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Brilliant Ways To Practice Ecotourism And Sustainable Tourism

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If you are an ecotourism enthusiast, you must have noticed a radical shift in both government and corporate approaches in how they generate revenue from the tourism sector. Gone are the days when all the focus was on bringing in the tourists and ripping to the fullest without giving back to the planet. Now, companies are held accountable for the impact their operations have on the ecosystem.

With a fragile ecosystem at hand, a small imbalance can have massive ripple effects on the world at large. Typical examples are global warming and plastic pollution of the oceans. Hence the new approach to tourism called eco-tourism and sustainable tourism.

In this article, I will define in detail what eco-tourism and sustainable tourism are all about. We will review its origin. And evaluate how governments, corporates, and individuals are embracing it in the 21st century.

Definition

I would define ecotourism as the responsible travel to places that conserve our natural environment and consequently improve the local people’s well-being. How often do you do that?

The core principles of ecotourism and sustainable tourism revolve around the travel industry adopting environmentally friendly practices. It also entails protecting the natural and cultural heritage of a destination. And supporting local communities. Similarly, the income generated through ecotourism remains in that destination. This differs from mass tourism where most of the money made goes to large transnational companies.

An Example

Therefore, a typical eco-tourist would visit the Smoky Mountains, a National Park in North Carolina. Use a local tour guide to navigate his way around the park. Hire a tent and pay for a few extras like a bush barbeque or a belly dance. He will also participate in a lesson with the local community kids the next day. And possibly donate to the local children’s home.

A nature-based tourist, on the other hand, will travel to the same place using his own guide. He will have no particular interest in eco-friendly accommodation. He will also not engage the local community whatsoever unless for his own benefit.

In A Nut Shell: Eco-Tourism versus Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism focuses on prioritizing local traditions, natural resources, and residents. However, eco-tourism is a subtype of sustainable tourism with a clear focus on rural and wilderness areas.

A Little History

Ecotourism traces its roots to 1901 with the launch of the Sierra Club’s Outing Program. It was an initiative to take hikers to Spain’s Sierra Nevada’s mountains. The aim was getting the hikers actively involved in the preservation of the forests.

Fast forward to the 70’s and 80’s when the most influential Mexican NGO doing conservation work was founded. Still in the 80’s, Megan Epler Wood, filmed a documentary called “The Environmental Tourist”. She was a young wildlife biologist working for World Wildlife Fund. This was the first film to shed light on how tourism could contribute to the conservation of natural resources and local well-being.

Afterwards, there have been other countless ecotourism icons including:

  • Thomas Lovejoy, also known as the godfather of biodiversity
  • Russell Mittermeier, currently the president of Conservation International
  • And Jeff Greenwald, the founder of Ethical Traveller

These sustainable tourism pioneers undertook many initiatives including animal welfare, carbon offsets, travel philanthropy, and rising concerns about human trafficking and child sexual abuse.

How Are We Embracing Sustainable Tourism?

We can promote sustainable tourism and ecotourism in four ways:

  1. Conservation

Governments implementing legislation:

The UK’s Environmental Protection Act 1990, for example, sets out fundamental structures for waste management and control of emissions to the environment. Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 provides a legal framework that conserves Australia’s biodiversity. This is achieved by controlling the international movement of wildlife.

Such acts streamline environmental assessment. They also protect the world and national heritage. And promote ecologically sustainable developments. If you’re a leader, explain the importance of adhering to such acts in your area of jurisdiction.

Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives:

Lego’s Build the Change and Sustainable Materials Center is an initiative that partners with World Wildlife Fund to push for sustainability. Several Peace for Conservation movements focus on tackling human-wildlife conflict. They engage and connect with local communities to raise awareness and promote ownership and action. They also undertake various ecotourism fun activities for youth. This gives the youth a platform to have their voice heard, therefore, supporting the next generation of conservationists. Are you a member of any of these movements?

Individuals Conservation Campaigns:

planting trees image

Take part in the Green Belt Movement by planting two trees where one is cut. If you’re too shy to walk around with a watering can and shovels, join a local tree planting initiative near you. Other than making an impact on our environment, you will interact with like-minded people and learn new things.

