a free school for all, but stumbled upon this idea after we realised a larger social and ecological problem brewing in this area,” Parmita told Better India.

Through the use of plastic waste as tuition, students who would not have been able to attend the school were able to learn, and the surrounding environment benefitted. Under the new tuition system, the school blossomed, and now enrolls 100 students ages 4 to 15. Before the tuition program was implemented, Akshar had only 20 students.

To compensate for the wages that children could be making working in the mines, Akshar established a tutoring program, where older students can help younger ones with their work in exchange for currency tokens that can be used to purchase snacks, toys, shoes, and clothing. The students can even exchange the tokens for real money to purchase items online. But financial compensation isn’t the only rationalization for the tutoring program. Through teaching, older students are able to develop useful life skills, practicing communication, leadership, and compassion.

Tuition isn’t the only unusual aspect of the school. Parmita told Better India that the goal of the school is to break with traditional curriculum. Students take class in open areas, and grades are divided by level rather than age.

“We realised that education had to be socially, economically and environmentally relevant for these children,” Mazin told Better India. That would mean not only providing an accessible education, but one that would enable children to find jobs after graduation. To this end Akshar offers career focused classes alongside traditional ones, enabling students to gain skills in cosmetology, solar paneling, carpentry, gardening, organic farming, electronics, and more. The school is also willing to adapt to create the best education for its students. Mazin told Better India that when the school noticed a spike in landscaping in Assam, they began to draft plans for a sustainable landscaping course.

Mazin and Parmita’s success with Akshar has inspired them to create more schools that follow the same philosophy. They hope to implement the Akshar model in 5 government schools over the next year, and 100 government schools in the next 5 years.






Emma is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her. 

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Take a Gap Year to Learn about Yourself and the Environment

Eco-Gap Participants in the Greenhouse. Photo provided by Eco-Gap.

Eco-Gap Participants in the Greenhouse. Photo provided by Eco-Gap.

Gap years are on the rise. More and more, young adults are being encouraged to defer their acceptance to college to take a break from the grind of school, mature, and learn more about themselves. For some, taking a gap year serves as an introduction to living away from home. For others, a gap year provides work experience, and the opportunity to make extra cash to pay for college and other expenses. Articles and opinion pieces are frequently being published, attesting to a gap year’s ability to provide crucial preparation for college.

But gap years can serve a purpose other than bettering oneself. Some gap year programs have been created with the goal of fostering a generation of environmentally aware young adults. These programs have an eco-focus, encouraging their participants to live socially and environmentally conscious lifestyles.

International School for Earth Studies

The Cushing family runs the International School for Earth Studies in Southern Alberta. According to Co-Founder, CEO, and Director of Operations Geoffrey Cushing, he and his family were, and remain, “Eco-tourism pioneers.” The International School for Earth Studies run programs that educate and connect people to the environment. They accepted their first gap year student in 2005, and they have maintained a vibrant program ever since.

At the core of their gap year program are four pillars:

  1. Environmental Literacy

  2. Self Defense

  3. (Non Motorized) Outdoor Recreation

  4. Animal connection

The International School for Earth Studies runs two sessions of gap year programs: an Autumn and a Winter session. In addition to living and learning on the institution’s immense property that includes a private lake, diverse animals, and a stable, participants travel to other important places such as the Great Lakes, and the largest concentration of power plants in North America. The gap year students will learn from knowledgeable and experienced staff and speakers, including first nation biologists.

Geoffrey explained that students experience an “immersion into an outdoor lifestyle,” as students spend six to eight hours a day working outdoors. A typical day is split up into morning, afternoon, and evening sessions. In the morning and afternoon, participants will learn how to work and connect with animals, or develop outdoor survival techniques. Evening sessions are more discussion based. Sometimes, participants will stargaze. Other times, a participant will lead a discussion. Geoffrey said that the discussions can get particularly deep and emotional.

Geoffrey hopes that participants will leave this program as more educated global citizens, and will feel the urgency of Earth’s environmental situation. “We feel that the world is in crisis environmentally,” Geoffrey said. “We try to use animals, the voiceless, as the platform for our students to realize how desperate the situation is.”

Eco-Gap at EcoVillage at Ithaca

Ecovillage at Ithaca, NY is comprised of three neighborhoods organized as housing cooperatives. Learn@ecovillage’s gap year program is brand new, they just initiated their first cohort last year.

Liz Walker, Director and Co-Founder of EcoVillage explained that Eco-Gap is unique, as it is set in the Ecovillage, a community that is completely environmentally oriented. Participants live with families in the communities.

There are two opportunities for gap year students:

  1. The Eco-Gap immersion program

  2. The Eco-Gap internship program

The Eco-Gap immersion program is an eight-week structured program in the fall, for a small cohort of eight participants. Liz outlined the major, and varied, components of the Eco-Gap immersion program:

  1. Agriculture: local food and farming. Participants will work on the Ecovillage’s four organic farms, and learn to prepare food for themselves and for the needy.

