Femke Meulman (20), third-year student of International Development Studies, and Bart Vilier (21), third-year student of Economics and Policy, are two students who, in addition to their studies, also follow the university’s honours programme. In this programme, students work in a group for two years on a multidisciplinary project. Team Green Grasshopper has been working on their project for a year and a half.
Meulman: ‘We share knowledge and stories on ecotourism to make people more aware of the impact of their travelling and help them learn how to travel in more responsible ways. We focus on four themes: what is sustainable tourism and why is it necessary, destinations, transport and activities.’ Vilier: ‘The website contains both background information and practical tips.’
How did they come up with the name? ‘Grasshoppers are found moving around the world, just like modern travellers’, says Meulman. ‘But when there are too many, they become a plague. In the case of travellers, we speak of mass tourism.’ Vilier: ‘That’s what Green stands for: sustainability. Our team members follow different programmes. Obviously, the name came from the biologist in the group.’
According to the honours students, more people are becoming aware of the fact that their travels have consequences. ‘But nearly everyone enjoys travelling’, says Meulman. ‘We show that it can also be done in a more sustainable fashion, and what can be done to make holidays more sustainable.’ As an example, she mentions a report about the CO2 tool that people can use to calculate the emissions of their holidays. ‘We also provide tips on how to reduce these emissions.’ Other aspects of responsible travel are also investigated. ‘For example, to what extent does visiting and stimulating the economy of a country with a dictatorship contribute to its regime?’, Vilier wonders.
Responsible travel on a budget
If your funds are limited, it is often tempting to catch a plane within Europe. ‘Airline tickets are often very cheap here, but they are far from being responsible’, Meulman says. ‘Fortunately, there are also plenty of possibilities to travel responsibly and still save money. Go camping, for example, or stay with locals by couch surfing. Stay closer to home and go on a bicycle trip, try hitchhiking or interrailing instead of flying.’ Vilier, laughing: ‘And visit The Green Grasshopper; we offer many more tips and ideas.’