15 Dec The Green Maya Project: Eco-Conscious Vacations for a Clear Conscience
While on vacation, your mind can drift away…away from the distractions that await you at home, away from work, bills, chores… and without those stresses and worries, you are able to be present and fully connect with yourself and your surroundings. The Green Maya Project works to create a sustainable, spiritual and culturally-immersive experience for you to disconnect from the mundane and reconnect with nature and yourself.
Sara Renshaw, the brain behind the project, lived much of her adult life naive of the climate crises that threatened our planet. It wasn’t until 2007, when she and a group of friends formed a water charity in Africa, Drop in the Bucket, that her mind was opened to the global water crisis. For the next 12 years, Sara fell down a rabbit hole of sustainability, educating herself on the various causes and solutions to the world’s environmental problems.
“I didn’t have any direction as to what I wanted to do with this. It’s so big. We’re facing a lot of problems in all of these systems and ecosystems and woah, what’s going on?! So, that’s why I said I’ll do everything and try to find out what speaks to me,” said The Green Maya Project Founder Sara Renshaw.
Sara soon enrolled in the Global Sustainability Program at UCLA, and, after graduating, started her own sustainability consulting firm called Greenlife Consulting. For the next six years, she continued on with her efforts, helping businesses implement more environmentally friendly practices in the way they operate, though continuously she suffered from the increasing weight of the climate crisis.
In 2014, she escaped to Tulum with a close friend, where she experienced a much deeper connection through the natural world while on a guided nature tour of the Caribbean’s thriving ecosystems. Whilst fully immersed in this environment, Sara was reminded of the importance of spending time in and with nature and was inspired to recreate this travel experience for others. So, she sold her consulting firm and dedicated herself to creating a tour company that arranges fully-sustainable and culturally-immersive experiences for their guests.
“We run the company with the environment being number one in mind. Our tours are waste-free, we buy carbon offsets for the transportation we’re always talking about the connections to the environment and to the culture, because we think that it’s super important,” said Sara. “But we’re also educating our clients, our guests, through entertainment, because when you go on holiday, your guard is down. You’re not thinking about responsibilities, you’re not thinking about what you have to do at home. You’re open,” said Sara.
Together, with a local by the name of Jorge, a Mayan man with extensive ecological knowledge and understanding of the region’s flora and fauna, they worked to create an authentic, memorable and impactful connection with the natural world for their guests to experience.
“The idea is to create these experiences that you have with a plant or with a bird or with a lagoon… experiences that stay with you when you go home, that stay long after so you think about it…What we find is that people get home and now it all makes so much sense because they can relate it to their own life,” said Sara.
Currently, their excursions feature both environmental and cultural adventures, from birdwatching to participating in traditional ceremonies. No matter the experience, Sara has ensured Green Maya works alongside the locals to both contribute more greatly to the local economy and provide a truly authentic experience for her guests.
“I really want to create community empowerment, to help the locals find work because they’re the ones that know about all of this stuff. They’re the ones that are living in the jungle, and so I really want to include the communities as much as possible when we’re working there,” said Sara.
Green Maya works with one particular organization, Razonatura, to train and teach their guides, so they have the proper certifications to guide their tours. It’s important to Sara that Green Maya maintains and strengthens these relationships with the locals so that her business remains mutually beneficial for travelers and locals alike.
Fully dedicating herself to the growth and betterment of her business, Sara moved to Mexico with her son last year, so that she can expand the reach and impact of The Green Maya Project.
“When you partner with the locals and give them voice and listen to what they’re saying, there’s no reason why we can’t partner and grow. It really goes beyond ecotourism because it’s about how we live our lives, and so however we can reach out and create that connection with people, we’ll be anywhere and everywhere,” said Sara.