Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines

October 11, 2019 by  
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Exhibitions of art can, and perhaps should, be thought-provoking, which is exactly the goal of the temporary showing ‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink’ by design studio PriestmanGoode at the Design Museum in London. Unlike typical art , though, this exhibit is a concept design that could change the way we travel, or at least the environmental impact when we do. With its eyes on a future of eliminating single-use plastic , PriestmanGoode has focused its problem-solving skills toward airline travel. The studio has looked for ways to eliminate the estimated 2.2 pounds of waste created per passenger per flight, a weighty problem that adds up to around 5.7 million tons of cabin waste annually worldwide. PriestmanGoode has taken a multifaceted approach to the problem, beginning with the meal tray and eating accessories on long flights. Related: San Francisco airport bans all plastic water bottles The designers have come up with functional and surprisingly attractive plastic alternatives for in-flight eating. Some of the plant-based items are washable and reusable: serving trays that are made out of coffee grounds and husks; dishes made from wheat bran; and sporks made from coconut wood. The cups are a two-part design, with a reusable outer layer made from rice husks and a PLA binder. The disposable interior liner is made from algae. Other packaging saw sustainable upgrades, too. The main dish is covered in a bamboo lid, an earth-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastic. For side dishes, the lids are made out of algae or banana leaves, and the dessert lid has a wafer design that distinguishes it from the other lids to easily identify what is underneath. Single-use condiment containers were tossed in favor of capsules made out of soluble seaweed. For easy composting, everything packs into the main meal lid. PriestmanGoode also presents a refillable water canister designed to fit in a seat-back. It has also worked with airline representatives to design a central water refill station as a comprehensive, sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. Although the design elements of the concept meal tray are innovative, an equally important goal of the exhibit is to raise awareness about the impact travel has on our environment, and not just in the food consumed. While there are still many steps the airline industry needs to take to lower its environmental impact, PriestmanGoode wants travelers to consider their own consumption habits by only using long-lasting and reusable products that they need. The exhibit will show until February 9, 2020. + PriestmanGoode Via Dezeen Images via PriestmanGoode

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Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines

Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

August 28, 2019 by  
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Gwyneth stands upright, supported by one member of her medical team as another scrapes away what looks like blue cotton candy from the cracks in her shell with a pointed metal tool. The yellow slider is stoic, silently opening her mouth, whether wishing to bite or scream. Gwyneth is a turtle, one who has endured a lot of medical attention at the Georgia Sea Turtle Rescue Center since being hit by a car on Jekyll Island. The impact fractured both her carapace and her plastron — her top and bottom shells. The guide on the behind the scenes tour, AmeriCorps worker Stacia Dwelle, explains that the blue stuff is bioglass and costs $175 for a small jar. It works “like scaffolding for the tissue in the fracture site,” she says. Other treatments are lower tech and lower cost, such as the jug of honey and chunks of honeycomb the staff use for its antimicrobial value. Related: Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean While the hospital is called the Sea Turtle Rescue Center, they don’t discriminate here. The fully functioning center cares for any type of injured turtle and also works on other reptiles and birds . Public Awareness and Education The center’s founder, Dr. Terry Norton, grew up in Utah far from sea turtles, but his affection for reptiles grew during his residency in Gainesville, Florida. In the early 2000s, Norton worked on Saint Catherine’s Island, 40 miles north of Jekyll. Part of his wildlife health program was developing a global assessment of sea turtle health. He saw the need for a sea turtle hospital on the Georgia coast and opened the Jekyll Island facility in 2007. Since then, he and his staff have treated more than 3,000 patients and welcome 100,000 visitors annually. Why involve the public in turtle medical care? The center “wanted to raise awareness and educate the public as well,” says Dwelle. Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles swim through waters along Georgia’s 100 mile coastline, all either threatened or endangered . Jekyll Island is prime nesting territory, especially for the Loggerhead sea turtle. Leatherbacks and Green sea turtles occasionally nest here. Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill turtles also pass through Georgia waters. This year, center staff identified 198 loggerhead nests on the island, with about 120 eggs in each nest. During July and August, the hatchlings fight their way out of their shells, then pour out of nests on the beach and trek to the sea just before sunrise. Most visitors to the turtle center opt for the $9 ticket, which gets them into an exhibit area with interactive displays. They can peer through a large microscope and learn about trash in the ocean. They can also visit the rehab area, a sultry building full of turtles in tubs or look through a window into the medical treatment room. Behind the Scenes in the Hospital Devoted turtle lovers— and those with a little more cash to spend on their travels— can join one of the other tours the center offers. Depending on the month, visitors may be able to accompany staff to nesting sites at night or in the early morning, and there’s a sea turtle camp for kids. Instead of watching the treatment from behind glass, groups of six can stand right in the treatment room and watch Dr. Norton assess turtles. Visitors can also learn about the nebulization chamber where snakes with fungal infections inhale a mist of medicine . Most of the center’s patients stay two to six months before being released. The staff here sometimes give future turtles a helping hand by transferring wild-laid eggs into an incubator. This is especially true when turtles lay their eggs too close to the road on the causeway that connects Jekyll Island to the mainland. The causeway is “a high, dry place those ladies like to look to build their nests,” says Dwelle. “But unfortunately, who else is out there on the causeway? We are. In our cars.” Human transportation is hard on turtles. While on land, they risk being hit by car but in the sea, boat strikes are a top hazard. The center also participates in other reptile-related projects, such as radio-tracking the island’s Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes. Turtle Gourmets “So our sea turtles might be eating better than us,” says Dwelle serving the turtles mackerel, shrimp and blue crab, which is considerably restaurant -quality seafood. New patients get their food filleted for them but once they’re stronger they get whole seafood and live fiddler crabs just before being released. Staff arrange greens in a PVC pipe with holes cut out, which they sink to the bottom of turtle tubs. This way the patients remember to look for seagrass on the ocean floor when they eventually return to the sea. Each turtle gets a personalized diet, sometimes fortified with special vitamins and calcium. Helping Turtles Many of the hospitalized turtles could easily have escaped injury if humans had been more careful. Keeping your distance from nests ensure that hatchlings stand a better chance at survival. And most importantly, don’t litter. “When you’re on the beach, be careful with fishing lines,” says Mary Van Gundy, a volunteer vet technician at the center. “Make sure you gather them up and throw them away.” She’s amazed by the trash she finds, especially cigarette butts. Slowing down, whether in a boat or a car, will prevent many accidents. Maybe that’s what the stoic Gwyneth is trying to tell me as she silently opens her mouth. Images via Inhabitat

