Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 12:50 pm | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

Ecotourism a Travel-Friendly Way to Save the Earth

Tourism, by its very nature, hurts the environment through the excessive depletion of natural resources

[Noozhawk’s Note from Green Hawk Interactive Producer Sarah Ettman-Sterner: The Nuvigreen Project is a mentorship experience that helps bring to light a new source of environmental reporting, while supplying the community with up-to-date eco-news from fresh, youthful perspectives. Nuvigreen serves as terra firma to support and encourage high school and college students to pursue green careers, especially green journalism. Now, inspired young environmentalists have an outlet — a place to be seen, heard and published, and get feedback. It is a cooperative effort supported by Noozhawk and Santa Barbara educational institutions including Dos Pueblos High School and UCSB.]

Some travelers find that as they bid a fond farewell to the people and pubs of Amsterdam, tears well up in their eyes. These are not the tears of sadness or joy, but from the sting of pollution that is rampant in the air. Traveling enriches our lives, but it also leaves an indelible footprint on the environment and world cultures too significant to ignore.

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The Sphinx and the Great Pyramids are literally across the street from a KFC and a Pizza Hut, built at least in part for tourists without an appetite for more foreign fare. Tourism is hurting the environment, one Hawaiian-shirt sporting passenger at a time.

Tourism’s very nature as an industry leads to an excessive depletion of natural resources such as water. Hotel pools, daily laundering practices, spas and meticulously maintained golf course lawns are just a few examples of the thousands of gallons each year wasted. According to the ecotourism Web site of the Global Development Research Center, “An average golf course in a tropical country such as Thailand needs 1,500 kg of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers.”

However, water is not the only resource to worry about. Travelers tend to consume a disproportionate amount of energy — 65 percent to 73 percent of that comes from transportation alone. This transportation issue causes an increase in pollution on a local level, and the natural barriers to defend against this are slim because trees are cut and vegetation is cleared to make room for airports, water parks and another Best Western version of a paradise getaway.

The new waste produced is rarely recycled or composed of reusable materials, and this causes a strain on landfills. All of the fuel funneled through hotel room air conditioning, plane flights and rental car gas leads to emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2). This causes air pollution and smog as the air pollutants react with the sunlight, often leading to an increase in respiratory disease for local residents.

This environmental problem increases dramatically in locations where the development has been very rapid, such as Beijing, China, where the population has experienced a rapid influx of upscale accommodations to prepare for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

An article on Geotimes.org states that “energy consumption in China increased 70 percent between 2000 and 2005, and coal consumption increased 75 percent, according to Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of the Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group. In the past two years, she says, China has added enough generation capacity to equal the total capacity of India and Germany combined.”

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These photos were taken just 24 hours apart, depicting the unhealthful smog over Bejing’s Olympic Stadium. (Michael Dodge photo / The Daily Telegraph)

The burning of all the fossil fuels required for the energy produced thousands of tons of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, causing some athletes such as Haile Gebrselassie, a marathon record-holder and two-time Olympic gold medalist, not to participate in the Olympics because of his fear of exacerbating his asthma.

We have become a throwaway society, consuming much and wasting more, causing ruin to the natural world while trying to enjoy it. There is an upside, however, and it can be seen right here in Santa Barbara. A growing number of visitors to our area are “ecotourists,” environmentally aware travelers who keep the planet’s welfare in mind even on vacation.

Wendy Jenson, a public services representative at Bacara Resort & Spa, shared some of the green practices the resort is using.

“Bacara is committed to the three Rs: reuse, reduce, recycle, and achieves this by conserving energy and water, reducing waste and eliminating the use of toxins,” Jenson said. “We accomplish this while maintaining the highest service and quality standards anticipated and expected by our guests.”

Here are some of the ways the resort is conserving:

» All guestrooms use compact fluorescent lights, which use less power and have a longer life than incandescent lights. In the guestrooms alone, 345.6 million watts of power are saved per year using CFLs.

» Green waste from Bacara’s kitchens acts as fertilizer in the resort’s 10-acre organic garden at the nearby ranch.

» Bacara’s laundry wash water reclaim system reduced the need and usage for fresh water 35 percent to 40 percent. In the process, water drained from washers is filtered and treated for reuse in wash cycles, while much of the heat needed to reach proper wash temperatures is recovered as well. The system not only saves energy but a minimum of 500,000 gallons of fresh water per year.

» All viable shipping and packaging materials, including “peanuts” made of corn, received by the warehouse are reused and recycled.

» Lobby floral arrangements consist of Tillandsia bromeliad, aka “air plants.” These plants gather moisture and nutrients from the air (dust, decaying leaves and insect matter) through structures on the leaves called Trichomes, and need very little water. The Foliage for Clean Air Council states that bromeliads have the ability to absorb as much as 80 percent of certain airborne pollutants.

As an upscale establishment, the Bacara believes in cutting negative environmental effects while providing the highest possible comfort level for patrons. This shows that eco-consciousness can reach every level of society, and in the end, what will make a difference are small changes from everyone who loves to travel.

Click here or click here for suggestions on how to make a difference.

Dos Pueblos High School students Megan Pederson, Chloe Kroes, Kevin Rohde and Yuen Kim are participants of the Nuvigreen Project, a student-produced reporting series in Noozhawk’s Green Hawk section.

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