Win a National Park tour for 2 from Inhabitat!

October 19, 2020 by  
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We’re all itching to get outdoors these days, and visiting National Parks is a safer travel option that allows you to take in the magnificent scenery that the U.S. has to offer. From the towering sequoia trees and granite cliffs of Yosemite to the snowy mountain peaks of Olympic followed by the rust-red canyons and Emerald Pools of Zion, there are many adventures that lie ahead. We’re giving away park passes to these three national parks plus $1,000 toward travel expenses to help you get to the great outdoors. Whether it’s your first trip to a national park or you’re a regular visitor to multiple parks across the country, the varying landscapes are enough to inspire awe in any explorer. On this trip, you can look up to the giant sequoias in Yosemite, then make your way to the dreamy Pacific Northwest for a visit to Olympic National Park. Round out the trip with a day at Zion National Park, where you can take in the otherworldly red cliffs as well as a hanging garden and waterfalls at Emerald Pools. If cabin fever is really setting in, this is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in nature all while staying socially distanced. If you’re ready for a breath of fresh air, you can check out our giveaway here . Enter by November 5, 2020 for a chance to win two park passes to Yosemite, Olympic and Zion National Parks plus $1,000 for travel expenses. Terms and conditions apply. The winner will be selected on November 7, 2020 and notified via email. So, what are you waiting for? Good luck, and happy exploring!

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Win a National Park tour for 2 from Inhabitat!

World’s largest Arctic expedition returns with grim news

October 14, 2020 by  
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After 13 months of collecting data, history’s largest  Arctic  research expedition returned with grim news. “We witnessed how the Arctic Ocean is dying,” mission leader Markus Rex told Agence-France Presse. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.” In September 2019, the research mission set sail on the German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship from Tromsø, Norway. For 13 months, about 300  scientists  from 20 countries were on board at various times. Known as the  MOSAiC  Expedition — Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate — the team followed in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen’s 1893-1896 journey. But instead of traveling aboard an old wooden sailing ship like Nansen’s Fram, MOSAiC traveled via the Polarstern, a highly modern icebreaker designed for research. Related: Arctic wildfires are emitting 35% more carbon compared to 2019 The international scientists gathered information to better understand how the Arctic is weathering the climate crisis. Rex described this area as “the epicenter of  climate change .” The crew hopes that the finding will help predict how heatwaves, storms, floods and fires will affect the Arctic’s future. The  researchers  brought back over 1,000 ice samples and 150 terabytes of data about subjects such as Arctic clouds, biology, atmosphere, and ocean physics. It will take years, or even decades, to analyze all this intel. “We went above and beyond the data collection we set out to do,” said Melinda Webster, a sea ice expert from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Unfortunately, the expedition’s initial impressions of the situation were severe. “At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice,” said Rex. The researchers experienced smooth sailing in some areas previously covered with  ice . Rex predicts that Arctic summers will soon be ice-free if the planet’s warming trend continues. The Polarstern’s Arctic voyage cost $177 million.  Coronavirus  upended the trip’s logistics, forcing scientists to end the mission earlier than planned. Via EcoWatch and Science Image via Pixabay

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World’s largest Arctic expedition returns with grim news

