Saving the planet is no laughing matter
Tourists enjoy eco-friendly amenities and help the ecology without realizing it
As Daniel and Martha Everett and their two children enjoyed a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, their focus was on entertainment and excitement rather than the environment.
When Barbara and Andy Allen checked into a Boston hotel, they wanted to fit as many sites as possible into their two-day visit. They gave little thought to how their stay might impact the ecosystem.
Look who’s acting to preserve and protect the environment
Despite their lack of awareness, these folks were combining a bit of R&R with examples of efforts to help preserve and protect the earth’s environment. Little did they know that entertainment venues, lodgings, tour companies, and others are taking steps large and small to lessen any negative impact of human activity on Mother Nature.
Some efforts, like replacing high-energy light bulbs and heavy-flow showerheads, are well known. Others are more imaginative and can be even more impactful.
To Mickey Mouse, saving the environment is no laughing matter
The Walt Disney Company’s commitment to environmental stewardship goes back to its founding almost a century ago. Current activities range from the mundane, like eliminating single-use plastic and using non-potable water, when possible, to running excursion trains and riverboats on fuel made from recycled cooking oil, and installing a solar facility intended to power two theme parks in Orlando. Also, people interested in hydroponic farming come there to study that activity.
Hotels large and small take actions large and small to protect the environment
Hotels play a leading environmental role and the Saunders Hotel Group in Boston has long been at the forefront of that effort. It has implemented over 115 measures to reduce the environmental footprint and raise awareness among staff, guests and local communities. One imaginative project is tending beehives on the roof of its Lenox Hotel and serving the honey to guests.
Saunders’ latest project is constructing a 5-star Raffles Hotel & Residences, the first of that renowned company’s properties in the United States. It will be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold building, and will further demonstrate why the Saunders Hotel Group has won a Presidential Gold Medal and other honors for its programs.
Smaller places of accommodation also have boarded the environmental bandwagon. Efforts at the 33-guest room Boulder Hot Springs Inn, Spa & Retreat in Montana fit its goal of “living with the planet instead of destroying it, or using it up.”
In addition to common conservation projects, these include remodeling the heating system to take advantage of local geothermal waters, and studying the possible use of the waters to generate electricity. The Inn also is restoring the adjacent natural wetlands, which were drained to provide pasture. This has resulted in a return of moose, antelope, deer, and other wildlife to what had been a protected sanctuary.
Some shopping malls begin taking environmental steps during their construction
Although the Walt Disney Company has been an environmental pioneer, it’s not the only entertainment business that has a green thumb. Destiny USA is a mega-mall near Syracuse, New York which, in addition to places to shop and dine, has a variety of entertainment options. The 26 million annual visitors produce a torrent of trash and other waste with which the center deals responsibly enough to make it the largest commercial building in the world to have won LEED Gold certification.
Efforts there got underway during construction, using over 90 percent of materials recovered from landfills and making some flooring of rapidly renewing crushed cork and walnut shells. A solar-reflective “cool roof” conserves energy and rainwater harvesting saves four million gallons of water annually.
Cruise ships are among the rising tide of environment-friendly outfits
Speaking of water, cruise ships have instituted a variety of measures to lessen their environmental impact. New passenger vessels employ state-of-the-art waste management systems that shred trash, compact glass, and metal, and incinerate paper and plastic.
One leader in this area is Un-Cruise Adventures, whose ships travel to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, and Central America. As a member of the Passenger Vessel Association’s Green Waters Program, the company adheres to its “leave no trace” motto on all voyages. Every effort is made to reduce fuel consumption, conserve energy and drinking water, and decrease the use of harmful chemicals.
Tour companies set, and follow, environment-friendly guidelines
Land-based outfits observe many of the same self-imposed rules. Overseas Adventure Travel, part of the Grand Circle Corporation family of companies, connects customers with the people and cultures of destinations it visits around the world. It seeks to instill knowledge of and respect for local communities and supports a variety of enterprise, philanthropy, and entrepreneurship projects.
OAT stresses sustainable transport to natural areas like the Galapagos Islands and Serengeti region of Africa, with emphasis on environmental conservation and improving the well-being of the people. The company supports water and sanitation projects in communities it visits, helped to fund the construction of a women’s center in Morocco, and assists co-ops, orphanages, and other facilities around the world.
The TravelStride.com website is a source of information about group tours and other trips, and a search for “ecotourism” turns up a welcome choice of alternatives. For example, Global Basecamps takes participants to Costa Rica, which has been called the birthplace of environmental travel. From bird watching to seeing tiny turtles hatch and race toward the water to experiencing the magnificent Monteverde Cloud Forest, 9 people get a greater appreciation of the world in which we live, and added impetus to protect it.
Whatever it’s called – ecotourism, environmental travel, responsible travel, sustainable tourism – the trend is here to stay. Whatever your preferences, there no doubt are places to visit and ways to get there that will meet them.
Photos from websites and travel and tourism organizations
After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries worldwide and writing about what he sees, does, and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won many writing awards.