  2. Health and Wellness: Participants will learn yoga and meditation skills, as well as tap into their own artistic creativity,

  3. Building Skills: Participants will learn about green building, and learn carpentry skills to build their own small shed.

  4. Living and leadership skills: Participants will learn how to express themselves fully, and how to deal with conflict through non-violence.

For those that want more work experience, or a more flexible timeline, the Eco-Gap internship program offers individual mentoring.

Through Eco-Gap’s programming, Liz aims to teach from a “context of environmental and social sustainability and social justice.”  Her goal is that her participants “obtain practical skills for transforming oneself and the world.”

These are just two examples of environmentally focused gap year programs. There are more out there, all around the world. Additionally, gap year students can volunteer for the environment independently, without an organized program.






ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

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Explore the Melting Ice Caves of Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier is a spectacular 12-mile-long glacier near Juneau, Alaska. Ice caves make up its surreal interior. Only the truly adventurous can access its icy walls, as the trip to see them requires a kayak trip, an ice climb and—once you're inside—the faith that the glacier’s melting walls won't give way. But this natural wonder is under threat. The glacier has been retreating incredibly quickly in recent years due to warmer temperatures and rising sea levels. Since 1958, it has receded by almost two miles. What remains, however, is an utterly breathtaking fantasyland.

The Abandoned Whaling Station Nature Reclaimed

Rusty boats and barrels dot the shore of the British Island of South Georgia. They’re relics of a whaling station known as Grytviken that ceased operation in 1966 after the whale population had been nearly depleted by hunting. Today, the remote island, which sits 1,500 miles from the foot of Argentina, is home to millions of penguins and as well as seals. What was once the scene of one of the worst wildlife massacres in history is now a space that nature itself has reclaimed.

Revolutionizing Ethical Travel for Women: Meet Purposeful Nomad

Native alpacas graze near the Chimborazo Volcano during Purposeful Nomad’s trip to Ecuador where the group learns about local non-profit, Paqocha’s, mission to restore alpaca populations and meets the community who sheers, cleans, and spins the fleece. Caitlin Murray. Purposeful Nomad.

Native alpacas graze near the Chimborazo Volcano during Purposeful Nomad’s trip to Ecuador where the group learns about local non-profit, Paqocha’s, mission to restore alpaca populations and meets the community who sheers, cleans, and spins the fleece. Caitlin Murray. Purposeful Nomad.

When Caitlin Murray met Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm, she’d been living in South America for two years after a solo trip that inspired her to stay.  They showed her how their commitment to regenerating Ecuador’s cloud forest focuses on sustainable farming practices and educating others. They also gave her a taste of their handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bar that won first place in 2016’s International Chocolate Awards.  Inspired by their story and commitment to the environment, Caitlin wanted to bring others to their farm.

Volunteering abroad, solo backpacking, and working in the tourism industry, Caitlin realized in order to access culture and be socially responsible, she must find measurable ways to directly give back to local communities. Driven to create opportunities for women to collectively experience this, she founded Purposeful Nomad. Purposeful Nomad is a travel company that crafts deeper, safer, more ethically responsible travel for women.  They attract women from a variety of backgrounds and ages seeking a different kind of experience.  “I wanted to use tourism as something positive in the world and not just a consumerism ‘let’s take my life and emulate my life somewhere else’ ethos,” Caitlin explains.

Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm educate Purposeful Nomad travelers about sustainable farming while sharing their award-winning handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bars. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

Alejandro and Agostina, conservationists and owners of Ecuadorian Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate Farm educate Purposeful Nomad travelers about sustainable farming while sharing their award-winning handcrafted Arriba Cocoa bars. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

Two years after her visit to Mashpi Farm, Caitlin launched her first women-only sustainable social impact travel program in Ecuador - called Food, Farm, Fleece.  The 14-day itinerary integrates local experience and education.  Early on, the group meets with grassroots organization founders of Paqocha, Felipe Segovia and Lorena Perez to learn about their efforts to revive the alpaca population.  Next, they learn from Ecuadorian women how to shear, clean and spin the fleece with the opportunity to purchase handwoven wares directly from the makers.

Going through a transitional time in her life, Sara Carter signed up with Purposeful Nomad to “fulfill her desire to immerse herself in Ecuador's culture, food, and people, while affording her the chance to do it with like-minded women.” Within a few short years, Purposeful Nomad has grown to eight new locations and diversified itineraries - including Cuba, Morocco, India, and Guatemala.

Purposeful Nomad Founder, Caitlin Murray, (second from right) and women’s sustainable travel group gather after a village homestay and camel trek in the Thar desert, India. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

Purposeful Nomad Founder, Caitlin Murray, (second from right) and women’s sustainable travel group gather after a village homestay and camel trek in the Thar desert, India. Jessica Scranton. Purposeful Nomad.

