In a world full of information, knowing where to look for the right information can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when it comes to sustainable tourism. Say for example you want to find an eco-friendly hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. A quick search will yield several results, but how do you parse through them to tell which ones truly have a low-environmental impact vs. are greenwashing their services?
That’s where One Planet Rating comes in. It’s the first dedicated review platform for sustainable tourism and travel. Think of it as the Trip Advisor for responsible tourism! Travelers can rate hotels, sights, activities, and even entire cities based on their environmental, social, and cultural impact. The user-generated platform lets you earn rewards, like discounts on travel services and hotels, based on your participation. The more you rate, the more you earn. While earning rewards is certainly a sweet part of the deal, it also serves as a way to hold companies accountable. OPR’s hope is that user’s reviews of an establishment will serve as an added push for places doing the bare minimum, in terms of their sustainability initiatives.
We spoke with co-founder of One Planet Rating, Richard Lindberg on what makes this platform unique and why it could revolutionize the industry.
Why do you think travelers need a platform like OPR?
Travel is one of the most enriching experiences throughout your life. Who doesn’t have incredible memories from childhood family vacations, trips with friends or your partner, or solo journeys where you really got to know yourself? Sustainable travel is about making sure you get to continue creating memories and experiences that stay with your forever. One Planet Rating was created to make it easy for you to steer the industry towards a more sustainable path, simply by voicing your opinion and experiences and allowing others to make better decisions because of it. We want to make the right choice the default choice.
We believe there is great demand and interest in sustainable travel around the world, based on research studies, trends and most of all from the great feedback and interest we have seen from the start. And we are talking interest from “normal” travelers, not just a select crowd of sustainability professionals. The time is right for the travel industry to make major inroads in the sustainability revolution and get the masses involved. We have seen it in other industries and now it is time for travel to step up. People want to make the right choices but it shouldn’t be hard to do it. Today you have to be like a detective in regards to finding a sustainable place to stay, eat or travel to.
If you are looking to book a hotel, find a restaurant or pick some activity at your chosen destination and want to make sure they align with your values you want to be able to do it fast. You also want to know what other people are saying, does the hotel live up to it’s claimed certifications, was the vegetarian offering at the restaurant really good, was the beach litter free, etc? This is what One Planet Rating can do for you.
What are some ways you think using OPR will help sustainable tourism become more accessible?
One Planet Rating is all about the users, a movement of passionate travelers and citizens that want to have their say about sustainability and find honest advice and tips from like-minded individuals around the world. We combine the wisdom of the crowds and sustainable travel, democratizing what sustainability means.
There are so many issues where users of the platform can be the eyes and ears on how a particular destination, restaurant or hotel is doing, from detailed questions concerning energy use to more obvious things like recycling in the room, requests to reuse their towels etc. Does the city have affordable public transport, does the architecture take into account local history and culture? We cover a broad spectrum of categories so there is something for everyone to rate. You rate as much or as little as you want, depending on the context and your insights. Every data point is important, every rating is a vote for sustainability and a better world. You see it, you rate it.
The aim is to make relevant and trustworthy information accessible in an instant. While there are lots of expert-driven sites and forums for sustainable tourism, there is a lack of quick and easily comparable information. The issue of trust is another aspect, user-generated reviews are the norm across industries – people trust and want to know what other people like themselves think.
That is something we hope to address with a user-generated review platform focused on sustainable travel. It’s just like any other review site but built from the ground up to address sustainability and accelerate positive impact through user engagement and consumer power.
And lastly the most important aspect in regards to accessibility. Our aim is to create massive positive impact in the industry and therefore we make tens of millions of places accessible to rate, including places that have done little or nothing in regards to sustainability. People ask us why these can be found on the platform and the answer is clear – because the vast majority of establishments are like them and they need a push to start moving in a positive direction. And what better push than market ratings? It’s also about involving a larger user group. Let’s face it, it’s only a select few that stay at fancy eco-lodges or eat at super expensive restaurants. As long as sustainable travel is associated with an out of reach price point we will never achieve the necessary scale.
So, it’s very important that our users rate the places that they usually stay or eat at, the big brands that compete on price and economies of scale. When they start moving towards sustainable practices we can truly talk about transformative change.
How did OPR get started?
Both myself and the other co-founder have an avid interest in travel, the outdoors and have lived abroad on multiple occasions. We have also been working with sustainability in various ways for the last 8-9 years so basically we combined two major interests in One Planet Rating. The idea came about from a real life situation where a beach at a famous destination was littered with trash and we wanted to complain and let others know. If more people talk about it we figured it would create pressure for the authorities to take action. We did our research to figure out where the best place to post this would be but realized there was a hole in the market and decided to build a suitable platform ourselves.
Just for fun…what’s been your favorite part of creating this app/ platform?
The enormous interest we have seen from people all over the world contacting us In order to join the team and work with us to realize our vision. It’s a movement in itself and a testament to the enormous potential. I’ve personally interviewed more than 300 people in the last 9 months or so and it keeps on going. Developers, environmentalists, marketing professionals – we have a super competent and diverse team that is growing. Just being able to speak to so many interesting people and hear their reasons for why they want to join has been a real motivational factor for me as a founder.
On the same note, the fantastic people who are doing the real on the groundwork – sustainable travel service providers, we have interviewed so many on our blog already and look forward to working with them on a deeper level – inspirational!
Start rating places today! Get a 1000 extra points when you use the promo code GS18. Happy rating!
Misty is the owner and founder of Green Suitcase Travel. She is a consultant, travel writer, and all around travel maven. When she is not traversing the world, spreading the news about sustainable travel, she is in Tucson, Arizona enjoying the desert.