Since its founding in 2008, Orbridge has been a provider of educational travel programs to 140+ alumni associations across the United States. Orbridge specializes in a variety of intimately-sized programs, from small ship explorations to specialty land programs that span the globe. Toward its commitment to the environment, Orbridge has joined an annual reforestation program and is continuing to evolve its sustainability efforts.
Sustainability in the Home Office
Orbridge employs practices around areas in sustainability in office operations:
and Policies & Standards.
All of these are possible due to strong Executive Support. Orbridge works to integrate sustainability into its company and communications strategies.
Sustainability is holistic and encompasses all three pillars - Environmental, Socio-Cultural, and Economic. Here are highlights of Orbridge’s efforts in these three areas in sustainability in travel:
Orbridge has various initiatives within Environmental Sustainability, most notably pertaining to the area of Overcrowding. This is especially apparent in the company’s emphasis on small group tours and sole use of small cruise ships.
Orbridge recognizes the need for research and education on natural areas and the importance of environmental preservation of destinations.
“…general research is conducted to learn more about the area” and “Biodiversity education is a large part of Orbridge travel programs.”
Orbridge has a specific environmental initiative in Greenhouse Gas Reduction around reforestation in the state of Wisconsin, in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources.
“Also, in 2019, Orbridge began reforestation efforts with the state of Wisconsin's DNR, by donating funds to plant 100,000 seedlings. We are continuing that effort with the same donation for 2020 and plan to for future years.”
Orbridge has continued its partnership and has committed to plant 100,000 trees in 2021 and 2022.
Orbridge has direct activities that pertain to Cultural Heritage and places a strong emphasis on cultural heritage for its trips.
“We gear all of our cultural programs so guests have the experience of ‘living like a local’ during the program. We aim to avoid typical tourist traps, and rather focus on history and traditions of businesses, families visited. We seek out properties or businesses that are family-owned for generations, and lodging that is unique and intimate for the particular program theme.”
Orbridge relies on its excellent suppliers for managing local relationships and engagement. One supplier works directly with the local government to mitigate the impact that tourism has on the roads and on soil quality (i.e. soil erosion). Another supplier recognizes the delicate relationship between host countries' political, environmental, and social climate in being able to visit destinations.
“… we seek out experiences with groups. For example, during our Colombia program, guests join a volunteer from the local non-profit organization, Casa Kolacho, who takes them on a tour of the local neighborhood, sharing stories of the community and the public art displays, innovative transportation improvements, and neighborhood transformation/restoration. Casa Kolacho's mission is to give district youth the opportunity to inspire others through street art and hip-hop music, uplifting their community, preserving their stories, and beautifying places affected by the harsh recent past.”
“Our vendor/partner in Machu Picchu is committed to promoting tourism in the Patacancha Valley communities successfully and sustainably.
In order to prevent the loss of cultural values, the company has developed activities in order to maintain the traditional customs.
By partnering with St. Olaf College (Minnesota), the local school is transformed into a rural health clinic, which covers dental care and specialized care for the elderly, women and children. In addition to medical attention, necessary medicine is also provided and medical records are maintained for each villager.”
Additionally, Orbridge equips their guests with important and relevant information prior to the tour to help educate guests about the area they will be exploring. Travelers who reserve by a certain date receive a complimentary custom-curated Expedition Library in advance of their tour which features important non-fiction (and in some cases fiction) works pertaining to the areas being visited. While on tour, guests engage in discussions about these optional readings with their guides and amongst themselves.
Within Economic Sustainability, Orbridge did indicate several initiatives that it enacts directly, including using local transportation companies, featuring local goods and services, and supporting local businesses on trips.
“We seek out properties or businesses that are family-owned for generations, and lodging that is unique and intimate for the particular program theme.”
Orbridge also expressed that it strongly selects partners by their commitments to community development at a local level.
“Our ground partnerships are definitely involved in these efforts, and Orbridge strongly selects partnerships based on vendor give-back participation at a local level.”
Orbridge works with suppliers who demonstrate notable initiatives, including specific focus on wildlife conservation, locally grown products and food, and empowerment of local people. Several of Orbridge’s suppliers have been recognized by organizations such as the World Travel & Tourism Council.
“Our vendor/partner in Ecuador has been selected by the World Travel & Tourism Council as part of a worldwide case study as an example of sustainability, good practices and commitment. The development of Metropolitan Touring’s existing and new products is based on sustainability principles, preservation efforts, and social welfare support. It continuously measures its environmental performance, and also communicates results to its employees and guests.”
“Our vendor/partner in Northern Italy believes in a sustainable and lasting attitude towards people and the environment. Since 2010, our partner Selva Capuzza has prohibited the use of herbicides and applies to the limits of the European “Measure10” farming protocol. To avoid water waste, almost all vineyards are equipped with a drip irrigation system, coupled with a management system for humidity data. Electric power is supplied from certified renewable resources, and the company works to reduce CO2 emissions. It has been among the first wine companies to track carbon footprint. The company sources suppliers and employees locally as a way to contribute to the local economy while diminishing distances travelled to work or with transportation of supplies to further reduce CO2 emissions.”