According to the World Tourism Organization as explained in CNBC’s article “Eco-Friendly Tourism” eco-travel is expected to climb to 1.8 billion by 2030.  Since 2000, worldwide destination seeking has jumped by more than 50 percent. As socially responsible travel continues to grow “we make sure our dollars stay local.  We’re not a luxury tour company,” says Caitlin. According to McColl of Ethical Traveler, the best way to travel sustainability is to get to know the local people so the “money stays in the local economy, rather than getting extracted by foreign corporations … as a bonus, it’s a more genuine experience, and a better chance to connect with local people.” Purposeful Nomad prioritizes local from lodging and cuisine to hiring knowledgeable guides.  Caitlin builds partnerships by talking to locals and finding ways to help. She doesn’t assume to know what a place needs. She asks. Would you like to work with us?  How can we help?  

According to MarketWatch, more than 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation each year, paying more than $2 billion annually to help out while traveling.  Nevertheless, it brings into question how much lasting impact they are generating.

Purposeful Nomad focuses on tapping into established grassroots organizations that are already happening on the ground and are a proven success to help measure their impact. “Bigger volunteer organizations, can create incredible infrastructures in developing countries, but once they pull out, the schools are empty.  We don’t want that,” Caitlin explains.

With the mounting popularity of conscious travel, terms like responsible, sustainable and ethical can often be overused or misused in the tourism industry.  Epicure & Culture contributor, Daniela Frendo explains, “In the travel industry, greenwashing refers to tour operators which make eco-trips seem more sustainable and ethical than they actually are.”  Travelers can mitigate this by asking travel companies whether they employ local people and buy locally-sourced products as well as learn more about how invested the company actually is in community-based projects. Aware of greenwashing, Caitlin says, “If you take shortcuts, people are going to know.” She thoroughly vets organizations and individuals to ensure there is transparency in where the money goes.

Back at the Masphi Farm, Alejandro and Agostina’s passion for conservation and keeping the Ecuadorian traditions of the cacao crop alive balances well with dishing out delicious artisanal chocolate.  So, for your next trip, consider traveling with a purpose—it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.





JULIA KRAMER is a New York-based writer and avid traveler who addresses systems changes to social challenges through storytelling and community building.  When she’s not writing or on the road, you will find her cooking something from her urban garden or hiking.  Read more of her articles on travel and social impact at julia-roos.com.

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Preserving Prehistoric Lizards With the 'Iguanero'

We’ve all met a crazy cat lady or maybe a neighbor with an insane collection of pet turtles. Now, let us introduce you to Ramón Medina Archundia: the iguana guy. Archundia loves iguanas so much that he fosters hundreds of them in his front yard in Manzanilla, Mexico. Forty-one years ago, he adopted about 40 of these prehistoric-looking lizards to protect them from hunters and bring awareness to their dwindling numbers. Now, each one represents a new family member that he cares for and treats as if they were his own children. Leapin’ lizards!

Protecting Our Oceans from Ghost Traps

At any given time, there are thought to be over 360,000 tons of loose fishing gear floating through our oceans. These disregarded pieces of debris are a danger to our aquatic ecosystems, trapping fish, turtles, birds and even whales. Kurt Lieber assembled the Ocean Defender Alliance, a group of volunteer divers cleaning California’s coasts of ghost nets and traps.

The Teenager Schooling World Leaders on Climate Change

For hundreds of thousands of young people, Greta Thunberg is an icon. At only 16, she’s proving you don’t have to be an adult to make a world of a difference. Today, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee is among the most influential voices speaking out about Earth’s dire climate crisis. 

The teen first learned about the devastating, lasting impact of climate change when she was just 11 years old. Dismayed by adults’ unwillingness to respond, she decided to take action herself. She began by making small changes in her own life—cutting meat and dairy from her diet and convincing her parents to also live more sustainably

Frustrated by the lack of attention from policymakers, Greta held a strike in August 2018, missing class to sit in protest in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign that read “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (“School Strike for the Climate”). She vowed to hold strikes every Friday until Sweden was in alignment with the Paris Agreement

People in Sweden (and now, the world over) began to take notice of Greta’s stance. After a viral TED Talk where she explained her call to action, others began to join in her protests. Today, #FridaysforFuture has grown to be a global phenomenon, with hundreds of thousands of young people from over 125 countries standing alongside Greta. 

In addition to her Nobel Peace Prize nomination, Greta’s actions have earned her speaking engagements at the World Economic Forum and COP24—but most importantly, they’ve ignited a new generation to create change and stand up for the future. 

Greta says she owes her dogged determination in part to being on the spectrum: “I think if I wouldn’t have had Asperger’s I don’t think I would have started the school strike, I don’t think I would’ve cared about the climate at all… That allowed me to focus on one thing for a very long time.” 

Her #FridaysforFuture protest on March 15, 2019 drew 1.6 million strikers, from 2,000 locations, across all seven continents. She wants world leaders to know that change is coming, whether they like it or not.