Céline Cousteau, a one-woman production team, on her way to help Amazon Promise deliver free medical care in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo credit: CelineCousteau.com
For Céline Cousteau, adventure is in her blood. She is, after all, a third generation explorer.
"My first dive was in Antarctica," she said. "I dove by an iceberg, and I got to interact with the animals."
Contiki Holidays hosted a media lunch with Céline Cousteau -- a renowned environmentalist, traveller, and documentary film maker. She's also the granddaughter of legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and started exploring the world in childhood. While we were riding bikes and playing tag with other kids, nine-year-old Céline embarked on an expedition in the Amazon with her grandfather and the Calypso crew.
Since then, there's been no stopping her. Céline has ventured on countless expeditions -- from the Peruvian Amazon to swimming with sharks in the South Pacific. She's also hosted and produced television documentaries for both PBS and The Discovery Channel.
After flying 33 hours from Brazil, Céline took time to talk to us about sustainable tourism before hitting the main stage at the Green Living Show.
"Travellers have the power to make conscious choices," she said. "As we become more educated, we can push the envelope."
As a child, Céline explored the Amazon with her grandfather, but admitted that she "didn't think much about sustainability." Her outlook on travel has changed drastically in adulthood.
"Every part of the earth is connected," she said. "We can't just travel, take from environment, and go home. Communities are impacted by our presence and we need to do something positive when we visit."
Céline illustrated this disturbing fact through satellite photography: shots from outer space show large brown patches in South America that were once green with rainforest.
"The Amazon is showing human impact from satellite," she said. "It has a whole new profile now. It no longer looks completely green."
Armed with this visible evidence, Céline has taken action to raise awareness. Through her organization Cause Centric Productions, she collaborates with NGOs and individuals to create short documentaries to profile their work and increase their worldwide exposure through film. She is also as an Ambassador to the Clean Up the World campaign and speaks at universities and conferences around the world.
"I understand the power of my family name," Céline said. "And the importance of using it to help others."
Somewhere in between her filming and activism, she's found time to partner with Contiki Holidays to educate their travellers and staff about environmental issues, particularly those affecting marine ecosystems.
"Through Contiki, I get access to group of young people who travel," she said. "I can get the message out about sustainable tourism and encourage people to make changes."
As a partner, Contiki is optimistic that "the future is bright" with Céline as their sustainability partner and with their efforts to green the travel industry. The company is a founding member of TreadRight Foundation, which encourages sustainable tourism and contributes to environmental efforts in marine preservation. Nonetheless, Contiki acknowledges that this is the first step in the right direction -- there is still work to be done before they've earned their "Green Passport."
"We have power in a really engaged, motivated staff," said Shannon Guihan, Program Director for the TreadRight Foundation. "To us, the sustainable tourism business means being a solid, responsible 'corporate' citizen. We're on the path, but we still have some work to do. This is our biggest opportunity for change, and our biggest priority at the moment."
With Contiki taking steps towards change, what advice does Céline have for travellers wanting to go green?
"Eat sustainable seafood. Choose a travel company that practices responsible tourism -- such as hiring locals and giving back to the community. Respect local communities and customs."
Want to hear more about Céline's work? Check out her latest video -- the first episode of a four part that highlights the work of the non-profit MesoAmerican Reef (MAR) Leadership Program.