  1. Education

The government is continually sensitizing people and making them aware of the issues surrounding different environments. However, I believe responsibility is a personal choice that we make. Corporates too have developed conservation education programs for local schools. They provide naturalists, interpretative guides, and guest lecturers to assist travelers in understanding their travel experiences better. As a tourist, you can educate yourself about the vital eco-systems of the destinations you are visiting through guidebooks and travel articles.

  1. Traveler Responsibility

As a traveler, I have embarked on responsible traveling. I choose a travel agent based on their eco principles and practices. By following a vegan lifestyle, I also desist from poaching. I also take into consideration the reduction of carbon footprint when using air travel, bringing back valuable gifts like clothing and distributing them through the local elders and not directly to vulnerable children who may develop the habit of begging.

travelers image

During my stay, I conserve limited natural resources and support organizations and societies that follow eco-principles. These are things you could also start practicing. If all the tourists in the world would do the same, the world would be a better place for both humans and animals. Don’t you think so?

  1. Active Community Participation

Through community-based tourism, locals open up their homes and communities to visitors seeking sustainably achieved cultural, educational, recreational travel experiences.

Community participation may take different forms including:

  • Reducing encroachment of human activities to protected natural wildlife habitats
  • Training the locals to open up businesses that fuel their local economic development
  • At the same time, minimizing adverse impacts on flora and fauna (eco-friendly lodges, souvenir shops, and guides)
  • Reporting any illegal extraction of resources or poaching activities to the local authorities

Conclusion

It is no longer business as usual. Natural and cultural resources are the current drivers of international tourism. Companies falling short of the ‘ecoresort’ tag risk losing profitability. On the other hand, governments planning for ecotourism will require greater coordination between natural resource stakeholders and the service delivery arms of the tourism industry. It is only through such continued initiatives that the world will win against the race in preserving our endangered wildlife. What are you doing to drive sustainable tourism in your locality?

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Eco-Friendly Christmas Trees: How Sustainable Is Your Christmas This Year?

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eco-friendly christmas tree image

Ho Ho Ho! Christmas is around the corner. Is your eco-friendly Christmas tree ready? Don’t panic. In this article, I will discuss a variety of options available for you. I will also share with you several practical tips for choosing eco-friendly Christmas trees.

But first things first:

Artificial Vs. Natural Christmas Trees

To understand the sustainability of our Christmas trees, we have to answer three important questions:

  • What are the inputs in your Christmas tree?
  • How long will those inputs last? In other words, for how long can you use that Christmas tree?
  • How will you dispose of your Christmas tree eventually?

Artificial Christmas trees are made of plastics, metal, petroleum products, and other similar inputs. Natural Christmas trees are made of water and nutrients for the soil. However, the big issue is in the manufacture of these inputs. Petroleum products are one of the biggest threats to our environment. The processing plants continually pollute our atmosphere while the tankers have multiple oil spills in the ocean that pose a threat to aquatic life.

Natural Christmas trees also consume a lot of water. Luckily, if they grow tall, without being cut down, they give back to the environment by attracting more rainfall, creating a natural habitat for our wildlife, and giving us clean oxygen to breathe.

The problem with the rising demand in natural Christmas trees is that farmers are now using chemical nutrients to hasten the growth process. With time, these chemicals sip into the rivers, lakes, and oceans, and cause serious pollution issues and dead zones. They also use herbicides and pesticides that pollute the environment.

How long do these trees last?

artificial christmas tree image

People use artificial Christmas trees for years whereas you can only use the natural ones for just a year. Does that make artificial Christmas trees eco-friendly? Not necessarily!

The third question ascertains this.

Imagine thousands of homes disposing of their artificial Christmas trees at once. That would severely affect our environment, right? But that doesn’t make the natural ones less concerning. It takes 8 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree naturally. And if you only get to use it for one year, then that is a waste of the soil’s potential. Even if ideally these trees will decompose and release their nutrients back to the soil eventually, they leave reasonable carbon footprint and traces of methane gas after decomposing.

So what options do you have?

Sustainable Options When Buying an Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

Natural Christmas trees

In my city, there is a guy that sells potted Christmas trees. Once you order, he delivers and sets them up in your home with a tree skirt. That makes it easier for you to keep watering the tree until January when he picks them up for planting. Larger organizations such as The Living Christmas Tree Company and many others that rent eco-friendly Christmas trees have borrowed the same idea.

In my opinion, this is the best option for an eco-friendly Christmas tree. You enjoy nourishing a living tree as you teach the young ones about responsibilities. You also inspire them to become conscious of our environment for the sake of their future generations.