Palau is pioneering a new model of sustainable tourism

September 4, 2020 by  
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In partnership with Sustainable Travel International and Slow Food , the Palau Bureau of Tourism has launched a new project aimed at mitigating its tourism-based carbon footprint. The project’s long-term goal is to establish the island country as the world’s first official carbon-neutral tourism destination. With a focus on specific approaches to sustainable tourism , such as promoting local food production and developing a transparent carbon management plan, the project is sure to serve as an inspiration to other countries. Palau is a Pacific Island nation that is world-renowned for its natural beauty and considered one of the top marine tourism destinations in the world. The archipelago is made up of about 200 natural limestone and lush volcanic islands surrounded by crystal-clear lagoons. Unsurprisingly, scuba diving and snorkeling are some of the most popular tourist activities in Palau, thanks to the pristine coral reefs and an abundance of sea creatures. Jellyfish Lake, part of the island chain’s famous Rock Islands and connected to the ocean through a series of tunnels, is home to millions of jellyfish that migrate across the lake every day. The therapeutic clay of the “Milky Way” lagoon is said to contain age-rejuvenating components that attract locals and tourists alike. Related: 7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist In 2019, there were over 89,000 international tourists who visited the islands. This is considerable, seeing as the small country only has a population of just under 22,000. With such massive visitor numbers compared to permanent residents, the tourism industry is the main source of economic income and employment on the islands by far. “If the current COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we must strengthen our nation’s resilience to external threats — the greatest of which is climate change ,” said Kevin Mesebeluu, director of the Palau Bureau of Tourism. “Palau is blessed with some of the world’s most pristine natural resources, inherited through culture and tradition, and placed in our trust for the future generation. We must work to actively protect them, while also investing in our people. Palau embraces sustainable tourism as the only path forward in the new era of travel, and we believe that our destination can and must be carbon neutral.” Palau’s precious marine resources, small size and dependence on tourism make it extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The dangers of rising sea temperatures threaten the country’s marine ecosystems, coastal communities and important tourism industry. As is the unfortunate case with many vulnerable travel destinations, the large-scale tourist industry — despite providing the main source of livelihood for its residents — is also responsible for a portion of its carbon emissions and threats to local heritage sites. The remote island nation has relied heavily on imported food from overseas as well as carbon-heavy airline travel and activities in the past, habits that the new sustainable travel project plans to address. Palau has since taken extensive measures to protect its environment and promote responsible tourism. Once such a measure, deemed the “Palau Pledge,” became the world’s first mandatory visitor eco-pledge. Upon entry, all tourists are required to sign a pledge promising to act in an environmentally conscious and overall sustainable manner during their travels in order to protect the islands for future generations to come. Tourists risk a fine if they’re found engaging in activities like collecting marine life souvenirs, feeding fish or sharks , touching or stepping on coral, littering and disrespecting local culture. The program also bans tour operators from using single-use plastics and implements the world’s strictest national reef-safe sunscreen standard . Initiatives that increase local food sourcing reduce the country’s carbon footprint and set the destination up for food security success in the event of natural or economic disasters. This section of the project is imperative to showcasing the islands’ culinary heritage and building up the local income opportunities of Palau fishers and farmers. Even better, the program will put a specific emphasis on sustainable agricultural products and female-owned businesses. “The rapid growth of an unsustainable tourist industry based on broken food systems has been a key driver of the climate crisis and ecosystem destruction,” said Paolo di Croce, general secretary of Slow Food International. “This project represents the antithesis, a solution that strives to strengthen and restore value to local food systems, reduce the cultural and environmental damage caused by food imports, and improve the livelihoods of food producers both in Palau and beyond.” Becoming carbon-conscious doesn’t end with reducing carbon emissions; the tourism industry as it is will always have unavoidable carbon emissions from things like transportation and outdoor activities. To compensate, Palau has implemented an online carbon management platform for its visitors. The program will allow tourists to calculate a personal carbon footprint associated with their trip and provide offsetting opportunities that are in line with the country’s marine conservation and environmental restoration goals. Sustainable Travel International estimates that the platform has the potential to raise over $1 million per year for carbon-reducing initiatives. “This project has enormous potential to transform the traditional tourism model and is a notable step toward lessening the industry’s climate impact,” said Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International. “Destinations around the world face these same challenges of balancing tourism growth with environmental protection. Carbon neutrality is the future of tourism and the direction that all destinations must head as they recover from COVID-19. We commend Palau for their continued leadership, and hope this inspires other destinations to strengthen their own climate resilience strategies.” + Sustainable Travel International Images via Sustainable Travel International

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Palau is pioneering a new model of sustainable tourism

Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

July 5, 2019 by  
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The Independence Day festivities hosted by the White House yesterday cost the National Park Service an estimated $2.5 million dollars, money that is typically earmarked for park maintenance and rehabilitation. The rainy celebration, which included military jet fly overs, tank displays and the largest firework display in D.C. history, is the most expensive July 4th celebration any president has hosted. What Trump promoted via Twitter as the “show of a lifetime” was loosely inspired by his trip to France during Bastille Day. After the proposed budget for a similar celebration last year reached $92 million, Trump had to scale back his plan. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The president also made a speech yesterday, a first in 32 years. For the past three decades, presidents have elected to not speak at the Independence Day celebrations out of respect for unity and patriotism and an attempt to not politicize the holiday. “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said during his speech. Despite his message of unity, tickets for the highly anticipated events were given out as gifts to high-rolling donors to the Republican National Committee. “This is a breach of trust with the public,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parades.” The national parks are reportedly $12 billion dollars behind in their maintenance needs, and this event is another major setback. While the event cost the country’s parks $2.5 million, the Trump administration refused to reveal exactly how much the antics cost taxpayers in total. Before the celebration, Trump tweeted , “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.” Via EcoWatch Image via Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

