Florence Quinn, a travel and lifestyle public-relations pro, represents numerous destinations and lodgings around the world. She shares with us environmental problems and the best ways to travel green, in what she calls the "earth crisis" we're in today.
-- She became especially aware of eco-travel when, among 120 million others, she saw a photo of a distressed sea turtle with a plastic straw up its nose.
-- Towels in hotels were among the first signs of green travel, and Lea and Florence share eco-centric stories from Miami to Greenland, melting glaciers to forest fires.
-- But there are good signs: Covid has temporarily greened up travel, bringing many of us closer to nature. Hotels are banning plastic straws, and planting sustainable gardens, Some hotels even provide power from guests working out on gym machines. Wind turbines dot landscapes around the world, the Netherlands has state-of-the-art techology to keep the country from flooding, and China's solar power has helped turn skies blue.
-- Lea and Florence share personal tips for green travel, including resusables, recycling, supporting local conservationists, carbon-offset, eating local, slow travel, using public travel, animal awareness, local souvenirs, eco-friendly accommodations -- including goats eating grass, "up close to nature."
Florence's favorite eco-memory is of climbing cold and windy Mt. Washington -- carry up, carry back.
Florence Quinn, president of Quinn Public Relations, is a winner of nearly every award available to PR professionals, including being #25 on Observer’s PR POWER50 list, and a five-star ranking in Forbes America’s Best PR agencies.
Podcast host Lea Lane has traveled to over 100 countries, written many travel books, including Places I Remember, and has contributed to dozens of guidebooks. She's @lealane on Twitter, Travelea on Instagram, and blogs about travel at forbes.com Contact her at placesirememberlealane.com.
Follow Places I Remember with Lea Lane wherever you listen to podcasts. New travel episodes every Tuesday. And please review it on Apple!
Lea Lane 00:04
Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award-winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 Countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. And this episode, we're talking about climate change, green travel, and sustainable travel around the world. Our guest Florence Quinn, president of Quinn Public Relations, is a winner of nearly every award available in PR professionals, including being number 25 in Observers PR Power 50 List and receiving a five star ranking in Forbes America's Best PR Agencies. Welcome, Florence Hill.
Florence Quinn 00:51
It's great to be here.
Lea Lane 00:54
Let's talk about climate change. Now you have the ability to anticipate trends and cut to what's important and travel. What are some glaring examples of climate change that you remember from your travels?
Florence Quinn 01:08
Well, first, I just want to comment on the word climate change, which I think is the wrong word for us to be using. It's too passive. It's not important enough, I think we should be talking about a climate crisis or an earth crisis. Even I think people can relate to the word Earth more being in PR, I'm always sort of aware of what's going to grab people's attention, how to get us to all do what we're supposed to be doing so that we can save this earth.
Lea Lane 01:35
That's a terrific thought. I haven't seen that phrase very often. Is this something you've seen a lot lately or not?
Florence Quinn 01:42
It's just something I thought of on my own as I think about climate change, because I believe that COVID, I think we were on the climate change page, pre COVID. And I believe that the sea turtle with a straw on its nose gets full credit for making us truly care about climate change. Because again, we know in the world of PR sometimes it's just one incident. This poor sea turtle we all watched on YouTube, having a plastic straw pulled out of its nose. And Lee, I looked at it last night in anticipation of your show 120 million people around the world at least. And I'm sure that's only a speck of it. I've seen that sea turtle 2015. That was a game changer. Before that. When hotels would ask us to put hang up our towels in the room. We're like, Yeah, right, you just want to save money on the laundry. Now, I take those, you know, 20 towels I don't need and then carefully piled on somewhere else with all the plastic stuff I don't need. So the housekeeper will know for sure I have not touched them in the hopes that they won't be sent to the laundry or the wastepaper basket.
