Today’s Topic: The Rise of Sustainability Pledges.

Hello Readers,

Second blog post coming up from No Trace Tourism – this time I’ll be looking at a couple of great tourism pledges and examine what makes them resonate or where they fall short.


This topic is worth looking at closer as the Thompson Okanagan, lead by their regional DMO Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, are about to start working on a similar pledge for our region.  A sustainability pledge aims to provide tourists with a set of guidelines to follow when they visit a place, in order to ensure they are sustaining the environment, culture, and economy – the three pillars of sustainability.

It will be imperative that the new Thompson Okanagan pledge resonate not just with tourists about to embark on their visit, but with the people (including the Indigenous groups) hosting them here too.  If it is to be truly successful and meaningful, the pledge will need to take learnings from those already in practice, like these:

Example 1 – The Palau Pledge

Stunning, yet highly vulnerable: Palau

Not long ago, the small pacific island nation of Palau changed their immigration stamp for international passports to include the following pledge:

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Immigration Palau’s passport stamp. (2017)

Each international visitor was required to sign the pledge upon entering the country.  It was a powerful move, and made Palau the first country in the world to change their immigration laws to protect the fragile environment from tourists. The pledge also came with a video, where the children of Palau explained the importance of protecting their island home, through a captivating story of a legendary Giant.  In the case of Palau, they are using legends to preserve the history while at the same time protecting the islands for future generations – no small feat.  The video is superb, check it out by clicking the link below…

Watch: Palau Pledge In-Flight Informative Video

Recently, Palau has also banned sunscreen which is toxic to their coral reefs in an additional effort to protect them from harm.  Since introducing their pledge back in 2017, 147,000 people have signed the pledge and it has garnered media attention from around the world, inspiring many other tourism destinations to look at producing their own similar pledge.

Example 2 – New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise

Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park – New Zealand 

Brand new this fall, New Zealand has followed in the footsteps of places such as Palau and released their own tourism pledge, called the ‘Tiaki Promise’.

Tiaki in Maori means ‘to guard; to care for people and place’.

The Tiaki Promise was designed by Tourism New Zealand not to read like a set of rules or tell people what to do and what not to do, but rather to put people into a certain mindset before visiting New Zealand.  The CEO of Tourism New Zealand explains: 

“Tiaki talks to guidelines or guiding principles about how we would like people to behave when they’re in New Zealand. The idea is that we have a deep and symbiotic relationship with our environment here in New Zealand.You are welcome to come and to experience our landscape, but we want you to please be mindful of the fact that it’s a really important place.”

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The Tiaki Promise (2018)

Similar to Palau, New Zealand has also created a video which will be shown on international flights operated by their national carrier Air New Zealand.  The video can be viewed here:

Watch: New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise Video

What really resonates in New Zealand’s pledge video is the incorporation of their indigenous stories, language, and people.  My favourite aspect of their pledge is the line “respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind“.  As someone who has lived in New Zealand, it was evident to me almost immediately how much the land is tied to their indigenous culture through their customs, the names of their cities, and simply the way nature is protected before it is exploited in almost all areas of the New Zealand conscious.

I remember one instance, when I was river rafting near Rotorua, the guide (who was himself non-indigenous) recited a Maori blessing prior to us entering the sacred river to raft.  It was a meaningful and important reminder that indigenous cultures have their own stories and histories tied to the places we are now treating as tourist destinations.  It also emphasized that we are only visitors, fortunate to have been allowed to experience something so sacred and intrinsic to their local culture.

The first line on their website promoting their rafting tours is as follows:
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The blessing made me feel a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation for the space we were about to enter into.  It showed me that, even prior to the formal Tiaki promise pledge being created, New Zealanders were living the pledge in their daily lives, something I think is very important in order for a pledge to be authentic.

One of the BEST things about the Tiaki Promise is the feature on their website ( where you can upload your own photo and they will impose the pledge and your name over top, allowing you to share your pledge with other people.

Once again, New Zealand proves why they are some of the best Tourism Marketers in the world!