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Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean

July 26, 2019 by  
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Cruising between ports in Canada’s Maritime Provinces, the passengers and crew gather in a bar for the fundraising auction. The crew members take turns playing auctioneer, spinning wildly exaggerated tales of the attributes of lighthouse-shaped magnets, a maple syrup cookbook and a bottle of whiskey. Passengers get into a bidding war over a maple leaf mug, with a winning price of $60. The One Ocean Expeditions’ flag that’s been flying on the ship goes for over $200. It’s a silly and fun event that raises almost $1,200 for the cruise line’s favorite ocean-related charities, including the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Scott Polar Research Institute and the penguin-tracking Oceanites. Over the past eight years, One Ocean’s passengers have contributed nearly half a million dollars toward conservation groups. This is just one way that the small, British Columbia-headquartered company balances business with social and environmental responsibility. As stated in One Ocean Expeditions’ philosophy on its website, “We view the world as one large ocean containing a series of large islands. So, it stands to reason that our actions in one part of the ocean will trickle down and have an effect in another part.” The company strives to give guests a fun and memorable travel experience while being a model of ecological sensitivity. Respectful port visits One Ocean Expeditions gives a lot of thought to partnering with its destinations, whether visiting wilderness or developed communities. Since the company began with polar expeditions, biosecurity has always been extremely important. To be sure that passengers aren’t bringing seeds and other contaminants ashore, guests must check their zippers and Velcro for debris and scrape out the treads of their shoes. Passengers line up to vacuum backpack pockets and closures on jackets. Everyone must also dip the soles of their shoes in a special chemical bath before visiting certain ports. Related: Meet Maya Ka’an — Mexico’s newest ecotourism destination On the Fins and Fiddles cruise of eastern Canada , the only stop that requires biosecurity measures is Sable Island. This long, narrow island southeast of Nova Scotia is famous for its wild horses and enormous gray seal colony. Bird life is also abundant. Ipswich sparrows nest here, and roseate terns will let you know you’re getting too close to their quarters by dive-bombing your head. “In Canada, Sable Island is really special to a lot of people,” Alannah Phillips, park manager of Sable Island National Park Reserve , told Inhabitat. “It has kind of a magic and mystery to it that people want to make sure it’s protected.” Only about 450 people per year manage to visit this remote island. Visiting requires special permits, and nobody but Parks Canada staff and a few qualified researchers are allowed to spend the night ashore. One Ocean Expeditions is one of the few small cruise lines to obtain a permit. The boot wash is the most important part of biosecurity, Phillips said, because the chemicals kill diseases that could be transported from horse farms. “You get a lot of horse people who want to go to Sable Island.” This is one of the most as-is beaches people will ever see. Seal skulls, shark vertebrae, plastics — all sorts of things litter the beach. What looks like kelp turns out to be long, unraveled seal intestines. “It’s an amazing platform to teach people,” Phillips said. “Even though it’s 175 kilometers from the mainland in middle of the Atlantic Ocean, what you drop in the water wherever you are can end up on Sable Island.” Helium balloons, coconuts and sneakers regularly wash up. The most exciting find Phillips remembers was a message in a bottle dropped from a Scottish ocean liner in the 1930s. Other Canadian stops feature low-impact activities, such as biking the Confederation Trail on Prince Edward Island, hiking in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island and taking a guided history walk of the ghost town island Ile aux Marins off Saint Pierre and Miquelon. A fleet of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards offer other planet-healthy options. Sustainable cruising One Ocean Expeditions is a tiny cruise line. At the moment, it’s only running one ship, the 146-passenger RCGS Resolute, which burns marine gas oil, a cleaner alternative than the cheaper heavy fuel oil. The ship avoids traveling at full speed, preferring a leisurely pace that reduces emissions while interfering less with the navigation and communication of marine animals. Cabin bathrooms feature fragrant biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner in refillable dispensers, made by an ethical producer on Salt Spring Island, Canada. Every guest gets a reusable water bottle. This is convenient, as there’s a water bottle filling station on every deck. Announcements over the loudspeaker remind passengers to bring their water bottles on expeditions, and One Ocean hauls a huge water dispenser ashore in case bottles run dry. Even the on-board gym offers a water dispenser but no cups. If you forget your water bottle, well, consider walking back to your cabin to retrieve it as part of your workout. One Oceans Expeditions has taken the #BePlasticWise pledge and is part of the United Nations Environment Programme’s “Clean Seas” working group, which aims to drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastic . The cruise line regularly hosts scientists who do on-board research ranging from collecting meteorological data to tagging and tracking migrant whale populations to measuring plastic pollution in sea water. “OOE also takes part annually in the ‘Clean-up Svalbard’ program to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Norwegian Arctic,” according to Victoria Dowdeswell, part of One Ocean’s marketing and business development team. “Here, both staff and guests collect rubbish and assorted debris from fishing vessels, which are carried via the Gulf Stream to Svalbard’s shores each year. OOE know that there is only one ocean and that we all need to work to protect it.” + One Oceans Expeditions Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean

