A New Cousteau on the Eco-Tourism Front

Ashlan Cousteau
Ashlan Cousteau

What’s it like to be an eco-luxury expert and on-air correspondent who travels the world looking for stories to share?

That pretty much describes the life of Ashlan Gorse Cousteau.

An accomplished journalist, adventurer and advocate, Cousteau roams the globe looking for stories to inspire as well as entertain. She’s dived with great white sharks off the coast of Mexico. She’s gone on a tiger hunt in the jungles of Nepal and run with the caribou in the Arctic.

She's ventured to to the Marshall Islands with her husband Philippe, grandson of the legendary Jacques Cousteau. Philippe is an Emmy-nominated TV host, author, speaker and social entrepreneur who's now a hot fixture in the environmental movement. 

Ashlan and Philippe met at an ecological conference, enjoyed a charmed romance and in 2014, a fairytale wedding at a spectacular French chateau. She married into a dynasty that began making its mark with Jacques Cousteau's groundbreaking research and underwater television specials.

“It's such an honor to be part of the Cousteau family. Phillip's grandfather invented scuba diving. He made underwater cameras and figured out how to put those cameras underwater. Everyone enjoyed those classic Cousteau films on TV. They were family viewing," Ashlan tells About.com.

Her husband has also contributed to the family legacy with his own work.

As executive producer and host of the "Awesome Planet" television series syndicated on Fox and Hulu, Philippe was nominated for a daytime Emmy in 2015 as "Best Host." Philippe is also the anchor of the hugely successful series "The Aquatic World of Philippe Cousteau" on GreatBigStory.com. The series reached the 10 million views milestone in season one. Season two was was released in the fall 2016. Serving as a special CNN correspondent, he has also hosted several award-winning shows, including "Going Green" and "Expedition Sumatra".

 

Philippe is a successful author as well. His book "Follow the Moon Home" was released in April of 2016. He has also co-written two award-winning books, "Going Blue" and "Make a Splash." Both are multiple award-winners, including Learning Magazine’s 2011 Teachers’ Choice Award for the Family, a Gold Nautilus Award, and a 2010 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Gold Award.

Philippe's conservation efforts are focused on solving global social and environmental problems. In 2004 he founded EarthEcho International, a leading environmental education organization dedicated to inspiring youth to act now for a sustainable planet. With a over ten years in operation, EarthEcho has established itself as a leading youth environmental education organization.

Ashlan is now joining her husband's efforts and carving out a distinct niche for herself.

She was part of an expedition that filmed, tagged and studied grey reef sharks that managed to survive and thrive in the world’s largest nuclear testing grounds. The resulting documentary, “Nuclear Sharks” for Discovery Channel's Shark Week, premiered as the number one rated cable program.  

In 2015 she and Philippe led a three-part expedition series with Takepart.com called "Treasures of the Terai". The show documented a search for endangered Indian tigers and one-horned rhinos in Nepal. Philippe and Ashlan also co-hosted Ocean month in June 2016 for Pivot Television.

Ashlan has also joined Philippe as a team member of EarthEcho International’s Into the Dead Zone, an initiative designed to bring science alive for 21st century learners. 

Ashlan’s endeavors have already landed her in the public service arena. Former Vice-President Al Gore tapped her for the opening anchor slot for his internationally live broadcast of Climate Reality, 24. She’s been a speaker at an array of events, including the Soceity of Environmental Journalists annual conference, US State Department's Our Oceans conference and the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species in Quito, Ecuador. She is an avid supporter of animal welfare and pet adoptions. And she's also hosted many events for the Starlight Children’s Foundation; Susan G.

Komen; the Humane Society and the Inspiration Awards. Additionally, Ashlan sits on the Board of the Environmental Media Association.

Interestingly, she came to the environmental arena from an entertainment background. For over a decade, Ashlan worked for the top rated entertainment shows; at Entertainment Tonight as a special correspondent and for seven years as a correspondent and fill-in anchor for E! News. She also was the lead anchor on E! News Now, reaching millions of digital viewers daily. In her correspondent capacities, she covered everything from breaking news and celebrity exclusives to award shows and movie premieres.

