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Guest Blog, Jena Meredith from The Conservation Fund: Growing Greener Travel – One Loan at a Time

Several summers ago, I booked back-to-back long weekends kayaking on two of our nation’s greatest ecosystems: the Chesapeake and Monterey bays. My trip to the Chesapeake Bay started with a staff retreat at the Aspen Wye River Conference Center near Queenstown, Maryland. I spent the afternoon paddling through horseshoe-crab territory with my guide, a wildlife biologist. As he explained how the different flora and fauna depended upon each other, I was geekily fascinated.

For instance, horseshoe crabs are food for sea turtles and sea-turtle eggs are a favorite snack for shorebirds. The eggs provide staying power during the birds’ vast winged migrations from South America to the Arctic.

Ten days later, I found myself strapped into a sleek ocean kayak, cruising through the fog in Monterey Bay. I watched as sea otters popped up through the kelp, pounding shellfish against flat rocks on their bellies. And just last week, I returned to Monterey for a conference. I was thrilled to hear a group of sea lions baying and barking from my balcony at the Portola Hotel–but sadly, my kayak purveyor had since gone out of business.

After nine years at The Conservation Fund, I know that if we are going to help protect the marine ecosystems on both coasts, we will also need to invest in the companies who help us enjoy them responsibly. You see, we were founded on the idea that we can — and must — have both a healthy environment and a healthy economy. This is our vision. So in addition to saving land, we also help communities plan for growth, support sustainable small business development, and train the next generation of conservation leaders. We’re bringing those values to life with new programs like ShadeFundTM.

ShadeFund provides small loans to green entrepreneurs across the United States. It’s a tool that we hope will stimulate growth in the sustainable travel and tourism industries by helping dedicated professionals keep the beautiful places travelers visit safe forever, and in a way that benefits local economies and wildlife.


ShadeFund loan recipients, Connecticut brothers Ted and Zeb Esselstyn, are co-founders of City Bench, a small company that creates one-of-a kind furniture from unwanted urban trees. (Photo credit City Bench)

With ShadeFund, passionate individuals, companies, and foundations can donate online to help spur green business. These donations are pooled and used to provide loans to the very best small green businesses across the U.S. Once an entrepreneur repays her or his loan, those same dollars are recycled to empower new investments in green endeavors.

The loan might help the owner of a burgeoning kayak shop in Outer Banks, a trail outfitter in Appalachia, or a river guide navigating the white waters of the Rocky Mountain Front. There are countless small businesses that depend on healthy forests, bustling trout streams, and breathtaking views for their livelihoods and ShadeFund seeks to support them and their surrounding natural resources.


ShadeFund entrepreneur Norma DeCamp Burns wants to keep her family farm from disappearing. So she singlehandedly operates Bluebird Hill Farm in Bennett, NC, where she grows USDA Certified Organic fresh herbs, specialty vegetables and Grosso Lavender. (photo credit Bluebird Hill Farms)


What kinds of businesses does ShadeFund support?

Green entrepreneurs who work in ecotourism, sustainable travel, sustainable forestry and forest products, family farms, natural food and medicines, biomass, and small-scale renewable energy production are encouraged to apply for a loan at ShadeFund loans range from $5,000 to $50,000.


Who qualifies?

The ideal ShadeFund applicant has been selling his or her products or services for at least six months. Entrepreneurs need to be based in the U.S., have access to the Internet and a commercial bank or credit union account, and agree to help ShadeFund measure the loan’s impact on your business and your community. ShadeFund considers the credit history and personal finances of the entrepreneur in determining the loan’s interest rate; however, most loan rates range from 4 – 9% and loans typically are for a term of five years or less.


Partners in Sustainable Travel

For its part, Travelocity’s Travel for Good(R) program and The Conservation Fund continue to strive to promote conservation and responsible travel through donations to the Fund’s Go Zero® program. Together with Travelocity and its customers, we’ve planted 26,009 trees across 86 acres that will trap and estimated 31,175 tons of carbon dioxide as the forests mature. Each year, we are cleaning the air we breathe, filtering the water we drink, and creating new places to play for people and wildlife alike.

gnome with sapling

In addition to helping to leave a lighter footprint as we take our next adventure, ShadeFund is one more way we can support a growing, green economy that depends on sustainable travel. That’s good for the horseshoe crabs at the Wye, the otters navigating our dense kelp forests—and the shop owners in Monterey Bay.

For 26 years, The Conservation Fund has worked with local leaders to help protect these special places. And now fans of sustainable travel have an opportunity to provide a leg up to the very businesses that depend on these lands. Let’s keeping them thriving!

To apply for a ShadeFund loan or support an entrepreneur, visit:




About The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund is a top-ranked nonprofit that protects land and water resources across America. Over the past 25 years, we’ve saved nearly 7 million acres in all 50 states, across more than 2,000 conservation projects. We protect wildlife habitat, working forests and farms, parks, battlefields, other historic sites, and more.


About the Guest Blogger

Jena Thompson Meredith is the Director of The Conservation Fund’s Corporate Relations efforts as well as its Go Zero® program, an initiative to help address two of the greatest environmental challenges of our time — habitat loss and climate change. She grew up on wildlife refuges, but found herself deep in the financial service sector before she forged her way into the conservation world in 2002.

Donations from more than 1 million Go Zero customers have helped plant native trees in protected parks and wildlife refuges that will capture and store carbon over time, while also creating forest habitat that is critical to birds, fish, bears, and other wildlife.

When she’s not on the road scoping out The Conservation Fund’s next planting location, or slogging though the swamp with a US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, you’ll likely find her cleaning her mask and snorkel, preparing for her next dive with her husband in San Diego.


From time to time, the Window Seat publishes articles and blog posts written by guest authors to give you a fresh perspective on the world of travel.


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