Do No Harm:  Open World Racing Trips Mitigate Carbon Emissions and Leave a Positive Impact

Photo Courtesy of Raka Travel

Photo Courtesy of Raka Travel

There is an inherent contradiction in being a world traveler while remaining globally conscious: the means by which we are able to travel nearly anywhere within a matter of hours is one of the leading causes of the earth’s destruction.  Recent studies show that as renewable energy comes online to power our electric grid, transportation, including cars and planes, has taken the lead as the main source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

Greenhouse gas emissions are changing the Earth's climate causing numerous and observable negative effects:  rising seas due to the melting ice caps, warming and acidification of the ocean, dramatic and intense weather patterns, and other negative impacts to plant and animal life.  Adding to this, we continue to see the disastrous consequences of our exhaustive search for oil and gas in increasingly remote and difficult-to-reach locations – for example, check out the lasting impacts of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the well-documented effects on Pennsylvania's watershed caused by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

So what are we to do?  How can adventurous souls who thrive on the beauty of the earth and its wonders explore our home without carelessly contributing to its demise?  

At Open World Racing, we recognize this contradiction and are taking steps to mitigate the negative impact of our activities.  We promote greater global awareness through race-centered trips that increase our cultural understanding, expand our perspectives, and encourage a symbiotic relationship with the environment – that means not leaving a path of environmental destruction in our wake.  In the long run, we believe that more responsible global citizens will support the deeper policy, commercial, and scientific adaptations necessary to address the global-traveler/global-polluter contradiction. 

But until then, we are committed to doing our best to mitigate the negative environmental impact of our activities, while still exploring and engaging with foreign cultures in faraway places.  To do so, we’ve developed a few simple principles:

1.   Mitigate our direct carbon footprint:  
There is no getting around it: traveling to off-the-beaten path locations is carbon intensive.  Our trips often involve trans-oceanic flights.  To offset our carbon footprint, we’ve partnered with Native Energy to estimate the carbon impact of each our trips and identify offsetting projects to which we can contribute.

For our trip to Croatia this month, we are contributing to a 32-megawatt wind-generation plant in Dempsey Ridge, Oklahoma.  Once completed, the project will provide electricity to the spot market and be capable of providing power to over 46,000 homes, in effect, avoiding the release of 339,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.  Not bad!

We are also contributing to a deforestation project in Tanzania, which promotes responsible land management through sustainable indigenous practices and a clean water project in Ethiopia.  The Ethiopia project prevents deforestation that results from wood being harvested to boil and filter water by providing alternative and sustainable water filtration systems.  This project has a double-positive impact by also substantially preventing water-borne illnesses, greatly improving the quality of life of local communities.

2.   Leave a Positive Mark:
Outdoor athletes are supremely conscious of the beauty of their surroundings and often head to the outdoors to be with nature.  Nothing can spoil a bike ride like seeing litter strewn along the side of the road or gasping on noxious car exhaust fumes.  Similarly, an open water swim can be ruined by the toxic aroma of gasoline in the water or floating plastic and other trash.

While we’re not going to fix everything, we at Open World Racing want to do our part to leave each place in which we race a little cleaner than we found it.  In Croatia, we are partnering with the Korčula SCUBA club and city of Korcula to clean up the bay the day before the Marco Polo Challenge triathlon.  Our open-water certified adventurers will suit up, courtesy of the SCUBA club, and haul trash and old tires out of Korčula Bay, while the non-certified adventures (including me), will assist from boats and the shore.  Croatia’s position along the south-eastern portion of the Adriatic Sea means a continual supply of water washes up and along its shores before circulating back down the Italian coast, but it also means winds wash trash ashore from the Mediterranean Sea.  We’ll do our part to lessen the environmental damage caused by this notorious trash flotilla.

3.   Help out where we can
There is a lot more that needs to be done to mitigate the ills of the world and the excesses that define many of our lifestyles.  And while we can’t solve every problem,  we recognize our own agency and want to help out where we can. 

To do so, we search for worthwhile causes to help the less fortunate among us and attempt to even the playing field.  We’ve donated to charities such as World Bicycle Relief, which provides bicycles to poor and rural communities around the world to expand their opportunities.  If you have ideas for projects to help lessen the human and environmental impact of our consumer lifestyles while maintain your spirit of global adventure, drop us a line and we’d be happy to check it out!  Better yet, join us on our next trip to Poland and help give back! 

Andrew Riedy