Sustainable Spotlight: Kristen Mandala
Welcome to our Sustainable Spotlight series, where we explore the stories of remarkable travelers who have made conscious choices to minimize their environmental impact, support local communities, and contribute to a more sustainable and responsible way of experiencing the world. Each traveler brings a unique perspective, offering insights into their sustainable travel practices, and the positive changes they aim to inspire.
A Green Journey from Toronto to Valencia
Featuring Kristen Mandala
Kristen Mandala, a sustainability educator and consultant from Toronto, Canada, is passionately dedicated to connecting people with nature. Kristen advocates for a diverse and intersectional approach to the climate crisis, making sustainability accessible to all for a greener and more equitable future.
What was the defining moment that sparked your commitment to sustainability?
Kristen’s story: As a kid, my grandparents had this amazing ravine near their place. It was like a little paradise—so green, peaceful, and lovely. My brother and I used to run down the path until we heard the river. But one day, it was gone. Turned into a pile of rubble for a new highway. I was so sad. Standing there, I couldn't understand why anyone would choose a highway over that beautiful place. It hit me, and moments like that shaped why I'm so into protecting our planet now.
“Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
Sustainable Guide for Valencia, Spain:
In her new home, Europe's Green Capital for 2024, Kristen shares local tips:
- Walk through Turia Park, a stunning 9km urban park.
- Buy local at Mercado Central for a sustainable home-cooked meal.
- Support local cafes and explore Malvarossa Beach.
Enjoy a plant-based food crawl in the El Carmen neighborhood.
- Explore thrift stores in the trendy Russafa neighborhood.
- Rent bikes to easily navigate the city.
Best things about Valencia:
1. There are compost, recycling and garbage bins everywhere!
2. There are water bottle refill stations throughout the city.
3. The bike rental program is accessible and incredibly easy to use.
4. The city is super walkable! Everything you need is within a 15-minute walk.
5. Weekly markets where you can buy second-hand clothes.
6. You can take public transit and trains throughout the city and country.
“What is good for the planet is good for us all!”
Advice for people starting their sustainability journey:
Direct your energy toward what's within your control. This varies for everyone — from rallies to composting, supporting local initiatives, or cooking local food. The initial steps might seem daunting, like carrying the weight of the world, but progress is best made one step at a time. Lastly, consider involving friends or family for added fun and encouragement; after all, we're in this together.
Sustainable Accommodations stayed at
- 1Hotel, Toronto, Canada: A memorable experience for my 30th birthday. The space was not only breathtaking but infused with sustainability at every turn. From bathroom products to the quality of linens, no plastic packaging or water bottles - they covered it all. Their intentional partnerships with like-minded organizations and brands further impressed me. Despite the cost, the experience was worth every penny.
- Finca Mystica, Nicaragua: Nestled at the foot of Volcano Maderas, this gem stole my heart. Constructed with natural earthen materials, the buildings harmonize with the environment. The majority of their food is sourced right on the property, showcasing a deep commitment to both land and community. My stay was a beautiful experience, and I'm hopeful for a return visit in the future.
Message to Sustainable Travelers:
Building relationships and learning about new cultures takes time. We often view travel as a way to escape, refresh, and enjoy—which it certainly is! But it's important to be mindful not to take more than we give. Being an international traveler is a privilege, and true exploration involves exchange and respect. We can all make an effort to slow down to ensure we positively impact the places we visit.
As we explore these sustainable spotlights, let's remember that small steps can lead to significant change. Stay tuned for more stories of conscious travelers making a positive impact.
If you have your own travel story or another one to suggest, we’d love you to submit it via [email protected]. Here’s to a more sustainable future!
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About the author
Palak studied Management and Entrepreneurship then continued to get her Master's Degree in Digital Marketing. A dedicated spirit to the start-up world, Palak has 4 years of experience in organic growth strategies.