Besides, once these people plant the trees in January, they don’t have to use artificial chemicals to hasten growth. They let them grow naturally since they don’t need them anymore. Instead, they plant young seedlings and water them naturally awaiting the next December to rent them. So it’s a win-win situation for both you (the buyer) and the environment.

Designated Natural Christmas Trees

christmas tree love image

Have you ever driven along loop 360 in Austin, Texas? There is an entire farm full of Christmas trees open to the public for decoration. Each year, people decorate these trees as their own. It is more like rent a Christmas tree only that you don’t get to carry the tree home.

If your city offers such reserved Christmas trees, it’s only fair that you decorate the tree with eco-friendly materials.

However, if your last resort is a real Christmas tree (a branch of pine trees), ensure it has the FSC-certification logo. This proves the pine tree was grown ethically and hence promoting sustainability.

Artificial eco-friendly Christmas trees

If you live away from cities that offer “rent-a-Christmas tree-service”, you can still enjoy Christmas with an artificial tree that is sensitive to our environment. So how do you choose an artificial eco-friendly Christmas tree?

  • Buy a Christmas tree made from polyethylene plastic (PE). This is a newer technology, and the tree branches look more realistic. Polyethylene degrades naturally, but over a long period. If you dispose them to a recycling center, they have artificial ways to hasten the biodegradation process.
  • To ease the burden on your end, just make sure you re-use your PE eco-friendly Christmas tree for several years (20-plus years). In addition to preserving our environment, you will save quite a bit of money.
  • Keep off PVC trees. These contain the harmful petroleum inputs we discussed above.
  • Avoid the glossy types. These are usually coated with lead – which acts as a PVC stabilizer. The lead-laced dust sheds over time, and some might land on your kid’s gifts or on the pet’s carpet. Lead is a toxic metal, especially when inhaled or swallowed.

If you already own an artificial Christmas tree, don’t throw it away. Just stick to the basics of “eco-friendly”: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The DIY Option

YouTube is full of tutorials on how you can design a Christmas tree using locally available materials such as fabric, plywood, cardboard, and crates.

And if you have a bigger garden space, it’s about time you plant your own pine tree. Just make sure you water it economically and grow it organically.

The Bottom Line

Investing in an eco-friendly Christmas tree would go a long way in preserving our environment for the sake of our future generations. You don’t have to give up the entire Christmas tree idea. Just find a solution that works well for you and enjoy a guilt-free festive season.

Happy holidays!

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What’s With The Plastic Straw Ban Controversy? The Facts vs. Myths

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Did you know that in America only we use over 500 million plastic straws each day? This translates to 182.5 billion straws annually. How many times do you take your straws for recycling? You probably dump them in the nearest bin and forget about them. Do you know what impact such plastics have on our environment? Let me shed some light.

Why are Plastics a Problem?

Previously, items that we are currently making from plastics were made from coal or byproducts of natural gas. Things changed in 1907 when we made the first plastic polymer from Bakelite (fossil fuels). The process of polymerization (making plastics) involves heating and curing of the products. This changes the true form of Bakelite, which makes it hard to recycle them 100%.

It is also impossible to achieve the original quality and, therefore, they are only recycled to make less inferior products. After a few recycling processes, that piece of plastic is beyond reform, and it is eventually thrown away.

Plastics can stay for over 100 years in landfills without decomposing. This means they occupy potential garbage space and they pollute the waters. Some forms of plastics slowly release their chemical composition into the environment. These chemicals can cause our ozone layer to deplete or even pollute the waters, and there is nothing much we can do at this stage. For this reason, prevention is better than cure when it comes to plastics.

Why Straws

Straws are made from polypropylene, which we can recycle in theory. However, most of them end up in dumpsites. If they don’t find their way to a landfill, the straws will be on a big boat en route to China for a controversial plastic trade. Most of them drift out to sea because of their minute nature, and they join the rest of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact, the reason we have the plastic straw ban today is because of a viral video showing a sea turtle with a straw blocking his nostril.

In my opinion, the battle shouldn’t end with straws. We need to ban all forms of plastics and go back to the good old glass and porcelain. Our environment needs us, and the creatures in it (human beings included) can only survive for as long as the environment supports them.

The Concerns versus the Facts

While big franchise like Starbucks is in support of the ban, there are several organizations and individuals fighting the ban.

