“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing behind but footprints.”
According to one New York Times journalist, that was the definition of “ecotourism” in the 1980s.
The definition has grown so that today we talk about “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people.”
Below are three inspiring examples of ecotourism from around the world that have inspired us. Enjoy!
1. Hoshinoya Karuizawa. Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Hoshinoya Karuizawa is set in a lush valley below an active volcano and harnesses geothermal heat and hydroelectricity from fast-flowing mountain streams and is almost energy independent as a result (the hotel uses micro-hydro generators). This is an exceptional example of using a “local resource” to improve sustainable energy (at Londolozi, with 300 days of sunshine every year, you can guess what our “local resource” is. In fact, this month the first solar geyser in the Londolozi staff village will become operational).
As if micro-hydro generators weren’t enough to get us excited, Hoshinoya Karuizawa has set up a not-for-profit conservation programme which has a special focus on avoiding conflict between humans and black bears, through educating people and tracking and shepherding the bears away from the town. Lastly, the hotel group has set up a scheme to help children affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
2. Ritz-Carlton. Georgia, USA
Admittedly, the Ritz-Carlton in Georgia is not a typical “natural area” but, after spending the last six months experimenting with bee-keeping and gardening at Londolozi, we were fascinated by this hotel’s vegetated garden. The chef’s garden is located on the roof (we’re talking fresh herbs and greens) but the 18,000 sedum plants also help to reduce what is referred to as the “urban heat island effect” through green surface reflection and insulation, leading to a cooler building overall.
You’ll also find 100,000 bees on the roof, housed in two beehives. The bees assist in pollination and provide hotel guests with natural honey. As a bonus, you get free parking at the hotel if you drive a hybrid or electric-powered car, and there is a “bicycle valet” – now that’s green vision!
3. Waipiata Boutique Lodge. Mahurangi, New Zealand
In order to restore the foreshore and harbor surrounding Waipiata, the lodge owners took a long-term view. After removing grazing stock, they planted hundreds of indigenous plants, including kauri, puriri, kowhai and pohutukawa trees and native flaxes and grasses. A predator control project was then initiated in order to protect native trees and wildlife that had no defenses against imported predators like possums, rats and rabbits. This has been a complete restoration of the indigenous wildlife, and – as a result – the lodge has been awarded an Enviro-Gold award. For those of you who read last week’s blog, you’ll know that the “restoration of wildlife” was pivotal to the success of Londolozi as well. Maybe that’s why we loved this story. If there’s a project supporting the rehabilitation of indigenous species, we’re behind it!
For those of you interested in “travelling green” we would recommend that you check out the websites of hotels and lodges before you go. Here are some tips:
- Under the “About us” tab on the website menu, look for information on “sustainability”, “conservation” and/or “community”
- Email ahead and ask the hotel if they include any trips or activities that allow you to experience the local heritage of an area
- If you are booking your holiday through a travel agent, express your interest in ecotourism – and specifically request establishments that are actively engaged in conservation and community upliftment (if you are travelling to more urban-centric destinations, you can also let your travel agent know that you are looking for an environmentally-friendly establishment)
As ever we would love to hear from our community. The internet is abound with examples of eco-friendly hotels, but are there any that you have stayed at recently? Do you have any recommendations?