Would you consider yourself a sustainable traveller? As consciously as I try to consume on a day-to-day basis, I must admit that in planning my upcoming overseas getaway, sustainability has not been my first priority. It seems that in navigating unfamiliar territory, culture, language, and currency, good habits may stray.
If this feels familiar, let me introduce you to sustainable travel and lifestyle blog Recess City. Recess City is run by Anna and Porter, photographers by trade, high-school sweethearts, and now husband and wife. Anna and Porter travel the world capturing hotels that focus on sustainability in their architecture, catering, decor, and impact on the wider community.
1. Tell us a bit about where you're currently visiting.
Right now we're in Iceland, a country we've been wanting to get to for a very long time. We've been living in a modern, Scandinavian-design camper travelling the south side of the country. It's absolutely beautiful here, and unpredictable in every sense of that word. The landscape changes every half an hour or so and in a single day, you can see emerald hills, lava fields, glaciers and mountain peaks. Outside of the capital city and a few towns here and there, it's a pretty barren place. We've loved getting to unplug and explore and (most of all!) being somewhere where the sun never sets. Skateboarding empty highway roads at 3 am and photographing seals popping in and out of icebergs at midnight are things we just won't ever forget.
2. What would you classify as a sustainable hotel, in comparison to staying at a 'normal' hotel, how have you found the experience differs?
Sustainable hotels, for us, are hotels that are committed to operating with the smallest carbon footprint possible. A few things we look for are whether or not a hotel is running on renewables, doing away with plastics, engaging in teaching their local communities how to better serve the needs of the planet, and sourcing their building materials, food, supplies, and labour responsibly and locally. We actually think the average traveller (even someone who doesn't care about the planet!) would find themselves enjoying a sustainable hotel far more than a non-sustainable one. The culture is more authentic, the staff and chefs are more in tune with the surrounding area and the challenges it's facing and how to remedy those difficulties, and there's an obsession with quality that's tough to find elsewhere. Quality of food, quality of bedding, quality of air, even, these hotels understand that when you focus on what's natural and remove things like pesticides and chemicals, a place becomes so much less sterile and so much warmer and more inviting. Also, sustainable hotels are never, ever dirty. Single-use plastics are typically non-existent, and everything that can be recycled or composted is, so there's never trash on the ground or unclean areas. I'm kind of type A, so I love that.
3. Your images are almost dream-like, and so identifiable by your signature use ofcolour, how did you stumble upon this signature style? Is it a compromise between your personal styles as photographers?
For the most part, I (Anna Lisa) do all of the editing and my husband, Porter, takes the photographs. We're both capable of playing the other role, but these are just the positions we prefer. We give each other pointers or suggestions, but we tend to be in control of our own space. Over time I think our style just developed organically. In any artistic field, you're influenced by the other artist's that inspire you, but are also somewhat driven by a style that's all your own. I think this was definitely the case for us. We look up to a lot of photographer's with large audiences on the Instagram platform, but at the same time, we always look at their photos and can recognize how we might have shot or edited something a touch differently. I think mimicry is a great way to fine-tune your editing skills and get a handle on what you like and what you don't, but at some point you've just got to figure out what makes your work your own.
4. Which podcasts are getting you through those long flights at the moment?
I love anything made by NPR (national public radio). I listen to a lot of TED talks and TED radio hours, but I especially love the podcast "How I Built This." Each episode profiles a different successful entrepreneur and I'm really encouraged by listening to the backstories of people from a huge range of fields, and just how much luck (if you believe in that) and hard work has played into their success. I think at our core, Porter and I are both entrepreneurial and, for now at least, Instagram is the platform we've been able to express that side of ourselves in. I definitely recommend giving it a listen if you haven't yet!
5. You have limited your luggage to only one suitcase each, which we so admire by the way! Tell us a bit about what's inside this capsule closet.
I try to stick to neutrals and basics, and even with just one suitcase still seem to have items that I ignore for the most part. I've never been the type of person who went for lots of bright colours or patterns, and neutrals allow us to easily mix and match, dressing things up or down depending on where we are and what we're doing. It's also so important to me that what we wear is very, very comfortable. If you only have a few things with you, they need to be spot on. If something's a bit too tight or itchy or too loose and you don't have an alternate in that clothing category (let's say, a cardigan) you will grow to resent it pretty quickly. In hot weather places, like when we were in Bali last month, I lived in loose summer-y dresses and jumpsuits. In Europe in the fall it was jeans and a sweater most days, but the ones I had then weren't anywhere near as comfy as my Outlands. We both wish we had a pair back then!
6. Anna, you've been travelling with the Harriet jean and Porter you've been sporting the Vanguard, what drew you to these styles?
I almost always go for a mid to high rise pair of jeans. They're just what I'm most comfortable in because I tend to wear a lot of cropped shirts and sweaters. Port loves jeans that are soft and have give. He also can't stand when they "bunch" at the bottom, so he tends to go for tighter rather than looser fits (which I prefer on guys anyway so it's a win-win!). We also like how the wash on Outland Jeans is just a little bit different without making too much of a statement. The unique shades of blue and off-black and the way they fade in and out on different parts of the jeans have made more than one of our friends ask us where they're from.
7. What I noticed about Recess City is that you focus on a wide spectrum of travel, catering to a range of perspectives of the word 'sustainable' - stories of visits to a trash clad Balinese beach are only a short scroll from an article covering how sustainable accommodation is redefining luxury. Have you found that sustainable travel is just as accessible for all styles oftraveller; from those who like to put their feet up to those who are keen to get their hands dirty?
I definitely think so. I mean, the number one hotel in Asia last year was simultaneously named one of the world's greenest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, camping is the original sustainable travel form haha. Obviously, there are a lot of options in between those two extremes, but this sector of travel is growing daily. Just like in the fashion industry, people are beginning to care more about their impact on the planet, and it's also becoming classified as somewhat "chique" to be involved in the eco-friendly movement thanks to a lot of celebrity who are vocalizing their support. I think if you're serious about your commitment to environmentalism, you'll always be able to hunt out a good option.
8. So in planning our next getaway, where would you recommend looking to find sustainable hotels in our chosen destination (after Recess City of course!)?
Definitely check out The Good Trade, it's a very well curated site that has all things sustainable & ethical. For higher end places, Bird PR represents some amazing leading sustainable resorts. But when all else fails, just go with Google. Sustainable hotels are excited to share their mission so you won't have a hard time finding them!