  • The associations of persons living with disability are on the forefront opposing the plastic straw ban. Their case is arguably reasonable. People without hands need to feel comfortable dining in public and straws play a significant role. However, the straws they use don’t have to be plastic. They can use recyclable bamboo straws or the other alternatives below.
  • Another concern is that closing down the manufacturing factories means we lose more jobs. Our nation has enough job burdens with several unemployed citizens living from hand to mouth. This concern is equally valid. However, if we close down the plastic straw factories and open recyclable straw factories, we can shift this labor in that direction. The factories will incur losses in the machinery and equipment but this is a loss that can be mitigated by the government and if possible find a new use for the equipment.
  • The opposition also argues that the recyclable straw companies might not be able to meet the demand. While it takes lesser time to manufacture plastic straws, the recyclable options are worth the wait. After all, we don’t always need straws, to be honest, do we?
  • A ban on plastic straws means we spend more money buying safer alternatives. We can look at this as a possible solution to discourage people from buying straws eventually. Whether plastic or recyclable, most of us don’t need them anyway.

You might be wondering, why not encourage people to recycle instead of banning these plastic straws? Well, did you know that only 9 % of trash gets recycled? Don’t take my word for it. The statistics are according to this 2017 report. So you can imagine the 91% of plastic trash you slid in the “recycling” bin is releasing toxins somewhere in a landfill. Maybe if you had used glass instead of plastic, we would have different statistics.

Alternatives to Plastic Straws

Now that you see the need for Plastic Straw Ban let’s discuss the alternatives we have.

Multi-use straws – This is one of the best alternatives. We can reuse and easily clean straws made from metal with ease. The major drawback with this option is the cost compared to the plastic straws currently in use.

Decomposable straws – Straws made from plant material like bamboo can decompose safely even when disposed of in landfills. However, some need further crushing to facilitate the decomposition. Looking at the trend, we might do more harm than good to our plants if we choose this route. We cannot sustain the number of straws manufactured in a day.

Recyclable straws – This option may seem viable to most people. However, the municipal recycling system has failed us. And maybe we shouldn’t blame them as much, because we end up trashing more waste than they can handle, right?

Life without straws – If you can use your two hands comfortably, you can as well sip from a glass. Does the drink taste different? Not really! The straws are just mental barriers we have created over time. Our forefathers didn’t use plastics, and that’s why we found a clean world to live in. Will our future generations say the same?

In Conclusion

Several states within the USA have already effected The Plastic Straw Ban. In some states like Seattle and Oakland, they have passed “a straw-upon-request” ordinance. Other cities are still drafting similar legislation, but the negative public reception with demonstration against the ban is making it almost impossible.

I believe with or without legislative laws, we can all support the ban individually. When you order a drink, choose to sip from the glass or use the above alternatives for the sake of our environment. If we all unite against plastic straws, the manufacturers will soon join in the plastic straw ban, and together we will make our environment safer for our future generations.

 

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Fashion

A Guide to Ethical Fashion and Why You Should be Part of It

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Ethical Fashion Image

For most of us, shopping for clothes is a normal process, and we do not take the time to find out the nitty-gritty details about the clothes we purchase. Fashion houses are always competing on the latest fashion trends. And the best part is that most of these trendy clothes are affordable. It is now possible to look good without breaking the bank.

However, do you know what goes on behind the scenes in the fashion industry? Have you ever heard of sustainable fashion or Eco fashion? All these terms refer to ethical fashion; a term that is yet to be embraced by many “fashionistas”, but it is gradually gaining popularity. Most people think that ethical fashion is expensive. It’s not. In this article, I will explain this concept.

What is Ethical fashion?

Ethical fashion is more of a movement that aims to stop the production of high street items on a low-cost budget. In simple terms, ethical fashion is a call to all fashion designers to be ethical. It addresses all aspects of the fashion industry including fashion design, manufacturing, and retail and purchasing.

ethical fashion industry image

What do I mean?

Ethical fashion guarantees that in the next century, our environment will not be highly polluted by decomposing fashion waste products. Additionally, the designers will not continue cutting trees, killing animals, and other similar degrading social activities in an effort to find raw materials to sustain their industry. By embracing sustainable fashion, we embrace positive social responsibility and preserve our environment.

Why is Ethical Fashion Important?

