green your holidays

Submitted by sproutingforth on Wed, 2008-03-05 10:03

Holidays are no longer only associated with gas-guzzling air miles and water-craving golf courses. Hop onto the web and there are now many overseas websites committed solely to green travel where responsible and sustainable holidays are fast becoming the norm.

wild olive farmwild olive farmMore and more travellers are choosing to holiday on organic and eco farms, and B&Bs or staying in fairtrade establishments, and paying to offset their air travel carbon emissions. These are the types of people who take their ethics with them and tend to recycle wherever they are and also shop local. They’re minimising the negative impact of their journey as much as possible.

What is a green stay?

In South Africa there is very little at the moment being done to legitimise the claims of establishments calling themselves ‘organic’ or ‘eco’. The term eco-tourism in particular has been bandied about by many a tour operator who is looking after anything but the environment, so it calls for a little discrimination on your part when trying to find a place to stay. This is going to change soon and there is already talk of a ‘green’ accommodation grading system on the cards.

Your venue is green if:

It is an organic farm or small holding – in other words, your accommodation is on a farm that subscribes to organic principals in the process of growing its food. No exposure to chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers is an added bonus. Many of these venues also cook with their own home-grown food and produce organic fare as much as possible. Other venues call themselves organic if they provide as much organic food and organic products at the venue as possible. [organic accommodation on urban sprout]

It is an eco venue – it has taken active steps to protect the environment in some way, has allocated areas of biodiversity, or has used green architecture and design principles in the building of the venue and attempts to minimise its impact on the environment as much as possible. [eco accommodation on urban sprout]

It is fairtrade - in June 2002, the Fair Trade in Tourism SA Trademark was officially launched in South Africa - the first time in the history of the fair trade movement that a trademark or label for the tourism sector had been created. If a venue is fair trade, it is about making sure that the people whose land, natural resources, labour, knowledge and culture are used for tourism activities, actually benefit from tourism. [fairtrade accommodation on urban sprout]

Here are a few easy steps to green your holidays:

Stay local
Getting on an aeroplane is one of the major environmental no-no’s and staying in your own country, if not your province, is to experience the myriad opportunities closer to home – support the local economy and save the planet!

Use the web to make a booking
Next time you pick up a holiday brochure from your local travel agent, stop and think. It takes 14 mature trees to make 10,000 holiday brochures, and there aren’t any local agencies that we know of that are printing on recycled paper or choosing to behave responsibly about recycling what they glibly produce. So use the internet to search for organic and eco venues. Make sure the accommodation is locally owned (big international chain hotels are out!), and you’ll be supporting the local economy too.

Offset your carbon emissions
Did you know that where you go by aeroplane is almost beside the point as most of the carbon emissions are generated during takeoff and landing? The solution is to find alternative transport and, whenever possible, to fly direct. If you really must fly and can find no alternative then carbon offsetting is an alternative option, although it is steeped in controversy. [treehugger] [bbc]

Alternative modes of transport
There may be other creative ways to get to your destination including cycling, car pooling, catching a train, a bus or walking! See our green your transport guide

Reduce, reuse, recycle
The international coastal clean-up, organised by Ocean Conservancy, removed 3700 tonnes of rubbish from the coastline of 74 countries in 2006 alone! Beach litter is responsible for killing more than 100 000 mammals and sea birds every year. When staying away from home, it is too easy to bury cigarette butts, buy overpackaged fast food, go through water bottles like they’re going out of fashion, and generally take little responsibility for one’s rubbish. If you’re staying at a green venue, the chances of their already having a recycling programme in place is that much higher.

When in Rome
Support the local economy as much as possible. Eat local food and drink local wine. Don’t support an economy that pedals any endangered plants, animals or materials, such as hard woods that come direct from equatorial rain forests.