1. What is your name?
Irene N. Lane
2. What is your occupation?
I am the founder of Greenloons, which is an ecotourism travel resource the provides explorers with a variety of eco-certified vacations that have been vetted for their “green” or sustainable impact.
3. What was your favorite green ( Eco ) memory growing up?
When I was very young, I was fortunate to live in Greece and Switzerland. From the Greeks, I learned about the importance of eating foods in season and in moderation as we meandered each morning through the neighborhood (farmers) markets. From the Swiss, I learned about recycling as nothing necessarily was considered waste as “put to better use”.
4. What did you do before Greenloons?
Prior to founding Greenloons, I was a consultant for a few US federal government agencies and private information technology companies focused on business process improvement solutions and software implementations. After about a dozen years, I was recruited by eBay to work in their information technology department specifically focused on customer service solutions. Finally, I did some mommy time for about five years along with some healthy lifestyle blogging. Funny enough, all the skills I acquired fit very well to entrepreneurship.
5. How is Greenloons increasing environmental awareness?
Greenloons focuses on the travel values of (what I like to call) S.E.E. the world, namely:
• Social empowerment to protect against tourism homogenization and community marginalization
• Economic viability to promote collective pride of ownership and as a tool for alleviating poverty, and
• Environmental responsibility to preserve ecosystems for future generations.
Travel should be about preserving ecosystems, educating visitors about conservation, empowering localities, operating sustainable tourist attractions – and, most of all, having fun and unique travel experiences! I am proud to say that all of Greenloons’ travel experiences not only increase environmental awareness through immersive activities and leave-no-trace ethics but exemplify all these travel values.
6. What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
The most rewarding part of the work is inspiring travelers and young people alike about the possibilities of meaningful travel. So many of our clients feel like they are taking a BIG risk by not going with a chain hotel or large group for their vacation. Yet once they return home, most of them are grateful for the experience and begin planning the next one
Also, because we focus on family travel, there are many students who approach us/me for advice on how to get into the ecotourism / sustainable tourism industry, so they can make a difference either in their local communities or abroad. It’s very satisfying that they recognize that part of being a global citizen is recognizing the talents, customs, and wisdom in other cultures.
The most challenging part of the work is the greenwashing, as some (sometimes large) tourism organizations are advertising themselves as “eco” “sustainable” “green” or “responsible” with no transparency or accountability to the claims. Unfortunately, the result is increased skepticism about the smaller companies that are making a difference.
7. What is one environmental change you vow to make this year?
While Greenloons is not licensed to sell airline tickets, we recognize that airline flights are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. As such, we are aiming to formalize a carbon offsetting program that goes further than offering advice.
8. Can you tell us what inspire you to start Greenloons?
I started Greenloons in May 2010 while completing my Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management at George Washington University and after I realized that there was a lot of misinformation about ecotourism and very little transparency about the industry. I wanted to create a site that would present the facts about ecotourism, let travelers decide for themselves, and supply a forum to share their experiences. But, I wanted to go one step further and only offer safe, educational and fun vacation packages provided by certified organizations.
9. If there was one industry/product that you could make more eco-friendly, what would it be?
Transportation. If I could wave a magic wand, it would be to enable more eco-friendly transportation options for all.
10. What’s next for Greenloons?
As more universities are offering design or management courses that focus on sustainable principles, we are expanding to offer university study abroad options that effectively apply theory to practice.
11. What’s your favorite book?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
12. Where do you turn for your news?
When there is time, I listen to NPR radio programs and podcasts.
13. Where on the green scale do you fall?
So, I am fortunate to live in a community that actively offers to recycle and composting services as well as public transportation options. In addition, eating locally grown foods in season is important to me. Yet, I feel that I could always do more especially as I think about incorporating solar / wind power options to lessen reliance on fossil fuels. So, I guess on a scale of 1-10, I am a 5.
14. Do you lead a vegan lifestyle?
I don’t, though I am gravitating to vegetarian.
15. Who would you want to have a conversation with past or present?
My Greek is not great (and ancient Greek non-existent), but it would be amazing to have a conversation with Socrates!
16. What is a small environmental change you think we all can do to make a difference?
Start in your local community or school with a small project such as a “trash & treasures” day where everyone brings in an unwanted item and freely swaps it for another’s unwanted item. Or host a “repair café” day where people bring in old, broken gadgets or household items and repair them under the guidance of some skilled volunteers. All this could increase awareness about our throwaway culture as well as the importance of community-building.
17. How does Greenloons positively impact the environment?
We have a pretty small office operations footprint. Nonetheless, both our office and travels footprint are offset. Our positive impact is with the small organizations we work with around the world who feel an equal responsibility to care for our ecosystems, wildlife, and communities.
18. What do you want your personal legacy to be?
I inspired people to become better global citizens on this beautiful planet, and I was generous with my time and talents.