Lea Lane 02:55
Exactly. I remember those times when we were a little bit skeptical about it. And now we know how important it is. I was trying to think of a few examples of Earth crisis is I can remember to keep saying it. I like the phrase. Even in small examples. I live in Miami. And whenever there's a king tide and a full moon, you know, a high tide very high tide and a full moon. The streets now flood, and the red lights, It's eerie because the red lights reflect in the water in the gutters. And it looks like blood. And it's a really simple a great symbol for for what's happening in a small way, but a very frightening way. And hurricanes as well are becoming more frequent and stronger. And we've run out of names for them this year, we had to go into, you know, one and two or something of that sort. And I've also unfortunately seen Greenland melt. I was there in 2008. And even then, which was so long ago, and it's gotten so much worse. The fishermen were complaining the fish were not there anymore. They had to go north. And you can see all the the icebergs just floating away much more than ever. And it was something to see. And I just read that this year. The cherry blossoms in Japan are the earliest they've been in 1200 years. Oh, my God. I'm not sure if that's why but I have a feeling. That's why it's all around us, I'm afraid.
Florence Quinn 04:18
Look at all the forest fires from this past year.
Lea Lane 04:22
I know. Let's think of what's being done to mitigate the problem. Do you have any examples besides towels? And that's a great one.
Florence Quinn 04:32
I'll tell you what interesting thing about COVID. Right, is COVID did mitigate the problem, at least temporarily for a year because we're not traveling. We're not in cars. We're not on airplanes. We're not buying as much as we used to. We're not going out to restaurants. We're just at home and the animals are happier because they're not getting run over and the waters are cleaner because we're not polluting them as much. So COVID has been interesting in that respect. And I think also Leah that people that COVID has brought people closer to nature. Not sure why, you know, we know a lot of people left big urban cities, for like places like Miami, where there's more nature, there's more sun and sea, and having gotten there because they're untethered from their offices. So they could, they discovered that they really love nature, and they want to be in nature. So I think that all bodes well for the planet. And certainly, you know, in our business of hospitality, our hotels are embracing this every which way they can, to the extent that they can. I mean, it was because of that sea turtle, that hotels immediately started banning plastic straws, right. And many, many hotels have done that. And that we have the privilege of working with banyan tree, which is always in its DNA been very harmonious with nature. So this is not new to them. But they're really having their moment now they're already doing meatless Mondays and you can take a workshop on how to recycle paper. And for Earth Day, this year, they will plant a sustainable tree for every night booked. So I'm really proud of them and happy to be represented such a great brand. That's wonderful.
Lea Lane 06:18
Talking about appreciating nature, I know just on my walks here in Miami, I, I have listened to the birds I listened to mockingbirds, right now they're singing their songs. And I never really listen to this closely. I have to say I had something in my in I was listening to music or something. But I'm not listening to anything but the birds right now. I do. I do feel when I go and travel and I see the wind turbines, a forest of wind turbines, even outside of Palm Springs in this country. But all over the world. It does make me feel at least we're we're getting the right direction. And I did visit in the Netherlands a huge complex with, you know, huge flood gates and so forth. Trying to keep that country from flooding that's much of it is under under sea level, and they've done a terrific job. They even have training I read for children, they have to learn to swim with their clothes on. They're so aware. Oh my god. Yeah. Yeah, that's amazing. But it's, it's, it's what you have to do today. And in China, I have to say I took three trips there. And the last one a couple of years ago, I finally saw some blue sky. And I know there's a tremendous number of green restrictions in China. So that's helpful. There are a lot of people over there, and it's turning the skies blue. Here are some, I'm gonna say a list of some things that are pretty basic, we can talk about it, but things we can do to make a positive impact on the earth. One is to bring reusables with us when we travel.
Florence Quinn 07:53
Oh my god. I know your your listeners can't see it. But you can see my I can see, this water bottle goes everywhere with me, even if I'm traveling and frequent flyer points in first class. As soon as I get to my seat, I hand over that plastic bottle, I hand over that little amenity kit that I do not need, get rid of all that waste. And I've got my water bottle, and I've got my own food.
Lea Lane 08:23
Excellent and reusable. What is What about recycling? Most places have recycling now. So you're aware.
Florence Quinn 08:32
Yes, with a requirement, but we just started composting at home.
Lea Lane 08:38
That's hard on the road.