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Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

Minimalist villa in Japan boasts dark timber exterior and bright white interior

June 11, 2019 by  
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Japanese firm, TAPO Architects have unveiled a beautiful timber house located in Sakura City in the Japanese prefecture of Chiba. Surrounded by peaceful forest, the Sakura Villa is a sophisticated minimalist design that features a simple mono-pitched roof with a charred timber exterior and bright white interior. Located on a small lot surrounded by forestscape, the villa was designed to blend in seamlessly with the landscape. To create a strong connection with the wooded surroundings, the 2,300 square-foot home is clad in a mix of charred timber siding and black standing seam metal sheeting. Related: Black timber Villa S makes more energy than it consumes The elongated volume of the structure is punctuated by a spacious glass and wood entranceway which is flanked by large windows on either side. The entrance to the home is through a central courtyard that leads to the living space through a set of sliding glass doors. Walking past the doors, the walkway leads to the outdoor patio space, creating an integral connection between the indoor and outdoor worlds. On the interior of the home, its jet black exterior facade is exchanged for an open-plan living area with all-white walls and exposed timber beams and columns. Almost entirely devoid of furnishings save for a long wooden dining table located opposite the kitchen, the space is minimalist, modern and fresh. Beyond the social areas found on the south side of the home, the private areas such as the bedrooms and bathrooms, are located on the north side. The sloped ceiling adds additional space on this side of the home, which was built out with two attic spaces accessible by ladders. This area is used for storage or playrooms for the family’s kids. + TAPO Via Design Boom Photography by Masayoshi Ishii via TAPO

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Minimalist villa in Japan boasts dark timber exterior and bright white interior

‘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

Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

May 8, 2019 by  
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When you are ready to explore the country, why not take your home with you? Sure, there are motorhomes and travel trailers to choose from. You could even pick up a Sprinter van. But for a real adventure, you could tootle about in a skoolie. If you didn’t catch the play on words, a skoolie is a converted school bus made into a tiny home on wheels . Couple Robbie and Priscilla have converted a school bus into their own travel-ready abode through a process of trial and error mixed with some frustration and a dash of luck. The couple wanted the exceptional 210-square-feet of open space that a school bus allows so they could bring along their pet cat and feel like they had more of a home than an RV. The 1998 Thomas School Bus was the inspiration that drove them forward with their plan. Related: A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile The conversion took a year and a half to complete, with many obstacles along the journey. For example, discovering leaky windows required a complete replacement. Then, a blown gasket kept the project in park for several months. If ever there was a reward worth the labor, this homey project is it. As a result of their efforts, the couple was able to take to the road in March in a cozy, relaxed dwelling. The lengthy, flowing space is well lit with myriad windows throughout and white cabinetry lining one side. The gray laminate flooring accents the stainless steel appliances and is complemented by the cedar tongue-in-groove ceiling. Storage is tucked in several areas including beneath the raised bed, near the ceiling in the kitchen and under the couch in a sitting area. The tiny home’s unusually large bathroom features tile work alongside glass shower doors, and the bus also has two outdoor showers for convenient clean-up. Unlike most RVs, this skoolie features both air conditioning and a fireplace, which suits the couple well as they begin their trip in Canada and Alaska, planning to later hit all 48 contiguous states. + Going Boundless Via Curbed Images via Going Boundless

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Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

Win a trip for two to Buenos Aires, Argentina!