Ashlan serves an Eco-Luxury Ambassador for .Luxury, a new and expanding online network of hundreds of luxury-oriented websites, each carrying a signature domain address ending in “luxury.” The .luxury community is designed to connect brands and consumers interested in luxury products, services and content. Ashlan's environmental stories and global documentaries are available on the discover.luxury blog and website.  

It's another example of how Ashlan is creating a unique niche for herself in the environmental world. And the connection to the Cousteau legacy is nothing if not awe-inspiring.

"What I feel I can bring to the Cousteau legacy is to make things a little more fun, bring them to the pop culture world and make them cool,” she said.

Another big motivation is to provide inspiration for young girls.

“The 'Nuclear Sharks' special on Shark Week was a boat of 17 people. Only myself and the producer were female. So we had these salty sailor men and that was very interesting. But it was all about making sure that I was able to empower myself. I tagged sharks. I wanted to make sure I was in a science space where we don’t normally see women or minorities. And I also wanted to make it entertaining and fun,” said Cousteau.

She added,"I want to make sure there are healthy, smart and interesting role models for young women to look up to. Not many people know that Philippe’s grandma was the shepherdess of the Cousteau's famous boat, the Calypso,” she notes.

Ashlan is involved in Philippe's series for GreatBigStory.com about the weird and wonderful life found in the world's oceans. It's a tongue-in-cheek tribute to The Life Aquatic and therefore to his own legacy. The result is a uniquely entertaining take on actual science. 

“What Great Big Story exemplifies is the idea that we can make saving the planet cool and make the serious science stories interesting. That’s something we try do in all of the projects,” Ashlan said. 

“All the science and all the information we provide in the three-minute videos is accurate. We just present it in a funny way,” she added.

The reason why they chose the light-hearted format is simple.

“Some people will watch a serious two-hour documentary. But lots of them won’t,” said Ashlan.

Most of the viewers of GreatBigStory are millennials. It’s a category that Cousteau herself belongs to. She was born in 1980.

“Viewership really runs the gamut. It’s geared for everyone. My parents watch it. It’s good for any age viewer, male or female,” she added.

The Cousteaus have also launched a new series in partnership with Takepart.com. It delves into the global poaching crisis. It highlights the sad reality today of the huge black market demand for exotic animal trophies.

Her love of adventure began at an early age.

“My family always took one big vacation each year. We always went out of the country. Travel is so important. Yet we live in a time when half of us congress doesn’t even have passport,” she said.

Another advantage: she grew up as a self-professed “water baby” in North Carolina.

“I was constantly in the water, and that helps me out in my current life. When we were filming on the Marshall Islands, everyone else got pretty seasick. We had to strap ourselves into our bunks,” she said.

With all the traveling she does, it's especially important to Ashlan to have least amount of environmental impact possible. One topic of particular interest is the notion of eco-travel for business. While there are extensive listings of luxury ecolodges and hotels, they haven't yet crossed over into the business arena yet.

She has tips for those interested in leaving less of a carbon footprint when they travel.

“If you’re traveling for business and don’t get to choose a specific hotel there are still some things you can do. Ask for no maid service or keep the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on. You don’t need the sheets changed every day. You can reuse your towels. When maids do come in, remember that a lot of companies haven’t switched to nontoxic cleaning solutions. Another small thing. Plastic pollution is such an issue. When you travel, keep a reusable bottle in your travel bag. At the airport, fill it up with water after you’ve cleared security.

And it’s always a good idea to pack as light as you can,” said Ashlan.

For those interested in a luxury eco-lodge experience, Cousteau has some recommendations.

The Brando in Tahiti is all about eco consciousness and sustainability. The Kenoa Resort in Brazil is an entire hotel built out of mud. It was constructed using local people and artisans. They made it so eco they even built bathroom sinks out of old hallowed-out tree trunks. And all the food is locally sourced and fresh. Another wonderful option is the Coppola Turtle Inn in Belize,” said Ashlan.

But not everyone can afford to fly off to the world's most exotic eco-lodges. Mainstream hotel brands are doing their part for the environment, which is also commendable.

“The Element brand of Starwood is designed to be eco conscious from the ground up. That’s always a great option when you travel. Starwood in general across the board is doing some great things. They have a Go Green option where you can get loyalty points if you opt out of maid service. And Hilton is looking at grey water, how to use it to water lawns. All of us can do our part with very little effort," said Ashlan.