These resorts are working diligently at sea turtle conservation

July 3, 2019 by  
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According to WWF, six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species are threatened with extinction due largely in part to plastic pollution, climate change and poaching. Only one in every 1,000 marine turtle eggs will survive to adulthood, and one in two turtles have ingested plastic at some point. Female sea turtles are able to navigate through the ocean to return to the same beach they hatched on to nest, and many of those beaches are located within the property of popular resorts. Thankfully, a number of these resorts remain dedicated to ecotourism and the protection of the majestic creatures that frequent these beaches. Check out these resorts from around the world with conservation programs aimed (and succeeding) at sea turtle conservation. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacations that benefit destinations through conservation Panama Jack Resort, Cancun, Mexico All-inclusive and green-certified Panama Jack Resort in Cancun, Mexico celebrated World Sea Turtle Day in 2019 by implementing a new “Sea Turtle Package” available from August to November. The package includes a donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy , a hands-on session with the resort’s conservation team and themed amenities such as a turtle bracelet and T-shirt. Each season, Panama Jack Cancun helps to create an environment that yields more than 10,000 hatched sea turtle eggs, thanks to its conservation efforts and the resort’s “Turtle Protection Committee.” The committee is responsible for beach cleanups and nest building at the on-site turtle farm, and the resort offers ecology courses for employees to learn about the proper handling of eggs. Guests are invited to participate in beach cleanups and watch the sunset turtle hatch and release. Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, Costa Rica Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa in Costa Rica teamed up with local organization Osa Conservation to create a wellness-focused “Save the Sea Turtles” retreat program for yogis who want to do their part for the environment. The Osa Peninsula is visited each year by olive ridley and black or Pacific green turtles, who come to nest on the southern beaches. The specialized retreat is usually offered from April to November, but during other times of the year, guests can contact the retreat for turtle activity. Guests will participate in morning and evening patrols, sea turtle egg recovery and an early morning sea turtle release. Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, Florida In collaboration with local ocean conservation organization Loggerhead Marinelife Center , the Jupiter Beach Resort in Florida offers a special “Stay and Save the Turtles” package. For guests staying three nights or more, the resort will adopt a native sea turtle in your name, and you’ll receive a resort credit and turtle-themed toy. The adoption directly contributes to the continued care and treatment of sick and injured sea turtles at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center as well as further study of the green, leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles that nest at Juno Beach, Jupiter and Tequesta. Turtle Beach Resort, Barbados Green Globe-certified Turtle Beach Resort sits on a stretch of coastline where leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles love to visit during nesting months. The Caribbean resort has teamed up with The Barbados Sea Turtle Project to create a hotel team of “turtle pioneers” responsible for teaching guests about ocean conservation and leading hatching sea turtles from their nests into the ocean. The conservation team organizes beach cleanup days, in which guests are also invited to participate. Surfing Turtle Lodge & Leon, Nicaragua The Surfing Turtle Lodge in Los Brasiles, Nicaragua created its own turtle hatchery in order to protect the nesting areas on the property frequented by olive ridleys, leatherbacks and green turtles. Unaffiliated with any other organization or charity, the Surfing Turtle hatchery is completely operated by the hotel employees and guests. While the hatchings occur year-round, the peak season runs from September through February in the area, and guests are able to experience baby turtles being released into the sea. Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies Located in St. Kitts & Nevis, The Four Seasons has worked with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Nevis Turtle Group since 2006, helping both visitors and residents protect native sea turtles . Sea turtle migration patterns within the open ocean are still somewhat of a mystery to scientists, and the satellite tracking devices can be costly. Every year, the resort sponsors two GPS satellite transmitters to assist the Sea Turtle Conservancy in tracking the migration patterns of sea turtles who return to Nevis annually to nest. Guests staying at the hotel can participate in identifying and marking sea turtle nests and obtaining data to track and study turtle migration paths. Guests can also help team members locate the actual turtles to be fitted with the GPS (after they have finished nesting, of course). This valuable information will give conservationists the tools and information they need to better protect the endangered sea turtles. Images via Jakob Owens , Isabella Jusková and Randall Ruiz

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These resorts are working diligently at sea turtle conservation

