Skip to main content


cycling through Italy

Leaving a light carbon footprint by cycling through Italy. Photo: Ciclismo Classico.

Leaving a lighter footprint: Greener alumni trips

A tiny sign in your hotel bathroom noting the number of gallons of water you can save by reusing towels rather than receiving freshly laundered ones has become the norm. But what happens to your empty water bottle? Is it recycled, or added to a landfill? And, by the way, where exactly did that lettuce from your evening meal come from?

These and other questions have led to some new directions for the Cornell Alumni Association Travel Program. Now in its 42nd year, the CAA Travel Program offers domestic and international group-travel experiences for alumni, parents and friends. (This program is complemented by "education vacations" offered by Cornell's Adult University.)

As a land-grant institution filled with global thought leaders, Cornell has long been a champion of sustainability, and programming for Cornell alumni is following suit.

The National Geographic Sea Bird on the Columbia River

Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Sea Bird on the Columbia River. Photo: Marc Cappelletti.

Teaming with the companies Orbridge, Lindblad Expeditions and the award-winning, Cornellian-owned cycling company Ciclismo Classico, the CAA Travel Program is offering trips in 2015 designed to help travelers leave a light carbon footprint.

"Ensuring we are conscientious in our choices regarding how we get to where we want to go, what we eat and buy, and where we sleep while we're on the road is part of the fun," says program officer Anna Pollock '94. "We don't become different people just because we're on vacation. If we live consciously about the environment at home, we want to be sure that happens when we're traveling, too."

Orbridge, a California-based company, pairs educational experiences with luxury travel while maintaining an eco-conscious ethic. CAA travelers enjoyed energy-efficient lighting, organic bedding, zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and recycled materials during summer 2014's National Parks of the Old West journey.

Smaller cruise ships are also critical to leaving a lighter footprint -- or a small wake, as the case may be. Hawaii by Small Ship, a February 2015 offering with Orbridge, is a cruise designed according to the "leave no trace" philosophy, which seeks to minimize the impact of tourism and recreation on natural environments.

Another small-ship cruise, the Columbia and Snake Rivers Journey, a partnership between CAA Travel and Lindblad Expeditions, will feature locally sourced cuisine, according to Matt Cappelletti, Lindblad's director of expedition development. "Locals are even foraging for edibles again, which we can incorporate into recipes," he says.

Lindblad, considered by many as the leader in sustainable travel, stopped serving shrimp on its ships after suppliers' claims of sustainability could not be credibly and consistently verified.

"We're pleased to be turning in the direction of sustainable travel," says Jim Mazza '88, associate vice president of Alumni Affairs. "The chance to partner with some of the most highly recognized eco-conscious travel companies, and especially with a Cornellian-owned company, fits especially well with the university's commitment to environmental sustainability."

Nowhere is that partnership more evident than with the upcoming Piedmont: A Feast for the Senses, a cycling adventure planned by Ciclismo Classico, founded by Cornellian Lauren Hefferon '83. Ciclismo Classico won Outside Magazine's 2014 "Best Foodie Destination" and "Best Cycling Guide in the World" awards. The Cornell trip, slated for September 2015, is an opportunity for cycling alumni, parents and friends to bike through northern Italy.

"We'll be leaving a small footprint -- about the width of a bicycle tire," says Mazza. "And, of course, enjoying the incredible local cuisine and wines along the way."

-- Compiled by Alumni Affairs and Development staff

Back to top