Tiaki Promise-4.jpg
This is amazing.  Job well done Tourism NZ!

Example 3 – Iceland’s ‘The Icelandic Pledge’

Back in 2017, following closely after Palau, Iceland’s tourism promotion site ‘Inspired by Iceland’ launched their own pledge, simply called the ‘Icelandic Pledge’.  The pledge reads as follows:

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The Icelandic Pledge 

The Icelandic pledge is different to the Palau and New Zealand pledges in that it does read more as a specific list of rules.  They obviously felt it was necessary to be a bit more to the point, perhaps in response to instances where tourists have been known to put themselves into dangerous situations just to get a perfect photo, such as parking in unsafe areas or walking into traffic or into unsafe terrain.  It therefor reads that this pledge is equally about protecting the tourists themselves as it is about protecting the natural environment of Iceland.

Iceland’s tourism marketing style is very unique and because they are a very unique culture, it is not surprising their marketing and pledge would take on a different style / tone.  In the year and a half since it was introduced, 48,000 people have signed the Icelandic Pledge.  They have also created a brief video, which is short and to the point.  It doesn’t include enough, in my opinion, to create that mindset shift that New Zealand was going for, but it is still a good start.  In particular, I like the line about togetherness.

Watch: Inspired by Iceland ‘The Icelandic Pledge’ Video



In looking at the sustainability pledges from Palau, New Zealand, and Iceland it is clear that a pledge will always be as unique as the country or region with produces it.  The critical success factors, from what I can gather, include paying appropriate attention to indigenous groups, ensuring the language of the pledge does not come across too strict or like a rule list, and aligning the pledge with the culture and values of the country/region it represents.  I believe New Zealand is doing an amazing job at spreading their campaign through inclusions such as the ability to impose the pledge over your own photograph – that was highly impressive to me.  By including such a personal element into to the pledge, which firstly aims to bring us all closer together, they are succeeding in fulfilling all aspects of how people find identity these days – personal identity and identifying as part of a larger group of like-minded folks.

As the Icelandic video states,

‘alone, you are just one; but together, we are an unstoppable army’

To conclude:

Pledges seek to bring us all together under a common goal – protection of those places we enjoy visiting so they can be enjoyed by generations to come.  This benefits host communities, visitors, and the environment – bringing together various groups under one common goal; they represent a step in the right direction for sustainability in tourism.

Signing off, and until next time…


Leaving footprints that can be washed away…

Welcome to my Blog!

Hi, I’m Olivia.

I’ve started this blog as a way to dive deeper into my passion for sustainability with a specific focus on tourism.  Growing up, I always loved being surrounded by nature.  It didn’t take long for me to combine the outdoors with a passion for travel and seeing new places.  In high school I was voted ‘Most Likely to Stop Global Warming‘ – a task which I am sad to say I have yet to achieve.

After discovering a love of geography, the environment, and the planet during my childhood and into high school, at 18 I began my Bachelor’s Degree in Geography where while attending University I was further convinced of my love for research, writing, and generally learning new things.

My courses steered me in the direction of tourism and I was soon diving into the sociology of tourism, wine tourism, and tourism management.  With a thirst for more knowledge, at 23, I began my Master’s Degree in Tourism Management.

Graduating a year later, at the ripe young age of 24 – I was ready to start my career in tourism.  With my studies in destination development, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and leadership I set out to take the wine tourism world by storm.  I managed a tasting room on Vancouver Island for 2 years, and eventually returned to my family business for 8 months developing new branding and overseeing the marketing.

At 26, I moved to New Zealand where I worked again in Wine Tourism, and was able to fully get the ‘living abroad bug’ out of my system.  Throughout my travels, I have always been drawn to natural wonders and have always remained keenly aware of the fragile balance between tourism and the planet which hosts us all as travellers.

Back in Canada, working once again in the family business, I am being drawn back to my passion for sustainability, tourism, and learning new things.  This blog will be my outlet for this passion – I hope to explore all things sustainable tourism searching for best practices and hopefully uncovering where my passion will take me next.

