An interview with Jared Meyers, Legacy Vacation Resorts
As part of its series “The Business of Climate Change,” which highlights the climate views of business men and women throughout the state, The Invading Sea spoke with Jared Meyers, chairman of Legacy Vacation Resorts.
Here are some highlights from the interview.
Tell me a little bit about your company and its priorities in regard to sustainability and climate change.
I actually have a few companies and we all treat the climate crisis pretty seriously. But for legacy vacation resorts, it’s in the travel industry and the travel industry is certainly a large contributor to the climate crisis that we face.
A big significant portion of that comes from air travel, but really it’s a whole travel experience and we look at ourselves as having a responsibility to reduce the harm that comes from our activities and to go even a step further and find ways to replenish our ecosystems and engage in more regenerative behaviors.
So, when someone is thinking that they want to go on vacation, to the point that they actually go on vacation, enjoy it, return, you look at the whole journey, and we try to think of each step of the way: How can we be more responsible, more sustainable, more regenerative?
We have free E.V. charging at all of our resorts, and we promote that as a way to come to us and have a lower carbon footprint. When they arrive at check-in, we give them a reusable water bottle. That’s part of our no-plastic commitment, no single-use plastics, but it goes even a step further because we want our guests to start understanding that you can reuse items.
Their room keys are made of paper or bamboo and something we introduced over the last year was carbon labeling on our keys so on the back side of those keys, you can see what the carbon footprint of your stay is. And then we go a step further because we do carbon offsetting for all of our travelers, and we show them how many trees we are planting because they’re traveling with us.
We are carbon-neutral as an organization. However, in the grand scheme of things, it needs to move beyond carbon offsets and so we do focus on first the measurement. We have to know what are we emitting, what’s our carbon footprint as an organization?
And then from there, what are the ways that we can reduce emissions and that deals with renovations that we do, how we conduct our operations, and we’re constantly seeking renewable energy alternatives at our resorts.
We do donate 1% of our revenues to environmental-based charities and that’s part of our commitment to 1% for the planet that we’ve had in place for a few years.
Legacy Vacation Resorts has locations in various parts of the state, including coastal areas. What changes have you seen in these areas in recent years with regard to climate change?
In the coastal areas themselves we have been battered by storms that have been constantly increasing in frequency and destruction over the years.
Our resort in New Jersey was hit by Hurricane Sandy, which was a little while back, but it completely flooded the resort. We actually have a water line in our restaurant and we have a sign on the wall to show how high it was, so basically guests that are dining there would be dining under the water if the water was still in place.
It is scary because it’s hard to imagine if these resorts will be able to function on an ongoing basis if we don’t address these issues. We were dealing with red tide for quite a while on the west coast of Florida.
We have projects in Colorado and those were getting hit pretty hard by wildfires this last year.
What should businesses in the travel and hospitality industries be doing to reduce their footprints and become more climate-friendly?
I think the first thing that I would like to see of our industry is for companies to recognize that we’re part of one ecosystem. The environment is not separate of us. And I think thinking of the environment and us separate has kind of led to where we are today.
In order to have a healthy environment, we have to have a healthy relationship with that environment. We have to live in harmony with it. If we don’t do that, our businesses aren’t going to survive, are certainly not going to thrive.
A good community in the tourism space, specifically for carbon footprints, is Tourism Declares, and that helps companies declare a climate emergency and helps them learn a blueprint for how to measure emissions and what they can do about it.
How can people travel and vacation more sustainably?
I think people need to pay attention to who you’re spending your money with, how are you spending, because we don’t always recognize that we sometimes give money to great companies that do good things with those dollars, and then sometimes we give money to companies that actually really go against our values.
So, I think, do a little bit of research to understand who it is that you’re traveling with. That’s definitely one of the first places to start. For some really quick things: drive instead of fly if you can, take fewer vacations but make them longer, start using reusable items instead of single-use items that you trash, reduce your food waste, eat less meat.
What can the Florida Legislature do to help the travel industry become more sustainable and climate-friendly?
I would like to see the legislature be a true ally to this and understand that there is no business, there is no quality of life, there is no good future for the residents of Florida if we are not proactive and significantly proactive.
We’ve waited much too long. I think a price on carbon is the most important thing our legislature can focus on and then secondarily I think they can incentivize better behavior.
If our legislature really believes that the climate crisis is important—and I hope they do and I believe at their core they do—they can incentivize all sorts of behavior that would encourage us to move in the right direction. They should get businesses wanting to accomplish decarbonization.
Kevin Mims, a Florida-based freelance journalist, is the producer of “The Business of Climate Change.” He conducted this interview with Mr. Meyers.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state.