International Travel and Vesterheim’s Focus on Sustainability

As an organization, Vesterheim’s focus is on building community and creating experiences that allow individuals to explore their own identities while connecting with the cultures and histories of others.

One of the most impactful ways to foster these types of connections and explorations is through travel.

For more than 40 years, Vesterheim has been providing exciting and educational tours to Norway. These tours offer unique opportunities for guests to experience the museum’s ongoing ties and relationships with the artists and institutions of Norway.

Vesterheim believes in the value of international travel. We are dedicated to providing opportunities to experience Norway firsthand. At the same time, we are aware of concern about the impact travel has on the environment.

When the museum recently engaged in a comprehensive, long-range planning process to build Vesterheim Commons and transform the Open Air Division into what is now Heritage Park, we included a focus on sustainability. “The Heritage Park plan recognizes our relationship to the Upper Iowa River, which historically used to run next to our property, and our continuing responsibility toward it,” said Chris Johnson, Vesterheim’s President and CEO. The Commons uses a mass timber frame construction and locally sourced natural materials to honor the beauty of Decorah’s natural surroundings, among other sustainable aspects.

We are committed to balancing a focus on sustainability with the environmental impacts of traveling to the museum’s cultural homeland. Starting in 2025, for each tour to Norway, Vesterheim will invest in the National Philanthropic Trust: Rick Steves’ Europe Climate Smart Fund. Rick Steves is the host of the popular PBS travel show, Rick Steves’ Europe. Rick has ancestry in Norway and was featured in Vesterheim’s 2022 exhibit, Innovators and Inventors.

Many travel companies purchase “carbon offset credits,” which are managed by brokers and fund clean energy projects in wealthier countries. Instead, Rick Steves’ Europe Climate Smart Fund invests annually in a portfolio of nonprofit organizations, directly funding climate-smart agriculture, conservation, and agroforestry in underdeveloped countries — with an emphasis on projects that empower women and strengthen communities.

Vesterheim is excited to continue to encourage travel and cultural exploration, while taking responsibility for a fair share of the environmental cost tours incur.

Find out more about traveling to Norway with Vesterheim!