Thanks for reading!

World’s Largest Sitka Spruce, near Port Renfrew BC Canada (2012)
Mount Cook, New Zealand (2016)
Queenstown, New Zealand (2016)
Lake Waikeremoana Great Walk, New Zealand (2017)
Lake Waikeremoana, New Zealand (2017)

Renewed Motivation to Go Electric

With the recently published article by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warning that we have only 12 years to make necessary decreases in Greenhouse Gas emissions or face harsh consequences – I have renewed drive to switch my transportation to an electric vehicle.

But it also included several other suggestions like limiting the amount of meat we consume, halting all oil and gas expansion projects, and how businesses need to lead the way if we are to see any lasting improvements.

It led me to a little exploration project looking at changes I could make in my lifestyle and comparing the impact they would each have on reducing my carbon footprint.  Here are my findings:

My current Carbon Footprint is taking up about 119% of my share of the planet.  Honestly, I thought it would be much higher.

If I were to sell my car and replace it with an all electric vehicle, my share use would reduce to 110%, a 9% decrease.

If I went vegetarian and sourced as much of my food locally as I could, it would further reduce my carbon footprint by 6%.

Lastly, if I moved into a solar-powered tiny house, it would decrease my use by 43%, to 76% of my share of the planet.

If I did all three, I would only be using 62% of my share of the planet.

This was certainly some great food for thought.  If you’d like to compare some of these scenarios for yourself, I used the footprint calculator found here:



Today’s Topic: Old Growth Tree Tourism

Hello Readers,

Today I wanted to touch on a subject which is very close to my heart.  Old growth forests and the value of a tree left standing vs. a tree cut down.  This is also the subject of a great book I am currently reading: Big Lonely Doug: the Story of One of Canada’s Last Great Trees by Harley Rusted.  Highly recommended, this book is one part environmental call to action and one part historical account of the forestry industry in B.C.


About 5 and a half years ago, when I was first living on Vancouver Island and studying for my Master’s Degree, I was taken to a place I’d never heard of before – Avatar Grove.

Little did I know, this piece of newly protected Old Growth Forest would become one of my favourite places in the entire world.  That warm day in early July, I hiked through the most awe inspiring trees I had ever witnessed.  Bigger, taller, more majestic than anything I had ever seen in the Okanagan (where I grew up) – these trees left me with a lasting sense of kinship between myself, a human, and nature.  They made me feel that nature was so much bigger than us all, and that so many lessons could be learned by just standing amongst something which had been around for hundreds and hundreds of years.  I knew this was a special place and I would return time and time again, sharing it with as many other people as I could.  There is truly nothing more humbling than walking among these giant trees…

Walking Among Giants – Avatar Grove (2013)
Avatar Grove (2013)
Happy Tree Hugger – Avatar Grove (2013)

A few months later, and I would return to Avatar Grove again with my classmates while doing a project on community tourism for Port Renfrew, the closest town to Avatar.  Our professor took us into the trees and lectured to us in what I can only describe as one of the most inspiring classrooms ever… evidenced in these photos from the trip.

Hanging out with Canada’s Gnarliest Tree – Avatar Grove (2013)
Destination Development Course, Field Trip – Avatar Grove (2013)

What I’ve learned about Avatar Grove since I’ve started reading Big Lonely Doug is that protection for this grove of trees was only secured a few year’s prior to my visit, through the hardwork and activism of the Ancient Forest Alliance.  The group discovered the trees, which were in the process of being flagged for cutting, and knew they had found the perfect stand of old growth to protect for tourism and conservation.  The selling feature was the fact that Avatar Grove was so accessible when compared to other tracts of old growth forest… it was only a few hours’ drive from Victoria on mostly paved roads, and situated only 15 minutes from Port Renfrew with a handful of services for visitors.

