Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

‘Zoom-Zoom’: Mazda speeds towards 2030 electric future

October 8, 2018 by  
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Carmaker plans for 95 percent of its cars to be hybrid by 2030, with remaining 5 percent battery electric.

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‘Zoom-Zoom’: Mazda speeds towards 2030 electric future

Tourism de force: Why sustainable travel is the future

October 8, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Tourism industry execs discuss how to lower emissions from start to end of a trip.

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Tourism de force: Why sustainable travel is the future

Are Your Souvenirs Part of the Problem?

July 18, 2018 by  
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The couple carrying 16 pounds of ivory confiscated at SeaTac Airport … The post Are Your Souvenirs Part of the Problem? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Are Your Souvenirs Part of the Problem?

Here’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay in a life-size LEGO House

November 3, 2017 by  
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Get ready to live out your childhood dream! The LEGO House in Billund, Denmark has partnered with Airbnb to offer one family the chance to spend the night in a home made of 25 million bricks . This is an incredible opportunity, and the two-story residence has some amazing features – check them out after the break! The home is well-suited for children, as nearly everything inside is made from LEGO bricks – from the bed in the middle of a LEGO-filled pool to a pixellated “waterfall” and even a giant teddy bear. Other quirky objects on display include a brick newspaper and a breakfast tray for the morning. There’s even a brick-built alarm clock! If guests do feel as if they are missing something, there are plenty more bricks to build with – patrons can use the LEGO molding machine in the lobby to build extra amenities. Other attractions a family might enjoy include the “Tree of Creativity” (which is built from over 6 million bricks) and “Experience Zones” that allow you to direct your own movie , create robotic cars and even design entire cities. LEGO also showcases fan-made masterpieces from all around the world in the Masterpiece Gallery. Related: LEGO relaunches its beloved Taj Mahal model with almost 6,000 bricks Though the LEGO House is a popular tourist attraction in the Danish town, visitors aren’t normally allowed to stay the night. To enter the competition, a family needs to share the one thing they would build if they had an unlimited supply of LEGO bricks. The winners will get the opportunity to bring the object to life, thanks to the help of Master Builder Jamie Berard. Said Berard, the Design Manager Specialist at the LEGO Group: “I am so intrigued to see what people will imagine . We have unlimited bricks here, and in some ways it can be a bit challenging but it also liberates you to imagine something that is truly meaningful and expressive. The uniqueness of the opportunity to stay in the home of the LEGO brick should hopefully inspire everyone. That’s how I feel when I come here.” Added James McClure, Airbnb’s General Manager for the UK and Nordic countries, “This really is a dream come true for any family with a passion for LEGO and I doubt there will be much sleeping as there is so much to enjoy in this incredible space.” + LEGO House + Airbnb Via Mirror UK Images via Airbnb/LEGO Home

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Here’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay in a life-size LEGO House

A mix of energy sources advance Hawaii’s renewables goal

August 21, 2017 by  
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Once Hawaii publicized its goal to be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2045, the state’s options to get there expanded greatly. “We saw a slew of different solutions that can help Hawaii get to its renewables goal,” said Luis Salaveria, director of the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). That includes the renewables mix of hydro, wind and solar, as well as the technology to get power on the grid. 

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A mix of energy sources advance Hawaii’s renewables goal

Ride the Chair of Death on world’s highest cliff drop swing

August 4, 2017 by  
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Picture it: you jump off a cliff edge 360 feet in the air and plummet past the rocky cliff face until the tension catches, and then you careen across the canyon on the world’s craziest swing . If that sounds like your idea of a good time, then you need to check out the Shotover Canyon Swing in New Zealand – the world’s highest cliff drop. Riders hook onto a 650-foot cable before launching off the cliff. As you fall, you can reach speeds up to 90 mph until your free-fall is arrested by the cable. If stepping off the cliff side isn’t enough for you, you can also choose to ride a bicycle off the cliff, shoot off on a slide, or be tipped over in a plastic chair, known as the “chair of death.” Related: Amazing Tiny Treehouse Boasts the World’s Wildest Swing 8,350 Feet Above Sea Level! Once you master the art of the world’s highest cliff drop, you can add in the “Canyon Fox” option, where you are tethered to two lines 600 feet above the canyon floor. You launch yourself off a sloped ramp, falling until the tether catches you and tosses you across the canyon on a massive zip line . The entire experience, including Swing and Fox ride, will cost you a cool $299 and possibly 10 years off your life. + Canyon Swing Via Thrillist

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Ride the Chair of Death on world’s highest cliff drop swing

Sustainable tourism: A journey, not a destination

July 12, 2017 by  
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What will it take for stakeholders across the tourism industry to ensure ecological, economic and cultural sustainability? Here are five key ideas.

