EDMONDS — Rick Steves sees climate change in nearly every country he visits.
Drought keeps Ethiopian farmers from growing crops, skiers can no longer enjoy the Swiss Alps in summer, and people flock from southern to northern Europe to escape the heat.
Steves says the travel industry contributes to these problems, including his own business, Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds.
He’s decided to donate $1 million each year from his company’s profits in an effort to combat climate change. The program is called Climate Smart Commitment.
He plans to give $30 for each of his customers. Experts say it takes about that much to lessen the impact one traveller has on the environment.
About 30,000 people book the company’s services each year. That adds up to about $900,000, and is then rounded up.
According to Steves, one person’s round-trip flight from Seattle to Europe can create as much carbon emissions as six months of driving.
The company doesn’t book flights, but provides travel planning and hosts tours through Europe.
The donations are an important part of running an ethical operation, Steves said.
“It’s not an issue of can we afford it,” he said. “If we are in the travel business, we are contributing to the destruction of our environment.”
The money is now going to three different organizations, and possibly more in the future.
So far they include Project Concern International, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America World Hunger and Bread for the World.
Each helps those in poverty through climate change, such as farmers who can’t grow food during a drought, or those who go hungry because of the ruined crops.
Steves also has written dozens of travel guides, hosts TV and radio shows, and writes a weekly column that appears in local newspapers.
He hopes other travel businesses are encouraged to start similar practices.
Steves, who grew up in Edmonds, also has donated millions of dollars to local causes. Those include a 24-unit YWCA housing project in Lynnwood, the Edmonds Center for the Arts, an Edmonds community center and a community center planned at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood.