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Meet Aline van der Meulen, a Travelife Approved Auditor
Each month we feature an interview with a Travelife Approved Auditor. We have around 60 independently contracted auditors based around the world that must undergo an intensive training programme before they can audit with us. To continue carrying out audits for Travelife they must complete annual refresher training and a yearly performance review. Click here to find out more about our requirements for auditors.
Location: Sri Lanka
Languages: Dutch, English, German, Laotian, French
Total auditing experience: 10 years
Travelife auditing experience: 10 years
Specialisations: Sustainability, food waste
Auditing fields: Accommodation, tour operators, restaurants
The Dutch national travel association, ANVR, was one of the first in the world to mandate that their member travel companies familiarise themselves with basic sustainability principles, later requiring that all of their tour operators become certified by our sister company, Travelife for Tour Operators. Part of this certification requires that tour operators book certified accommodation as much as possible. When Aline was working as a tour leader in Asia for a Dutch tour operator, she saw first-hand both the positive and negative impacts of tourism, so she viewed this an exciting move in the right direction and wanted to be part of it. That led to her qualifying to be a Travelife auditor.
“One of the most rewarding parts of auditing is creating a sense of togetherness and enthusiasm. Under these conditions I feel that I can lead a group of people to a real understanding of sustainability so that they can achieve certification.”
Aline van der Meulen
Aline feels strongly that we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food. She explains that around one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets wasted each year. Most ends up in landfill and produces large amounts of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon. She says that despite this fact, food waste is often an overlooked topic in the hotel industry, arguably one of the biggest buyers of food in the tourism sector.
She says she feels hopeful when she sees hotels making progress in this area during audits, telling us about a large Thai property that converts oyster shells and pineapple trimmings into cleaning products, reducing both waste and the use of harmful chemicals. This was one of many food initiatives they implemented that ultimately saved them almost 300kg of food per day. They also partnered with a local NGO to find ways to use their surplus food and the hotel now helps to provide around 3,000 meals each day to low-income residents of Bangkok.
Aline believes that implementing sustainability into a business comes down to the three core principles of management, measuring and communication. She has some simple tips and advice for any business, in any sector, that wants to operate in a more responsible way and believe this starts with engaging staff. For example, creating a ‘green team’ with managers taking the lead and suggesting improvements relating to their particular work area. These improvements should be turned into sustainability polices that are promoted to staff and other stakeholders.
“Your employees are the best storytellers. Make the most of every moment to talk about the sustainability journey, share experiences and congratulate one another.”
Aline van der Meulen
She says that staff engagement is an essential ingredient for success. That means training employees about the importance of sustainability and how to incorporate it into their day-to-day work. Challenging employees to come up with new ideas helps them to take ownership of initiatives and develops a sense of pride in your achievement, and she reminds employers to acknowledge the efforts of their staff.
Top tips from Aline for sustainable living
Reduce your electricity usage
Avoid wasting food at home
Use reusable shopping bags
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