How green is your holiday?
Before I started researching Heaven on Earth GREEN, I had a limited idea about what eco-friendly meant when it came to tourism. I was familiar with certain practices at home, like recycling our used plastic, glass and paper and was already using low energy light bulbs and eco-tricity. I walked to the shops when I could and generally avoided unnecessary car journeys. Other than that, it didn’t really affect my life and it certainly didn’t occur to me to investigate a hotel’s green policy.
Since then, the issues around global warming and, in particular, CO2 emissions, have amassed and are rarely out of our daily news bulletins. We are all aware of what is happening but in many respects feel we have little control over what we can actually do.
I was shocked to find out that deforestation accounts for 24 per cent of CO2 emissions and … aviation, by comparison, counts for 3 per cent. I believe that travel, and flying in particular, has been made a scapegoat in this debate and that we should be looking at other issues more critically. In a global world, flying is often the only way to reach far-flung corners of the Earth – many of which depend on tourism as their primary source of income.
It seems it’s all about going back to traditional standards and good old-fashioned common sense. When I was growing up in the 1970s it was common practice to finish everything on my plate (‘think of those starving people’), close a door (‘were you born in a barn?’), turn out a light when leaving a room and be expected to look after my belongings, which were meant to last a lifetime. The extremes of disposable living in the late 1980s and 1990s subliminally rankled with my conscience – I knew it wasn’t right to ‘chuck it out’ the moment it no longer held a use but I, like everyone else, was a child of our time and soon got used to convenient plastic bags, perfect looking fruit and vegetables, a new phone every time I renewed my mobile contract and began to take it all for granted.
But taking everything for granted is something we can no longer do with the Earth – icebergs are melting, the air is polluted and the unhealthy balance we triggered a quarter of century ago has now tipped the balance.
So should we carry on travelling? The answer in short is yes. But sensitively. Much of the tourism industry offers exemplary examples of responsible living. Being in the limelight has meant that no stone has been left unturned and hotels around the world are doing their bit to neutralise their carbon footprint and to offer sustainable tourism that benefits the community and protects the environment.
Green is about recognising that buildings should be built to last, ideally made from locally sourced materials, fitting in sympathetically with their surroundings. Wind, sun and hydro are incredible, natural sources of energy – clean, renewable and free of pollutants. The best food is always the local produce that has come fresh from field, river or sea to plate in under a day, that doesn’t need wrapping in cellophane to preserve or enhance. Combine this with sharing time with indigenous people who know their country best and you are on to a winner.
So should we travel? I repeat, yes. It’s innate in our psyche to find out how others live and what their landscape looks like. It helps us to grow. It gives us understanding and the desire to preserve ways of life that are centuries old. Heaven on Earth Green is a book about the world’s best eco tourism, ranging from conventional hotels that have taken environmental concerns on board, to inspirational outdoor adventures that leave no trace.
It includes everything from urban stalwarts of hospitality to unknown rural gems. Whether it’s city, beach, mountain, skiing, safari, camping, pampering, sailing, or adventure – we have personally vetted each of our favourite eco places from all over the world.
I hope you’ll be empowered by the choice of green experiences. Every chapter features a menu of evironmentally friendly activities inimitable to each destination. I also hope you’ll take time to find a computer and log onto stuffyourrucksack before you travel and see where you can make a difference.
Enjoy your travelling, but remember to give something back and to be grateful for the opportunity. How green is your holiday?