7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist

June 24, 2019 by  
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Planning an international trip can be pretty overwhelming as it is, but it can be even harder for eco-friendly travelers looking for sustainable activities that promote cultural travel and ecotourism. Luckily, more and more travel companies and agencies are making it easier to travel with the environment in mind. Start off by researching green destinations, travel packages and green hotels at websites like Lokal Travel , Green Pearls or Responsible Travel . The World Travel Market Responsible Tourism website is a great resource, as it gives out awards each year recognizing worldwide travel organizations in categories such as “Best for Reducing Carbon & Other Greenhouse Gases” and “Best for Reducing Plastic Waste.” Look for hotels and resorts that have been certified eco-friendly or green, that have clear evidence of protecting the Earth, that are built with environmental sustainability in mind or that have made the investments to truly change their business models toward long-term sustainability. Once you’ve chosen a destination and accommodation, look for travel companies that are trying to help the local culture or the land in a positive, significant way and have hired local employees with fair wages. While these organizations are usually small and focused on a few specific places, there are larger companies doing good work as well. Sadly, plenty of “volunteer” programs out there are aimed at making the client feel good about themselves, rather than making an effort to make a positive difference on the destination (or at the very least leave it unharmed by the presence of visitors). If your volunteer trip costs money, find out where the money is going. Related: Natural Habitat Adventures launches the world’s first zero-waste vacations Of course, flying is something to keep in mind, as the carbon emissions from airplanes are high. Don’t be afraid to stay close to home or travel by train to somewhere near you. If you do decide to fly, as many of the destinations below might require unless you are a local, do some research into the most sustainable airlines and consider carbon offsets to ever-so-slightly lessen the impact of this form of travel. Here are seven eco-friendly activities to enjoy in destinations around the world. Watch the Northern Lights in Norway Not only is Norway one of the most environmentally conscious countries on Earth, it is also one of the most beautiful. Its capital city of Oslo was named Europe’s greenest capital by the European Union in 2019. When it comes to seeing the Northern Lights, don’t do it as an afterthought. Take the time to plan a trip with local guides that benefits the economy. Consider an immersion program with the indigenous Sámi people, who have recently embraced sustainable tourism as a vital source of local income. Volunteer in the Galapagos, Ecuador An undisputed leader in ecotourism destinations worldwide, the Galapagos are home to some of the most exciting and important lands on the planet. Almost 100 percent of the island chain is protected as a national park , and visitor fees go straight toward conservation efforts. Look for a company that organizes volunteer trips rather than sightseeing; the latter creates unnecessary trash and carbon emissions. Book an eco-friendly safari in Kenya It’s no secret that poaching is one of African wildlife’s greatest threats. Eco-friendly safaris and lodges provide alternative employment to poaching in Kenya, all while supporting the community and putting money toward the upkeep of nature preserves. A good tourism company works hand-in-hand with the local people (such as the Maasai tribe in Kenya) to protect the land and animals. Consider staying on conservancy lands, where the area has been set aside for wildlife conservation and is strictly regulated. Related: 7 eco-friendly and conservation-minded safari lodges across Africa Help save elephants in Thailand The tourism industry is beginning to see elephant riding for what it is — cruel. What was once a misunderstood and popular bucket-list item is now one of the main proponents responsible for the rise of ecotourism. Skip the elephant ride and opt for a trip to an elephant rescue center, where your money will go toward the betterment of these animals rather than the exploitation of them. For a day trip, check out the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, but if you want to spend a week or more volunteering, the Surin Project is another great choice. Go hiking in New Zealand New Zealand is world-renowned for its luxury ecotourism (such as “ glamping ”) as well as plenty of hiking opportunities that let tourists submerge themselves in the natural environment without doing any damage. Another thing to consider: Air New Zealand recently got rid of all single-use plastics from its entire fleet of planes. That means no plastic bags, cups or straws are being used on any of these flights, resulting in about 24 million less pieces of plastic being used each year. Visit animal sanctuaries in Costa Rica Costa Rica pledged to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, and with 25 percent of its territory protected as national parks or biological reserves, it is setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the world. The country is known for its abundance of eco-friendly accommodations and wildlife sanctuaries. Check out the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula or the Jaguar Rescue Center in the Limón Province. Stay in self-sustaining accommodation in the Maldives With more than 1,000 islands making up this archipelago, environmental awareness and protecting the ocean is a vital part of life in the Maldives. For example, Soneva Fushi Resort has been completely carbon-neutral since 2014. It has an on-site recycling program, and all the water used at the resort is desalinated. Ninety percent of the waste produced is recycled, including 100 percent of the food waste , and all of the facilities run on the energy from solar panels. Images via Derek Thomson , Claudia Regina , Peter Swaine , Marcel Oosterwijk , Bruce Dall , Jeff Pang , Michelle Callahan and Selda Eigler

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7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist

New sustainability plan for Washington State Ferries

June 18, 2019 by  
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Washington State Ferries (WSF), the state’s biggest consumer of diesel fuel, has released a two-year action plan for operating the ferry system more sustainably. Washington’s ferries burn more than 18 million gallons of fuel per year, generating more carbon and greenhouse gas emissions than any other component of the state transportation system. The new plan seeks to reduce emissions and waste, improve air quality and protect orca whales. Ferries serve the northwest part of Washington State, linking Seattle, Vancouver, the San Juan Islands and other places that locals and tourists live and visit. “Because we operate our 23 ferries on Puget Sound and manage 20 terminals on its shores, we have an obligation to ensure WSF is doing everything we can to protect our environment,” said Amy Scarton, assistant secretary at Washington State Department of Transportation. “This plan lays out our commitment to tackle these issues and continue our efforts to make Washington’s ferry system the greenest in the world.” Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting To cut down on emissions , the ferries had already decreased speed. Since adopting new speed guidelines in April 2018, they saved about 450,000 gallons in fuel. WSF is now working on hybridization and electrifying the ferry fleet. Local orcas, known as Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Their biggest threats are toxic contaminants , prey availability and disturbance from vessel noise and traffic. WSF has already slowed its vessels in critical orca habitat to reduce noise, and plans to undertake a baseline noise inventory of the ferry fleet. WSF has already begun to remove creosote—which is toxic or carcinogenic to fish, birds, mammals and amphibians —from its facilities, and aims to complete creosote removal by 2021. The ferry system is also installing high efficiency LED fixtures to minimize light spillage. + Washington State Department of Transportation Images via San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau. Photos by Brandon Fralic, Monika Wieland Shields and Western Prince Whale Watching

