I have chosen all the accommodation carefully; it is all small, and locally owned and run.
In Morocco many desert auberges come complete with local youth who would otherwise be on the streets doing nothing and they all work with a local camelman, often someone poor and undereducated whose family has a few camels.
The auberges have electricity generators so don’t overuse. Water is scarce in the desert so most put up a little notice about being sparing with it.
They all buy their food from the local market, again all stalls run by locals. The chefs are all local and the cleaners/ housekeepers are local women from the village. The buildings are made of adobe by local builders and furnished with local rugs (made by local women).
In Sri Lanka, there’s Susantha’s in Bentota or Amarasinghe’s guest house in Mirissa; the Rainforest Lodge in Deniyaya. At the Rainforest Lodge they grow most of their own vegetables.
In the countries where we have drivers, these are locals who work for themselves, not for a large company. In Italy we use public transport (i.e. buses). In Scotland, where a car is necessary, we car-share and use as few as possible.
Where meals are included, they are taken at the overnight accommodation or small, local restaurants and where they are not included, I always recommend small, locally run places which are known to me.
I provide my clients with a sustainably-produced sketchbook from Khadi paper imported from India
Virtually all the marketing and publicity for the business is carried out online so there is minimal paper usage.
I am passionate about controlling litter and would come down very heavily on any client or driver who littered in front of me. I am seeking local anti-litter organisations/campaigns to become involved with.
In Sri Lanka a visit to a sea turtle project is part of the itinerary. The turtle project is in a small beach settlement called Kosgoda. It is very small and run with the help of volunteers and donations, and the small entrance fee. They rescue turtles which could not survive in the wild (e.g. blind / damaged flipper), and hatch and release eggs. Despite being badly damaged by the tsunami in 2004 this small project trundles on. (At the present moment Responsible Travel is not condoning visits to these hatcheries as there are some concerns about how they are run. I am monitoring the situation closely as I believe it is an important issue)
Many of the hotels we use are attempting to reduce their environmental footprint and have their own policies. Most of the accommodations used have fan cooled rooms as opposed to air conditioning.
All clients are issued with a ‘Facts about the country’ information sheet at or before the time of booking which outlines cultural considerations such as what to wear and how to handle the inevitable attention received while painting.
I am always quick to point out whose country we are visiting and that we have the responsibility to adapt as far as possible to the culture of the host country and not expect them to adapt to us (beyond common politeness and decency of course!) Cultural differences are very much part of the fun and interaction is always encouraged. This is pointed out in the pre-booking literature and travelling with an open mind is always emphasised.
Visits to local craft co-operatives and small art-related businesses are included where possible. I always encourage buying items such as souvenirs and snacks from the smallest establishments and neediest people whilst emphatically discouraging donating to child-beggars which is nearly always perpetrating an undesirable and unnecessary lifestyle in the places we visit. I would always suggest giving an endearing child onlooker a quick sketch rather than a pen!