Florence Quinn 08:39
Yeah, but um, we're telling your hotels, if they're not already doing it, that they should be composting as well as our restaurants. And we have one hotel in Cape Cod, a lovely hotel run by Phil Baxter. Cecil at Harbor house. And he doesn't allow any Styrofoam on property. Excellent. And doesn't give out any plastic bottles that can use a tap water and he does composting. And then we have a hotel in Fort Worth, Texas. That is the first hotel in the world to be powered through ethernet cables. God knows how they do that. I've no idea but it reduces the energy consumption by 30%. And they even let guests help power the hotel. So if you go on a bike in the workout room, you're actually helping to power the hotel. Wow. And I have to say, well, maybe these are big steps. I think the more people are doing this, it brings awareness to all of us that we really have to change our habits radically rigidly save the earth.
Lea Lane 09:42
And when we travel, we can support local conservation. That's another thing we can hire a guide service, for example, where part of the proceeds goes towards conservation, or we can donate to local efforts. Or we can just do simple things like sticking to designated areas to protect the local vegetation and Leave no trace of ourselves, you know, the little extra step, just maybe clean up after ourselves a little more at a beach or park. And through voluntourism, you can also do even more. There are many groups who are doing that you can check that on on the web. How about carbon offset? What do you know about that?
Florence Quinn 10:19
Wow. Well, the real culprits of that are really not travel. It's really our dependence on fossil fuel. So I guess travel falls under that.
Lea Lane 10:30
Well, the planes, the planes. Yeah, yes.
Florence Quinn 10:34
And then the third, the second one is deforestation. And the third one is agriculture, animals. The industrialization of animals produces a lot of greenhouse gases. I'm personally a vegetarian trying to be a vegan. So I'm very aware of this, but I'm really, I'm a vegetarian for humanitarian reasons, because of the inhumanity to the animals. But, you know, the more we can consume less meat, the better.
Lea Lane 11:06
As far as reforestation, I will say, when I was a child, I remember planting a tree in Israel, not really planting it, but saving pennies to go toward planting a tree as a child. And that was when Israel was a young nation, mostly desert. Years later, when I returned, I planted a tree in person. And it was so touching to know that somewhere in the forest, and there were many, many green forest, then, over 50 years later that my tree was standing tall. So that's something that, you know, has been around a long while in some areas of the of the world. But I think we have to be more aware of our carbon offset. How about eating local? I mean, I think that we all know, we should shop in local markets, and it's healthier and but the slow eating movement, which started in Italy, in the 80s, has led to a movement called slow travel. Do you want to talk about that?
Florence Quinn 12:07
Yes, I love slow travel. And I think that's here to stay. And I think that also got amplified during COVID. Someone, I think it was an editor at Travel and Leisure said on a panel, there's no longer about where I'm going to vacation. But what house am I going to go to next, which is part of the slow travel movement, go one place and stay there for a while and just live the way you would live at home, which I think includes less consumption, and being more mindful of one's environment and nature. I personally have a garden here at home in Westport, Connecticut where I live, which is very satisfying to be able to just eat from the garden as much as we can. And of course, we have a lot a lot of hotels are doing that a lot of chefs are into gardening and having gardens and farm to table as much as possible, which is a wonderful movement.
Lea Lane 12:58
In terms of travel, there are tour operators who are actually having special longer stays of a month or more at many resorts, they're turning their their fast travel into slower travel, and cruise lines, like as Amara and other. Other lines are staying more overnights at ports. So this is something that we've been doing a little bit for reasons of slow travel and sustainability. But also because people want to stay longer. Now I think this idea of rushing around and not seeing what we're doing, you know, a little bit here a little bit there, it isn't working so well. So I think you're right, the pandemic has made this even more obvious. I know, the next trip I'm taking is I'm booking a house for a month I'm not going for I'm just gonna stay somewhere and enjoy it.
Florence Quinn 13:45
And just vacationing, are you also going to work from there.
Lea Lane 13:48
I'm going to work a little bit from there, but it's just to get away and to enjoy somewhere else. It's, you know, the same thing, the same reason I travel, to enjoy a place to learn about it.