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New sustainability plan for Washington State Ferries

LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood

June 14, 2019 by  
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This 39-room inn in the popular Wine Country town of Healdsburg boasts sustainable, natural materials and an eco-friendly design that earned it a LEED Gold certification. Glass is used to encase the lobby entry, while the walls and floors are made of textured and smooth concrete. Steel and reclaimed redwood slats are utilized throughout the exterior to create a naturally open feel and provide views of the surrounding trees and foliage. Artfully-described as “modern organic” by the building’s creators at David Baker Architects, Harmon Guest House is the natural companion to its two sister boutique eco hotels, the swanky Hotel Healdsburg and the trendy h2hotel. As described on the firm’s website , “This contextual new inn slips into the Healdsburg scene as a fresh surprise with an understated California vibe, yet seems as if it’s always naturally been there.” Related: This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism These organic intentions are apparent from the moment you walk up to the building. The design subconsciously promotes sustainable transportation thanks to the sheltered bus stop bench built into the face of the hotel and a shared fleet of bicycles available for guest use. Even the check-in desk has been crafted from one single, fallen eucalyptus tree. The combination of a vast glass entryway, bare polished concrete and unadorned wooden screens is a reminder to all who enter that the condition of being natural is just as beautiful (if not more) than decoration or embellishment. The 39 rooms (including six suites) are connected by a centralized courtyard and glass-enclosed bridges. Each room provides a private outdoor space with a balcony or patio. Both the common spaces and individual rooms feature locally sourced art and fixtures. The presence of the hotel benefits Healdsburg’s own Foss Creek, which is visible from the rear of the inn and accessible via footbridge. A creekside park allows guests to enjoy the restored area between the water and land while the property’s presence spanning the creek aids in the protection of the natural area. + David Baker Architects + Harmon Guest House Photography by Bruce Damonte and Angie Silvy via David Baker Architects

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LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood

Ending animal exploitation in tourism with World Animal Protection

June 13, 2019 by  
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World Animal Protection works internationally to end the suffering of animals and urge all people to do more to protect our furred, feathered and scaly friends. World Animal Protection (formerly World Society for the Protection of Animals) works on many fronts— including wild animals, farmed animals and those suddenly displaced by disasters. Ontario-based campaign director Melissa Matlow talked to Inhabitat about World Animal Protection’s work to end the exploitation of animals in the name of tourism. Inhabitat: How and when did World Animal Protection first get involved with educating tour operators about animal attractions? Melissa Matlow: World Animal Protection has been campaigning to protect wild animals that are suffering for tourism for several years now. More than 20 years ago we started working with local partners to bring an end to bear dancing in Greece, Turkey and India, and bear baiting in Pakistan. We have been working to protect the welfare of elephants in Asia since 2005. In 2015, we launched the Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign globally and working to influence the tourism industry became one of the organization’s priority campaigns. We decided to shine a spotlight on the problem of elephant riding first because it is one of the cruelest activities and tourist demand is fueling the poaching of elephants from the wild. In 2017 we released our Taken for a Ride Report , which reviewed the welfare of nearly 3,000 elephants used for tourism in 220 tourist venues in six countries (Thailand, India, Nepal, Laos, Sri Lanka and Cambodia). We discovered that the majority of these elephants (77 percent) were living in grossly substandard conditions. Related: Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism Inhabitat: Can you tell me a little bit about the TripAdvisor campaign? Matlow: We showed TripAdvisor our research into the animal welfare and conservation impacts of Wildlife Tourism Attractions (WTA) and how wildlife lovers were unknowingly causing harm to animals by participating in these activities. Tourists were seeing and buying tickets to cruel attractions that offer elephant rides and tiger selfies on TripAdvisor and leaving positive reviews. After more than half a million people joined our campaign and signed our petition asking TripAdvisor to stop selling cruel attractions, they listened and announced in 2016 their commitment to stop selling some problematic attractions and set up an educational portal for people to learn more. Inhabitat:  What other tour operators and companies has World Animal Protection worked closely with?                    Matlow:  World Animal Protection has worked with the Travel Corporation, G Adventures, Intrepid, World Expeditions and many other tour operators to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. Together we formed the Coalition for Ethical Wildlife Tourism to shift tourist demand towards humane and sustainable alternatives. Inhabitat:  What have been some of your biggest wins? Matlow:  We are now working with some of the largest travel companies in the world to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. More than 200 tour operators have signed our pledge committing to never offer, sell or promote elephant rides and shows. After more than half a million people signed our petition and joined our movement, TripAdvisor committed to stop selling tickets to cruel attractions. Expedia soon followed suit and in 2017 we convinced Instagram to educate its users of the cruelty that happens behind the scenes for wildlife selfies. Inhabitat:  What are still the biggest challenges? Matlow: We need to reach the right people— wildlife lovers who are unknowingly causing harm by participating in wildlife entertainment activities and the travel companies who sell them tickets. One of our challenges is to debunk the many myths that these tourists and travel companies are commonly subjected to. Many tourist attractions dupe people into thinking they are protecting the animals and serving some kind of conservation and education benefit but nothing could be further from the truth. Tourists don’t realize that these attractions are commercially breeding and trading wild animals for the sole purpose of entertaining them. The demand is fueling the capture of wild animals from the wild. The animals suffer every day in small tanks and cages to entertain tourists and won’t ever be released into the wild. Tourists aren’t learning about how to keep the animals in the wild, where they belong. If anything, they are being desensitized to their suffering in captivity and learning that it is okay to get up close to them to feed them, pet them and take wildlife selfies. Inhabitat: What are the most important things for tourists to keep in mind when evaluating animal attractions? Matlow: Our simple rule of thumb is— if you can ride it, hug it or take a selfie with a wild animal, chances are it is cruel, so don’t do it. The best place to see wild animals is in the wild from a respectful distance. People can download our Animal-Friendly Travel Pocket Guide and visit our website to learn more about the work we do to encourage animal-friendly tourism and to protect the welfare of animals globally. +World Animal Protection Images via World Animal Protection

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Ending animal exploitation in tourism with World Animal Protection

Meet Maya Kaan: Mexico’s Newest Ecotourism Destination

June 3, 2019 by  
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Mexico’s newest ecotourism area highlights natural scenic beauty and Mayan cultural experiences for travelers looking to immerse themselves in eco-friendly, sustainable activities. Maya Ka’an is a large swathe of central Quintana Roo, a state on Mexico’s Caribbean. It includes the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and Zona Maya, the traditional Mayan heartland. Local tour operators run the area’s touristic activities, aiming to keep the money in the community. “Travelers know and love Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Riviera Maya. Now they can learn about another side of the Mexican Caribbean in Maya Ka’an,” said Dario Flota Ocampo, director of Quintana Roo Tourism Board. “Maya Ka’an’s sustainable , off-the-grid status creates unparalleled experiences for travelers seeking true cultural immersion.”  Related: Bee + Hive to help explorers book green hotels and sustainable tourism experiences Tourists familiar with the area have probably already visited Mayan ruins or dived into a cenote. The string of indigenous communities that make up Maya Ka’an offer activities for those who have been there, done that. For example, tourists can visit the Cave of the Hanging Serpents, where red and yellow rat snakes hang from the cave ceiling, waiting to snag bats in midair as they fly by. Travelers are also able to kayak the same lagoon Mayans once used as a commercial route. Bird watching, mountain biking and snorkeling are other active tour options. Visitors interested in wellness can participate in a healing ceremony in the city of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (population 25,744). Health -related experiences here include an interpretive trail lined with medicinal plants, massage, Mayan dance and music, and a trip to the very hot local sweat lodge called a Temazcal. Mayans have a long history of making chewing gum in chiclero camps. Travelers can learn about extracting chicle– the resin that makes gum chewable– from zapote and chicozapote trees . Other cultural and natural highlights include handmade rope demonstrations, stingless bees and the Caste War Museum– which documents 400 years of Mayan struggle against foreign attacks. +Quintana Roo Tourism Board Images via CIIC

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Meet Maya Kaan: Mexico’s Newest Ecotourism Destination

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

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