January 14, 2019 by  
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Ready to tango in Argentina’s capital city? Get ready to embrace local culture, food  and wine on the trip of a lifetime to Buenos Aires. Keep reading to find out how to win this trip for two. We’ve partnered with General Assembly to offer a lucky reader the chance to win a trip for two to Buenos Aires, including a $1,000 airline credit, four nights at a boutique hotel , a tapas tasting street food tour, a traditional dinner and tango show as well as a walking tour of some of the city’s stories markets, plazas and more. Visit the contest page here for more details and to enter for your chance at this incredible trip. + GO PLACES: Buenos Aires Images via Shutterstock

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Win a trip for two to Buenos Aires, Argentina!

This calculator tracks the carbon emissions of your travels

December 11, 2018 by  
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The global community has become increasingly smaller in recent decades thanks to affordable travel . But just because distance is no longer a major barrier, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a negative side of traveling — the environmental impact. Now, thanks to Mission Emission by Oblik Studio, there is a new “ emission-free travel calculator ” that can calculate the emissions a vehicle will produce when commuting to specific destinations, and it also suggests sustainable, alternative ways to reach your destination. In addition to providing information on the emissions of a specific trip, the calculator will also tell you the carbon footprint of your trip and the damage your trip can cause to you and the environment. Users can find out the amount of time a tree will need to absorb the CO2 emissions from a specified trip. Related: How to use a carbon footprint calculator to maximize energy savings For example, when using the calculator, you will discover that the 120-mile drive from Los Angeles to San Diego in a small car that uses gasoline has a fuel consumption of 23.1 miles per gallon and CO2 emissions of 13.9 ounces per mile. Plus, it takes a tree 2.17 years to absorb the amount of CO2 emitted during the trip. The website comes from the Mission Emission project, which has a goal to raise awareness of the global pollution problem and the environmental impact of travel while helping users learn how to reduce their environmental waste. Recently, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have reached their highest level in 800,000 years. CO2 emissions rose a startling 60 percent between 1990 and 2014 before leveling off for three years. However, in 2017, they started to rise again. Since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, heads of state and other world leaders have committed to fight climate change through policy. However, individuals still need to do their part in the fight, and the Mission Emission Project is hoping that the travel calculator will help people do just that. + Mission Emission Images via Mission Emission

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This calculator tracks the carbon emissions of your travels

Natural Habitat Adventures launches world’s first zero-waste vacations

September 11, 2018 by  
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In a travel-industry first, Natural Habitat Adventures is spearheading a zero-waste vacation package. The groundbreaking trip will take place in summer 2019, when 14 travelers will visit Yellowstone National Park from July 6-12. The Safari America: Yellowstone Country adventurers will explore the sustainable travel industry as well as refusing, recycling, composting , upcycling and reusing at least 99 percent of all waste produced during the trip. Natural Habitat Adventures hopes to avoid landfill contributions or incineration, fitting all waste into a single small container by the trip’s end. Founder and president of Natural Habitat Adventures Ben Bressler said, “One way we’re dedicated to protecting the planet is to inspire the travel industry to become more sustainable,” of the initiative that is more about setting a new standard for travel than anything else. “Our goal is to continually raise the bar on conservation, and our first zero-waste adventure will show that it’s possible to reduce our environmental impact while providing an exceptional experience for our guests,” he continued. Related: 100% solar-powered Fiji resort combines 5-star luxury with sustainability Trip leaders have already devised plans to mitigate waste , including providing travelers with a zero-waste toolkit containing reusable items such as water bottles, mugs, cutlery and totes as well as digitizing all pre-trip forms and vacation itineraries. Travelers are encouraged to refuse potential waste items such as single-use straws or individually packaged condiments. The vehicles, lodges and camps throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be stocked with bulk foods that will be transported as individual meals in reusable containers. Napkins and biodegradable foods will be composted by the team, while hard-to-recycle materials will be sent to TerraCycle , a world-leading company that specializes in recycling difficult outputs. There is no better company in achieving this mission than Natural Habitat Adventures, which just celebrated 10 years of being 100 percent carbon neutral — in 2007, the ecotourism pioneer became the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company. Its  carbon offset program has thwarted more than 34.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions generated through the company’s global nature adventures. The company hopes to inspire and educate its guests to make an impact beyond the trips. For Natural Habitat Adventures, showing people how to make conscious decisions about daily waste production at home and at the office is a cornerstone of the trips. + Natural Habitat Adventures Images via Collective Retreats & Natural Habitat Adventures

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Natural Habitat Adventures launches world’s first zero-waste vacations

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