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Sustainable tourism: A journey, not a destination

Italy is giving away hundreds of historic castles and villas for free

May 17, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wanted to own your own castle – or perhaps an Italian monastery? Here’s your chance. As part of Italy’s Strategist Tourist Plan, the country is giving away 103 historic sites – including old houses, farmhouses, inns, monasteries and even ancient castles. However, only those who intend to renovate and transform the structures into tourist hotspots (such as restaurants and spas) will be granted a plot of historic property. The State Property Agency and Ministry of Cultural Heritage are responsible for spearheading the project, which aims to relieve some of the strain on the country’s most popular and overcrowded areas. In effect, lesser-explored destinations will receive an influx of tourists and local economies will benefit. State property agency employee Roberto Reggi told The Local : “The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector. The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists.” In total, 103 historic sites are available across the country. Many are located near the famous Appian Way – the Roman road that connects Venice with Brindisi on the southern coast. After the initial properties are claimed and foreigners begin exploring more destinations aside from Venice , 200 more sites will be included in the project over the next two years. This isn’t the first time Italy has relied on the public to restore its historic sites. The “ Lighthouse Project, ” for instance, has resulted in the Italian government auctioning off approximately 30 historic lighthouses to investors over the past two years. The requirement has been the same: transform the ordinary structures into hotels and tourist facilities . Additionally, the country raised €502 million for its “ Kill Public Debt Plan ” by putting 50 of its most prized sites up for action in 2013. Full details of the project can be found (in Italian) on the State Property Agency’s website . + State Property Agency Via The Local Images via Hand Luggage Only , SUWalls , Pinterest

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Italy is giving away hundreds of historic castles and villas for free

Research shows the UK tosses out 1.4 million edible bananas – a day

May 17, 2017 by  
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Grocery stores to food banks to big corporations like Walmart and Hasbro have all taken measures to combat food waste . But there’s still a long way to go in the fight: new research from United Kingdom (UK) supermarket chain Sainsbury’s reveals daily Britons still throw away 1.4 million bananas that could have been consumed. The study found one third of the nation’s inhabitants would throw out a banana even if it just had a minor bruise. UK charity organization WRAP assembled the Sainsbury’s study, and the results weren’t good. One in 10 Brits would discard a piece of the fruit solely for having a bit of green on the skin. Millions of bananas are thrown away every day, even though they could still have been eaten. 61 percent of Britons don’t use discarded bananas in baking , according to Sainsbury’s head of sustainability Paul Crewe, and the grocery store is hoping to do something about that. Related: Stop throwing away banana peels – eat them instead Crewe said they’re creating an in-store area aimed at inspiring Brits to bake with bananas. They’ll launch these new pop-up banana rescue stations in over 500 stores across the nation. At the rescue station people can grab a Sainsbury’s recipe for banana bread, and find the tools they need to bake their own loaf like mixing bowls, baking tins, and blenders. Crewe said, “While we’re pleased with the success of the in-store trial, we’re determined to help shoppers reduce the number of bananas going to waste at home too.” In November the store announced a one million pound, or around $1.29 million, fund for the second phase of their Waste Less, Save More project. The first phase saw a pilot program in the town of Swadlincote, testing waste-saving ideas and technology the company said could save families around 350 pounds, or $452, on food bills each year and could slash the town’s waste by 50 percent. They’ve also taken actions like getting rid of multi-buy promotions in favor of a lower price structure. Via edie.net Images via Pixabay and Pexels

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Research shows the UK tosses out 1.4 million edible bananas – a day

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