Florence Quinn 14:01
Right and now that we can work remote as so many of us can. And I think we'll continue to build to do going forward. We can go and live somewhere for a month absolute work and and enjoy the new scenery, the workstations.
Lea Lane 14:14
Yeah, new word, right. How about public transport and slower transport? Have you noticed more of that lately?
Florence Quinn 14:23
You know, that's a tougher one. And we represent this to jet and they're all about trying to become sustainable. It's just a very big effort and a very big spend for the airlines and for vehicles.
Lea Lane 14:36
I would say that trains are more eco friendly than planes. And bikes are more friendly than trade than trains and feet are friendliest of all you can always walk short distances and if you drive, drive short distances, especially in an electric car if you can, and use public transportation. I don't think buses are generally comfortable, but it cuts down on your car. Carbon Footprint substantially the more of us who do that? Also people can use Ubers, right?
Florence Quinn 15:04
Yeah, yes, renting a car that just sits there and you don't use that much. You just, you know, the sharing economy is good for the climate and the earth and, and using an Uber instead. And a lot of our hotels are, or at least the ones that can are creating walking tours and walking paths. Because as you say, people are walkers. And I think COVID Again, this turned us into a country of walkers. I don't know about you, but I've never walked so much.
Lea Lane 15:35
I know in travel that I did a piece on this episode on it. But pilled pilgrimages are becoming bucket list items to travel to different places and then walk for a week or so. It's very popular for a variety of reasons. Now you're very animal aware, obviously, what else besides being vegan or vegetarian, when you're traveling? What can you do? What do you suggest?
Florence Quinn 16:00
I am really anti plastic, again, because of that sea turtle. So wherever I go, even if I'm at the takeout counter, I tell them if I'm buying some coffee, it's got to be in a paper cup. And I tell them to not give me that plastic tarp, I do not want it. Do not give me a plastic bag and just gonna put everything in my backpack. So I'm very mindful of that. And very mindful of composting, and really plastic very focused on plastic just sort of, as I make myself more and more mindful of plastic, I'm just amazed at how much of it we use every day, right, even a Chinese takeout order. How many of those little plastic bags come in to China takeout order with all that stuff, you just immediately throw into the garbage? It's sad?
Lea Lane 16:52
Well, I think that's one thing. You can also research the companies that are animal affiliated beforehand, and the ones that try to protect the natural habitats. One of them I looked up is Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas. They are doing conservation work with marine life through something called Atlantis blue Project Foundation for animal rehabilitation, and dolphins. And then there's another called the Pacific whale foundation in Hawaii, which tries to save whales dolphins in the oceans. So you do a little research. Now let's try to stick with the companies that are more aware. I will.
Florence Quinn 17:31
Also in Hawaii, one of our clients Aqua Afton. Hospitality. They have 25 plus properties in Hawaii, they were instrumental in getting the government to ban SPF sunscreens, which destroy the coral reef, they launched a big public awareness campaign around these bad sunscreens. And they started distributing an ocean friendly sunscreen of their own. And were instrumental and making a government change because in the end, we need government. We need government to tell us no, you can't do that anymore.
Lea Lane 18:06
Yeah, I didn't know about the sunscreen. I have to check that out. But I have big quarts of it. With all that stuff in it. That's not good.
Florence Quinn 18:16
So you should be careful and not be good on your skin either. No, I just, I just bought the ingredients to make my own sunscreen. I let you know how it goes.
Lea Lane 18:26
Let's go slow on sunscreen. Let's talk about souvenirs bringing things back. I know that the best ones for me are always the ones that are made locally. And they do have a lower environmental impact. I can remember the beadwork. I've taken back from Africa, the bolas the beautiful embroideries in Panama, the masks and some of those, those are the things I remember and that I care about. What about you? What do you remember,
Florence Quinn 18:53
You know, it's funny, we're just we're just recommending to a client that they have some giveaways and we told them that they can't have any plastic in any of the giveaways. So for me, that's number one. And for me number two, yes, anything local that might help the local economy that might be sustainable for the local economy. I'm all for as a souvenir. But one souvenir that I'm not as eager to take as I used to be, is pieces of nature from itself. Or as I might bring a rock home or I remember getting some beautiful big pine cones from Monterey, California. I want to leave nature where it is.
