Photograph by Heath Robbins
From the June/July 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler
At every pivot, ice chips spray off the skates of hockey player Andrew Ference, the fierce defenseman for the 2011 Stanley Cup–winning Boston Bruins. Outside the arena, 33-year-old Ference treads gently. The avid environmentalist commutes by bicycle to TD Garden, shares the joys of composting at Boston schools, and discusses renewable energy with MIT students. In 2007, inspired by friend and activist David Suzuki, Ference lobbed a challenge to fellow National Hockey League players to go carbon neutral, persuading 500-plus athletes to offset their travel emissions and bringing the green movement into the locker room. He starred this spring in National Geographic Channel’s Web series Beyond the Puck.
How did you become an environmentalist? I spent my childhood in Canada playing outside—skating on the ice, making tree forts, snowboarding. My family had our own garden. We composted. I earned my first income collecting bottles from the house to take to the recycling depots. The activism side kicked in when I had kids. I met Dr. Suzuki around then. He pushed me to be more public with my environmentalism.
What’s your take on the global state of the environment? Some people’s ignorance toward taking simple steps—recycling, even just picking up trash—to keep places beautiful confuses me. The middle of Africa might have bigger issues to tackle than recycling, but what excuse do we have? It’s maddening. On the flip side, some cities are initiating incredible programs, from composting to improving energy efficiency, and these days green technology often makes economic sense, too.
During the off-season, what kind of traveler are you? My wife and I always make friends with locals we meet, like with surf instructors who have helped us. We’ll go to their houses for dinner, hang out with their friends, learn what the area is really about. I find it silly to do the same things you do at home.
Is travel part of your plan for your kids? Definitely. I want my daughters to learn about life outside our little bubble. Travel is an extension of that. But exposure to the real world isn’t all doom and gloom: It’s about looking at what others value—and what you can draw happiness from.
Any places change you? Traveling to Kenya in middle school was an eye-opener. Landing in Nairobi, with crowds following and tugging at us, I couldn’t quite comprehend how different it was. And yet we were given great hospitality in communities that have nothing. Getting out of your comfort zone is what travel is all about.
Keith Bellows is the editor of Traveler.