Our World, Our Responsibility: The Backroads Commitment
Backroads has been taking responsible travel seriously since our first biking trips 30 years ago. After all, traveling on two feet or two wheels is the ultimate minimal-impact approach to traveling. But we also recognize that any travel has an impact, so we do everything we can to make that impact positive.
Check out just some of the exciting things we're doing to make a difference:
Giving Back on Trip
We don’t simply take you to travel destinations on Backroads trips; we take you into the communities where people live and work. Here are just a few examples of how we support communities in the areas we run trips:
Panama In a small indigenous Embera Puru community on the Chagras River, Backroads is partnering with local guide Garceth Cunampio Tocamo to provide funds for school supplies and mandatory school uniforms. Our guests spend a full day at the village, getting to know the Embera people and learning about their traditional way of life with the opportunity for discussions between our participants and the native people sharing opinions and life experiences. It's a rich cultural encounter filled with memorable highlights, including a ritual dance and music performance, insight on local medicinal plants, a homemade lunch and the opportunity to support the community by purchasing handicrafts made in the village.
Peru In Ollantaytambo, a peaceful Incan town in the Sacred Valley, our leaders and guests visit a jardin or pre-school, with eighty children and six teachers. In addition to interacting with the kids, we provide supplies including paper, maps, puzzles and stoves, which are used to prepare hot breakfasts for the children. Some of our guests have been so touched by the experience that they continue to send supplies and donations to the school upon their return home.
Costa Rica When a tropical storm destroyed a river cable-crossing canasta in Santo Domingo, Costa Rica, the locals rigged a makeshift apparatus, leaving safety and efficiency aside. While leading a trip nearby with guests, Backroads Regional Expert Pam Fritz noticed and spoke with community members—and brought it to Backroads’ attention. We funded the rebuilding of the crossing for the schoolchildren who need to use it every day.
Bhutan Built in the 18th century, Chorten Nebu Monastery is home to 28 orphans from a nearby village. While it’s one of the few places where social and spiritual life has remained practically unchanged for centuries, poor waste management threatens the daily life of residents. Since 2005, Backroads leaders and guests have contributed to basic necessities, installed garbage cans along the trail, and are now raising funds for the construction of a new kitchen and a clean drinking water supply.
Earth Day Projects On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Backroads employees and their families removed more than 400 pounds of garbage from a stretch of San Francisco shoreline near the Berkeley headquarters. In Salt Lake City, folks devoted time to a spring clean-up of a public eco garden. And in France, employees removed litter from the only wild river in the Vaucluse.
Daily Commutes In our home offices and warehouses globally, we encourage biking to work with a reimbursement program, give credits for carpooling and using public transportation and offer office employees three (paid) "flex days" annually to donate their time to doing community service.
Eyes on the Ground
Each and every one of our Trip Leaders is empowered and encouraged to get involved in the communities where they lead. When leaders identify small-scale projects that will improve the lives of people and/or the environment, they propose the idea to Backroads. Projects are then evaluated and those that are approved are funded by Backroads and overseen by the leader with volunteer hours. These leader-initiated projects are just one way that we give back to the communities where we travel.
Behind the Scenes
The highest impact actions aren’t always the most glamorous, but we want to be sure our internal practices match our external commitment.
More Energy Efficient Headquarters We retrofitted 100% of our lighting fixtures at our Berkeley, CA offices with compact fluorescent bulbs, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 14,000 pounds annually.
Sustainable Products All of our water bottles are recyclable and we use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper in the majority of our printed marketing materials. We’ve created a web portal for our guests so that we can replace more printed materials with electronic versions.
Leader Training All Backroads leaders are trained to minimize impact on the environment while supporting your experience as guests. Leaders practice Leave No Trace principles on the trail, recycle whenever possible in all the regions we travel, and donate leftover foods to various community programs.
Kids Who Care
Step-by-Step After seeing travel photos of Peruvian children, barefoot or wearing sandals made from tire tread, Avery Hale (then 12 years old) was determined to make a difference in their lives. In 2006, she started an organization, Step by Step, to collect and distribute shoes to kids in need. On her first mission, when she personally distributed shoes to children in Peru, she was overwhelmed by the gratitude and the magic of the cultural exchange. She returned home even more committed to Step by Step.
Thanks to shoe donations from the North Face, Keen Footwear and Bay Area families through grassroots collection efforts in schools, Step by Step has distributed shoes in Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and South Africa. Avery's compassionate efforts have been recognized by Teen Vogue, Keen Footwear and the Redford Center (founded by Robert Redford).
The Adventure Collection
As members of the Adventure Collection, we support and believe in the five Strategic Principles of Responsible Travel. Since the Adventure Collection members accepted these principles in November 2003, we continue to integrate them into all aspects of Backroads.
Backroads Community Partnerships
We support non-profits in the communities where our guests live by donating trips as fundraisers. We've donated a total of over one million dollars to the worthwhile causes of more than 150 organizations and they include:
- Alliance for Education
- Bay Area Discovery Museum
- Children's Community Center Berkeley
- Fare Start
- Spectrum LGBT Center
- Over one hundred individual school donations
- American Cancer Society - San Francisco
- Friends of Crisis Nursery/Alta Bates Summit Foundation
- Hearts of Gold: Enhances the lives of NYC's homeless mothers and children
- MARC: Lifehouse
- Marin Breast Cancer Watch
- San Francisco Auxiliary (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital)
- St. Helena Hospital Foundation
- Taylor Family Foundation: Pediatric AIDS
- High Museum of Art
- Marin Theatre Company
- Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
- San Francisco Opera Guild
- Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Foundation
- Sun Valley Center for the Arts