Lea Lane 19:37
It is interesting I don't think about that. I have taken rocks myself and you know, I have a whole rock collection and now I'm going to look at it again and when I take good care of it, but there were lots of underground I guess I felt I could take and I never thought about that. Okay, you're teaching me. How about one thing you know the most about perhaps of all of this is actually Eco Friendly accommodation is something called Leeds approval. Tell us about Leeds approval for we should look for it. And I mean
Florence Quinn 20:07
Leeds approval comes out of the commercial real estate industry. And it's a bit of corporate speak. I'm not sure it's the first place I would go. And I believe it actually costs money to get LEED approved.
Lea Lane 20:21
What are the other accredited aggradation?
Florence Quinn 20:24
I'm not sure. Look for an accreditation, I would just look for something that made sense. Like alternative like running a facility with alternative energy sources like the hotel in Fort Worth of Sinclair that I mentioned, you know, solar and wind. You mentioned the wind turbines out in California, Alex will be passing those at the end of this month on my way to Joshua Tree.
Lea Lane 20:48
I love Joshua Tree. By the way, they're not trees. They're bushes, right? We know they that's my first time going there. Yeah, they're bushes, but let me call them trees. Well, we can try to make sure that the hotel has a recycling program. Yeah, it uses energy efficient bulbs, and it has green laundry standards. Those are simple things, I guess. Today, we can expect that we should expect that at a minimum, a great at a minimum, at a minimum. Are there any other examples of really terrific creative, you know, green travel hotels that you can tell me about? A couple examples.
Florence Quinn 21:28
Maybe one of my favorites because I love animals is back at Cessford Harbor House on Cape Cod, Phillip Baxter's place, he has a family of five goats. And they actually trim the lawn.
Lea Lane 21:44
I love that, they jump up and down when they do.
Florence Quinn 21:46
Oh God, they are they just eat the grass. And the people love these goats. That's clever. It's just bringing us back to nature again. And the more that we can bring people close to nature up close and personal, the more we will see who these animals are. And we will see what the land is that we will have a relationship with and a love for and an affinity for it.
Lea Lane 22:14
Well, we've had some very interesting conversation here. The name of the podcast is places I remember. So Florence, can you give us a memory you have relating to eco travel that you think would be a good ending to this?
Florence Quinn 22:29
Oh, Lea, I have a great one. So I have climbed Mount Washington, instead of the huts at the top of Mount Washington. Have you ever done that? very windy, I know that it is very windy. It's one of the most difficult and dangerous hikes in the US because of the changes in the temperature up there. The last time I was up there we had wind velocities of 30 miles per hour because we're above the tree line with gusts up to 70 miles per hour. But the real reason why I'm talking about my Washington liya is you must carry out everything you carry and you are nothing stays on that mountain that you went upward. It kind of goes up on your back, and it comes back on your back. And what a beautiful lesson and real opportunity it is to participate and that kind of ethos and ethics.
Lea Lane 23:27
That's obviously stayed with you a while. have you just done it once or more than once.
Florence Quinn 23:33
I've done it maybe five or six times, including on New Year's Eve where it was only the crampons on our boots and the ice picks that kept us on the top of the mountain. The water on my back actually froze. But yeah, so I've done it a number of times. It's quite rustic up there.
Lea Lane 23:50
Oh, very rustic. And I would assume very cold on New Year's Eve. That yeah, I see ko like you said, well, thank you, Florence Quinn. I hope that we all become self aware travelers to preserve the wonders of the world. It's a beautiful world. We want to keep it that way.
Florence Quinn 24:07
Here here. Yeah. Thank you for your help for that effort with this podcast.
Lea Lane 24:12
You're welcome. Thanks.
Lea Lane 24:20
Thanks for sharing travel memories with us. My book, Places I Remember, is available on Amazon and in bookstores, in print, on Kindle, and I read the audio version. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. Until next time, join us wherever in the world we're going.