As I mentioned above, for the trendy clothes to be affordable for many people, several sacrifices have to be made. Some of these sacrifices are detrimental to other human beings, animals, and the environment itself. Ethical fashion sheds light on the bad practices that take place behind the scenes that you and I, as consumers, are not aware of when buying the finished product. The critical areas that ethical fashion scrutinizes include:

  1. The working conditions of the laborers’

In over-populated countries like China, labor is widely available and cheap. Research shows that the laborers are exploited by working overtime, skipping meals, while being paid peanuts. Similarly, there are also cases of child labor and the worst part is the congested and unhygienic working environments with an aim to cut down on production costs. Ethical fashion fights against these poor working conditions.

  1. Chemicals used in the textile industries

Polyester is a product of petroleum, and it is one of the most used fabrics. Its production requires a lot of crude oil, and in the process, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere, which causes respiratory diseases. Eco fashion aims to protect our environment.

  1. Animal rights

Cruelty-free fashion image

Animal cruelty continues to be a controversial topic in the fashion industry. Many people are quick to argue that we cannot be comfortable eating meat yet we are uncomfortable wearing fur or leather from the same animals. However, the bone of contention is the intentional killing of these animals for the sake of their skin other than for food purposes. Either way, we can let our furry friends live in peace if we chose to embrace ethical fashion.

  1. Environmental degrading

There is a lot of competition among the numerous fashion houses. All of them want to outdo each other. Consequently, they keep coming up with new fashion trends that are affordable, and they aim to sell many pieces so they can continue being relevant. However, the problem comes in the manufacturing bit. Cotton is one of the most used fabric, and some of the pesticides and insecticides used in the cotton plantations are harmful to the environment. When we, as consumers, damp the torn and worn out garments, these pesticides find their way back into rivers and soil. As a result, we contribute to degrading our environment.

  1. Sustainable production

Fashion trends keep changing every single day. This is not a bad thing. However, the rapid change of the fashion trends is what fuels the bad practices addressed by ethical fashion. Renowned companies like H&M have embraced eco-fashion, and they are now using eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing practices.

Why should you practice Ethical Fashion?

The most important reason why you and I need to be part of the ethical fashion movement is to put to an end the bad practices that are never talked about by fashion designers. We need to be assertive and take time to scrutinize every detail of the clothes we are buying. It is the high time we put an end to the animal cruelty, exploitation of labor in the developing countries, and the damage to our environment.

ethical shopping image

There are two ways you can know whether a particular clothing line is ethical;

  1. Manufacturers always list the materials used. The list builds confidence in the consumers, and you will be able to know what the clothes are made of before purchasing them.
  2. Go through the company website. A fashion line that is serious about ethical fashion will always state this fact to the public. If the designer does not mention anything, send them an email and ask them.

We should wholeheartedly welcome any movement that seeks to protect our environment and buying eco-friendly clothes is only the beginning. There are numerous ways we can protect our environment and put an end to its degradation.

Are there affordable Vegan brands that promote ethical fashion?

Yes, many fashion lines have embraced sustainable fashion or Eco-fashion. Some of them include:

  • PACT Apparel
  • Krochet Kids Intl
  • Ararose
  • SmartGlamour
  • Threads for Thought
  • Cossac
  • Swap
  • Friday’s project
  • thredUP
  • Jan n June

You can also use the Good on You App. The App will help you find ethical clothing lines that match your taste. In addition, it has tons of information on different ethical brands in the market. The App makes it easy for you to find out which of these stores have discounts.

Good on You App Image

In addition to the clothing lines, some cosmetic companies have also embraced the manufacturing of products without harming animals. The cruelty-free brands safeguard animal rights, and they are against the testing of cosmetics on animals. Therefore, you can have eco-friendly clothes and cosmetics too. How cool is that!

In conclusion

Ethical fashion has gone a long way in creating awareness in the fashion industry. It is refreshing to find more eco-friendly products slowly filling up our shelves, and there is absolutely no reason to continue damaging the environment. There are even coral safe sunscreens to ensure that we don’t damage our marine environment.

Ethical Fashion also encourages slow fashion which aims to curb the massive production of high fashion items on a low-cost budget. Slow fashion emphasizes the need to buy vintage clothes instead of dashing for the latest trendy designs, making your clothes or accessories at home, and repairing or redesigning old clothes. This factor will help to break the never-ending production cycle.

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