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Sustainable living

Sustainable adventures as per David de Rothschild

7 minute read

As we emerge from three years of travel restrictions, many of us are not only ready to go on new adventures but, these days, we are also looking to do so sustainably. We at Hyundai thought there couldn’t be a better person to consult on sustainable adventures than David de Rothschild, a world-renowned eco-explorer, environmental activist, and Hyundai IONIQ ambassador.

Over the past two decades, David de Rothschild’s insatiable curiosity and passion for nature have helped him make a name for himself as a modern-day eco-explorer. To raise awareness of environmental issues, David motorbiked through the Mongolian mountains and crossed Antarctica on skis. Also, to highlight the environmental effects of the Belo Monte dam, he paddled down Brazil’s Xingu River. He has even sailed the 8,000 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on a boat made of 12,500 plastic bottles called Plastiki, to raise awareness of ocean pollution.

During our interview with David de Rothschild, the eco-explorer spoke with us about what sustainable travel is, and the importance of planning sustainable adventures. He also talked about what inspires him to travel, the environmental destruction he has witnessed, and how we can embark on sustainable adventures. David even gave some tips on offsetting trips – whether close to home or far away – in a way that is respectful to nature and the planet.

A man holding a bicycle high in the air in the middle of a grassy field

What is sustainable travel, and why is it important?

Sustainable travel, also known as ecotourism or responsible tourism, refers to traveling in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the environment. It involves making conscious and responsible choices as a traveler to minimize the negative impact of tourism on the environment, economy, and society, while also maximizing the benefits for local people and preserving natural and cultural heritage.

Mother and father with suitcases and bags getting into a train behind their daughter who is holding an innertube that looks like a pineapple.
Bird’s eye view of a train traveling on track through an autumnal deciduous forest.

David de Rothschild acknowledges that no matter your destination, all travel produces carbon if you rely on fossil-fuel-based transportation to get there. However, sustainable travel not only pertains to your transportation choice but also to each decision you make while at your destination: it supports local businesses and communities, minimizes waste and energy consumption, chooses environmentally friendly transportation, and respects local customs and traditions. David recommends, “Whenever you travel, think about all the ways in which you can decrease your footprints.”

Whenever you travel, think about all the ways in which you can decrease your footprints. – DAVID DE ROTHSCHILD

Glorious panorama of sun-soaked rolling hills behind a grassy campsite made up of a tent, mat, and bike that is along a river with patches of snow on its banks.

Witnessing environmental destruction

David de Rothschild chooses his travel destinations for a reason – to highlight the effects human choices have on the environment. Although he expects the worst, he is still often shocked by the reality of it. Here are three such experiences David will introduce: the freezing temperatures, old-growth rainforests, and finally the seabed.

David will never forget being a few days away from the North Pole in 2006, in a place where you expect inhospitable coldness – so uncomfortably cold that you can’t operate or move – and he remembers sitting outside his tent one night in his Merino-wool long johns cooking dinner because he was sweating inside his tent. It was that warm. It was just above freezing point outside, and it should have been in the minus double digits at that time of year. David remembers sitting there and being overwhelmed by the sense that he was undeniably and physically experiencing the effect of real global warming.

Image of prairie fires advancing across unburnt prairie land.
Aerial view of a gaping clearing of red earth in an expansive forest.

In Borneo lies one of the starkest reminders (or consequences) of how our modern consumption is tied to climate change and the destruction of old-growth rainforests. Some of the oldest-growth forests in the world are being destroyed for palm oil. “Rows and rows and rows and rows of palm oil plantations – you can’t imagine their expansiveness – that produce oil to be used in everyday commodities like cosmetics, ice cream, and toothpaste are the reason why incredible species like the Orangutan are on the brink of extinction,” remarks David.

But some of the most shocking destruction is hidden out of sight – the coral reefs. “I don't think there's anywhere in the world that you can go now that hasn't been affected by a warming ocean and coral bleaching,” says David. “Coral reefs like the Grand Bayou Reef were once teeming with life and colors but now are often greyed out, lacking marine life, and just completely damaged by overfishing, bottom trawling, or by warming oceans and the acidification of our oceans.”

A man crossing a vast gap between mountains on a sturdy bridge.

Every second breath we take comes from the ocean. – DAVID DE ROTHSCHILD

“The changes in our oceans impact marine life and all other species on this planet because we rely so heavily on a healthy ocean,” continues David. “Every second breath we take comes from the ocean. And without that, we are nothing. Witnessing the destruction of this great ecosystem is probably one of my biggest concerns and one of the most heartbreaking things.” The above examples are a few of the reasons why David is so dedicated to raising awareness of environmental issues.

How to plan your next
sustainable adventure

Sustainable adventure is oftentimes more about reframing what an adventure is. An adventure doesn't always have to be in some remote, inhospitable, extreme environment. Completely or near-fossil-free adventures can include walking, biking, rowing, running, sailing, or hiking. The list is endless! If you do decide to go beyond where your own efforts can take you, then the following considerations can be added to your adventure’s sustainability.

Every adventure starts with planning – from the moment you decide to undertake something. Even working out how you're going to document the trip, how you're going to share it, figure out your equipment, or how you can make a positive contribution to the environment is all part of the adventure. How you get there is another component of a sustainable trip. Going as directly as possible from Point A to Point B leaves a smaller footprint and, if you can fit in a stop at Point B while you are on route to another destination, then you have already saved at least one leg of a trip.

While we plan our next sustainable adventure, we can reduce our footprints by following David de Rothschild’s footprints. Remember that each stage of the trip is part of the adventure.
David urges us to do all that we can – from making wise transportation choices to supporting local businesses – to travel sustainably and protect our environment.

Two male and two female backpackers in shorts and jackets walking with a black-and-white dog walking toward a steep rockface in the setting sun.

Hyundai Motor Company recognizes the importance of sustainability, especially considering Generation One, and helps environmental activists like David de Rothschild raise awareness and inspire. Keep informed of Hyundai’s environment-focused projects and more practical tips by David de Rothschild by follow @hyundai on Instagram.


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