Foto: Wiebke Wilting
Recently, we visited the headquarters of Sea Going Green in Amsterdam. Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy, headed by Aleksandra Dragozet. During our visit, we talked about setting up a business, how Aleksandra makes a difference and how she sees the future.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
‘I am the founder and CEO of Sea Going Green. My parents are Serbian and Croatian and they decided to move to Canada, where I mostly grew up. Before turning the age of 21, I had already lived in six different countries and I travelled a lot. However, during all those travels I got to see not only the great and positive effects of traveling, but also what negative impact it can have on communities. Every year, we used to go to a small beach town. At the time, it was not very touristy, but in a short time, it became quite popular. The people in the village were able to make money off of the tourism during the summers. However, during the winters they were cleaning up after those tourists. Tourism really affected the water quality and the beach quality. I decided to make it my goal to make tourism more sustainable from that point on.’
Why did you start Sea Going Green?
‘I couldn’t find the job I wanted to do after graduating from marine biology which would merge my two passions together – tourism and the marine environment. I had interned at a big NGO, which sometimes meant working at quite a slow pace. I liked to see more results quickly. I also did research at a research institute. During that time, I was mostly spending time in a lab and my supervisor was spending the majority of her time writing grants. That was also not what I wanted to spend my whole time on. The United Nations World Tourism Organization named 2017 the year for sustainable tourism , and this seemed to perfectly merge my two passions together so I started looking into consultancies around this but couldn’t find any that specific. Then I decided that I wanted to unite my two passions: traveling and marine biology as a career, so I started a sustainable tourism consultancy. I already had a lot of contacts in tourism and I started researching the needs of the tourism sector. It kind of snowballed from there.’
How do you make a difference?
‘We focus on carbon footprint measurements. We aim to lower the impact of the tourism industry on the environment. An example of this is lowering single use plastic, plastic pollution and fuel use. Local communities can really benefit from this as they no longer have to live in the trash that tourism leaves behind. With our online content, we also inspire people that travel to become better visitors. We encourage them to treat their destination like their own homes. In your own home, a lot of people also recycle and don’t leave trash behind so a holiday should be no different. ’
What kind of leader do you want to be?
‘Mainly a fair leader. I want to be the best for my team, so we can achieve our mission and the goal of making tourism more sustainable. I want to be motivated and healthy for them, so I can support them in every possible way. I also had a lot of mentors and advisors, which is so useful. Every day, I also learn from friends.’
You did not start this too long ago. Your company is considered to be a startup, which can be at times quite a challenge. How do you keep motivated?
‘Right now, my projects give me energy. The team that I have around me gives me a huge responsibility, but I do have supportive and very impact driven people around me. I really love to see how they have grown. Most of my team started as interns and afterwards I could offer them a position. That really makes me happy. I always wanted to work for purpose and impact. Giving back gives me energy to go on.’
How do you see the future of sustainable tourism and Sea Going Green?
‘I would like to have impact worldwide. We aim to have an impact in all travel hotspots in the world. I hope I can say during my lifetime that my mission has finished, but unfortunately it will never be perfect. Sustainability is such a complex multi-stakeholder issue. There are always challenges, but I do think that we can tackle the plastic issue.’
If you go on holiday, what products do you advise to readers? And what other tips can you give?
‘I think behavioural change is key. People do not act as at home when they travel. Take your recycling habits to your destination and don’t depend on your destination for reusable items, like water bottles. Make your own sustainable travel kit. What helps me as well, is taking no flight challenges for a few months of the year. I do it myself a lot. I really look forward to Eurostar, so we can take the train to London instead of flights.
Do you also want to know more about sustainable tourism? Check out www.seagoinggreen.org
Do you want to learn how you can reduce your environmental impact while traveling? You can download free guides through their website: https://www.seagoinggreen.org/sustainabletourismguides