Avatar Grove was named after the James Cameron film Avatar, which came out at around the same time.  The environmental messaging in the film, it’s huge box office success, and the catchiness of the name helped garner media attention and secure the protection of Avatar Grove from logging.  The value of the old trees left standing was evidently acknowledged by the government – but their safety came at a price.  The protection of the 60 hectares around Avatar Grove was only agreed to by the logging company in exchange for logging rights to other old growth forest parcels, some with trees over 250 years old.

The next visit I made to the grove was with my Mom and Grandma in Spring 2014, and they were just as inspired as I was by these massive trees.  It was great to share this place with two of my role models and it shouldn’t surprise me one bit they would show the same admiration I did when I first visited.

I wonder who I take after…? My mom Lisa – Avatar Grove (2014)

In the years after I first visited Avatar Grove, I often thought about an idea for a tourism business where I would take visitors on day trips from Victoria in a Tesla electric car to witness Avatar Grove for themselves. I wanted to call this company something along the lines of ‘zero impact tours‘ and still believe there is a viable business opportunity for something of that nature.  In fact, there is a company offering a day tour passing through Avatar Grove in Teslas – Tesla Tours.  I’m hoping to connect with the owner of Tesla Tours at the IMPACT Sustainable Tourism conference I am attending in Victoria in January!

I returned to the Port Renfrew area again in the summer of 2015 and this time set out to find the world’s largest Douglas Fir and Canada’s largest Spruce tree, which are both in the same area just a little more difficult to access.  I have to say, finding these trees was such an adventure and they did not disappoint at all!

Canada’s Largest Sitka Spruce, 2015


World’s Largest Douglas Fir, the Red Creek Fir – 2015

The namesake of the book ‘Big Lonely Doug’ is the final great tree I have to visit – and I intend on making it happen as soon as I can.  Big Lonely Doug was saved from the same fate as all of his neighbouring trees by a logger who realized this was a tree worth saving.  He is only 4 meters shorter than the largest Douglas Fir in the world, but the fact he stands alone in the middle of a clear cut is a shocking contrast and one which reminds us how vulnerable these last great trees are.

Big Lonely Doug – Google Images (2018)

I wanted to share one of my favourite takeaways from the book so far (I’ve only read 194 out of its 276 pages).  It has to do with fears that Lonely Doug will eventually fall and succumb to a great wind storm, something I remember fearing when I first learned his story a few years ago.  Without any trees around him to serve as a buffer, it would be easy to assume he will make an easy target for the next great wind.

However, in examining the trees around Big Lonely Doug, it was discovered that he was the only tree of his age (estimated at 1,000 years old), with the other dozen or so next oldest trees all of about 500 years in age, and finally the majority of the trees in his area only 100 years old.  Historical evidence from early explorers to the area (and also the local Indigenous histories) talk about a storm in 1906 which levelled the forests and their trees, snapping them off at the trunk. Somehow, Big Lonely Doug survived that storm.  When the sun rose the morning after, he would have been the only giant standing among ruins.  Not only did he survive that 1906 storm, but it is proposed that he survived another storm about 500 years ago as well, explaining why there are no other trees between 500-1000 years old.  I find this a striking symbol for the power of nature to overcome.

“…amid the ruin, one tree had survived.”  – Harley Rustad

I will finish this post with a point of consideration – it challenges us to think about the bigger picture, and the long term instead of the short.  It took 1,000 years for Big Lonely Doug to grow to his current size, it could have taken mere hours with a chainsaw to bring him to the ground.  He was estimated to hold about $60,000 worth of usable lumber value.  But how can we put a price on his impact for the next 1,000 years?  How many people, young and old, will be inspired by his presence whether in person or in image, to act a little bit more responsibly, or to pick up a book on forestry or ecology or to think before they act and consider the larger picture?

Because, when you stand amongst the giants of Avatar Grove or next to Big Lonely Doug – it is a startling and undeniable reminder that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves, we are all sharing this planet we call home.

What is the legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren – a legacy of taking until we run out of resources to take, or one where value is seen as more than just a dollar figure?

Go visit the great trees in your area or make a trip out of it, I highly recommend it.


 Red Beech Tree, Lake Waikeremoana, New Zealand (2017)