In discussions on climate change, much attention has been paid to the travel industry, particularly to the green initiatives (or lack thereof) in the airline, hotel and car rental sectors. Public discourse has yet to look into what role travel agencies might play in reducing carbon emissions.

Agencies, of course, are not completely on the sidelines. A desktop released by Carlson Wagonlit for corporate customers earlier this year included a carbon-offset calculator so companies could compare the emissions of various modes of transportation. And some agencies will assist clients in buying carbon offsets.

But Sho Dozono, co-owner of Azumano Travel in Portland, Ore. (No. 42 on the Travel Weekly Power List), wants agencies to raise their profile in the greening of travel.

Dozono has a long history of involving his business in hot-button issues. He first drew national attention when, in the weeks after 9/11, he organized a visit to New York City by 900 Portlanders to march in the Columbus Day Parade and help fill empty hotel rooms, restaurants and Broadway theaters.

After the tsunami, Dozono brought a delegation of industry leaders to Phuket, Thailand, to assess damage and offer assistance.

And in the wake of Katrina, he organized volunteers to help rebuild stricken areas of New Orleans.

When he talks about his efforts, Dozono tends not to differentiate between altruism and self-interest.

Travel agents, he said "need to address the issue of climate change head-on, or we'll be swept under in the wake. There will be a cost to getting involved, but the positive effects will pay off in the long run."

And as with past initiatives, his approach to climate change "involves both what I know and who I know," he said.

After buying offsets to make his 12 agencies carbon neutral, he reached out to his customers, suppliers and American Express, with whom Azumano is affiliated.

Approaching clients, especially large corporate clients, to voluntarily purchase carbon offsets is a delicate process.

"I wouldn't push, for example, Nike to make all their travel carbon-neutral. That might cost them as much as $4 million -- quite a commitment. My intent is to see how much they want to green. Rather than ask them to go for 100%, we might suggest that they look at 35% or even 10%."

He said he had also spoken with Celebrity Cruises about what it would take to make Azamara and Xpedition ships carbon-neutral, adding that they had expressed interest in learning more.

Dozono works through the nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation to buy "green tag" offsets. "We chose BEF because they're local and have a great reputation," he said. "They're not the cheapest, but we have 100% confidence about how the money will be spent."

He said he did not charge a fee or receive a commission for arranging carbon offsets.

As for AmEx, he said he found a receptive ear for his proposal that the next rep network meeting be carbon-neutral. He further wants to use the meeting as a platform to show other rep agencies the benefits of greening.

"It's a symbolic gesture because the energy expended by typical travel agencies is not all that great," Dozono said. "But the agency community can lead the way toward making our overall industry more sensitive to an issue that impacts all our businesses."

Consumer demand for green travel is growing. Expedia, for example, has sold offsets for more than 350 million air miles merely by adding a link a year ago. But a more intense form of demand may be brewing. At London Heathrow last week, climate-change campaigners staged a weeklong protest, with a militancy that took authorities by surprise, against expanding the airport.

For Dozono, it's no longer a question of whether the industry will embrace steps to address climate change.

"The only real alternative would be carbon-neutral transportation," he said. "And I don't think that at this point there's a large enough market for travel by barge to support us all."


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