Exchange Matters / April 18, 2022

Global Ties Network Facilitates Discussions Surrounding Sustainability

Compiled by Margaret Pfeifle, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.

This month, the Global Ties Network considers how exchange programs, such as the International Visitor Leadership Project (IVLP), foster discussions around sustainability and climate change. International exchange partners Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy and WorldDenver discuss how they connect with visitors, IVLP projects focused on sustainable tourism and city planning, and learn about sustainability in different landscapes and climates around the world. 

Sustainable Tourism Development 

CBM: Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy  

NPA: American Councils for International Education 

Photo provided by Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

The State of Utah is known worldwide for its stunning national parks and world-class ski resorts. As beautiful as Utah is, we know we don’t have a monopoly on natural beauty. Last October, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (UCCD) collaborated with Graduate School USA (now the IVLP team at American Councils for International Education) to host an International Visitor Leadership Project (IVLP) for Indonesia —“Sustainable Tourism Development” — that facilitated a series of meetings between Utah’s leaders in sustainable tourism and their counterparts in Indonesia. Like Utah, Indonesia has so much to offer tourists. With pristine island beaches, colorful lakes in dormant volcanic craters, and eight-foot-long Komodo dragons, Indonesia is an adventurer’s paradise. 

Komodo Dragons, Komodo National Park, Indonesia (Source

Every year, more travelers are putting Indonesia on their itinerary. Local officials and industry leaders are both excited and concerned: they love to see Indonesian communities benefiting from the influx of tourists; however, they also need to protect and preserve their country’s natural beauty. 

To discuss best practices, IVLP participants from Indonesia met virtually with representatives from Zion National Park, Deer Valley Ski Resort, Save our Canyons (a wilderness preservation NGO), and the Utah Offices of Tourism and Outdoor Recreation. With such a wide variety of professional resources, we were surprised that one question was discussed in every meeting: “What do you do when you invite visitors to nature and nature calls? 

Utah and Indonesia draw millions of tourists every year. And those tourists produce human waste. And it has to go somewhere. Most people older than four tend to shy away from toilet talk, but not those involved in sustainable tourism! These conversations were both pragmatic and hilarious. Fear not. We’ll spare you the details. 

Zion National Park, Angel’s Landing Toilets (Source

Apart from waste management, we listened to incredible conversations about government recreation management, economic development, environmental protection, and eco-friendly business operations. We also had the pleasure of connecting our visitors with everyday Utahns for an informal conversation. The pictures, dishes, and traditions that our Indonesian friends shared made our hosts and facilitators alike want to book a flight that night.  

Our inquisitive Indonesian IVLP participants, friendly hosts, and straight-talking professional contacts made this program a rousing success. We are grateful for any opportunity we have to connect the people of Utah with others across the world.  

– Nick Merrill, International Exchange Fellow 

Sustainable Housing and Smart Cities  

CBM: WorldDenver  

NPA: Meridian International Center  

Photo provided by WorldDenver

In December 2021, WorldDenver had the pleasure of partnering with Meridian International Center to virtually host a group of international visitors from New Zealand for a project titled “Sustainable Housing and Smart Cities.” The group consisted of 17 individuals with diverse occupations ranging from urban design and planning, to climate change, to human rights.    

The visitors met with Brian Rossbert, the Executive Director of Housing Colorado. Housing Colorado’s mission is to promote and preserve affordable housing through education and advocacy, especially for individuals of color and marginalized communities. The meeting was initially a conversation on how climate change has affected both regions — specifically how wildfires are affecting Colorado and flooding is affecting New Zealand. It then shifted to the impact of COVID-19 on accessible and affordable housing. Brian and the visitors discussed the increase of unhoused individuals in Denver, shared ideas on possible solutions to this issue, and asked complex and difficult questions to learn more about the impact accessible and affordable housing can have. 

A few of the visitors also participated in a virtual “WorldDinner” with a local Denver resident. Home Hospitalities are the perfect personal touch to IVLPs and allow for a deeper cultural connection to each city. The group chatted about the program and connected over the similarities and differences between the New Zealand and Colorado landscapes and climate. It was wonderful to learn that mountain biking is a popular sport in both places!   

Despite the shift to virtual projects during the pandemic, I continue to be inspired by how groups are able to form meaningful connections, and this project was no different. It was immediately apparent how passionate each visitor is about what they do and the opportunity to be a part of the program. Projects like these are the reason why I love IVLP!  

– Keira Chandler, Mission Support Coordinator