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Conservation conversation



Blue & Green Tomorrow spoke with Gavin Shelton, head of enterprise & innovation at Fauna & Flora International (FFI), about combining eco-tourism with genuine conservation in its upcoming gorilla trek to Africa.

This interview originally featured in B&GT’s Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2012.

What makes your trek to Uganda and Rwanda in 2013 so important?

If a picture tells a thousand words, then an experience like this could surely fill a novel! As a global conservation organisation, one of the key challenges we face is in meaningfully engaging the committed supporters of our work. We can tell them about the work we do; we can show them brochures of photos; and pinpoint locations on maps, but until they’ve been to visit our projects first hand, we can’t fully ignite the passion. By enabling some of our key supporters to get out into the field and directly experience our work, we can help them develop a deeper understanding of the region and the complex challenges that conservationists face in saving mountain gorillas. People who spend time in the company of gorillas are often quite deeply moved by the experience. We anticipate that participants will share their experiences and stories to leverage further support through wider social networks upon returning home.

How is the trip organised and what are participants likely to experience?

We have put together a bespoke ten-day itinerary that is focused on highlighting the work of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), which FFI co-founded in 1991 with the support of Sir David Attenborough. Participants will have several opportunities to spend time with gorillas in their natural habitat—getting ‘up close and personal’ with the great apes under the guidance and instruction of specially trained rangers and trackers.

Spending time with the world’s foremost gorilla experts—including Augustin Basabose, director of IGCP, who has worked with gorillas for over 20 years, and programme officer Stephen Asuma—is in itself a once in a lifetime opportunity. These are people who dedicate their lives to ensuring a sustainable future for gorillas. Our group will stay in high-end accommodation, designed and established by IGCP to enable local people to develop sustainable livelihoods that are not based on depletion of natural resources in gorilla habitats.

Although the focus is on gorillas and the work of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, the group will also have opportunities to see other species such as golden monkeys, spend time exploring the artisan communities in and around the National Parks, and visit community enterprises founded by IGCP, which support communities and gorilla conservation.

Who are the lucky travellers?

There are only 12 places available on the trip and we expect places will go quickly. We had an excellent response amongst our supporter base when discussing the idea for a trip at a recent reception at the Athenaeum Club in London. The event was to provide an update on progress and say thank you to all those who have supported our work conserving the four gorilla subspecies across their ranges in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda & Uganda; we were overwhelmed by the number of people keen to trek out to see gorillas in Africa. This trip is being implemented as a direct response to the enthusiasm shown by our supporters that night, and we will be marketing places initially to all of those who have supported our work in these regions.

However, we would be very happy to hear from anyone with whom we do not already have a relationship—anyone who would like to know more about the trip, make a provisional booking or register to receive details of other FFI journeys. We would urge them to do so promptly, though, as the limited places are expected to fill quickly once the final itinerary is published and bookings officially open.

Our Africa programme coordinator, Bruce Liggitt, will accompany the trip and share his knowledge, experience and passion for conserving gorillas and their habitat with the group throughout their time in Rwanda and Uganda. Also joining us will be multi-award winning conservation photographer, Robin Moore, who will be on hand to coach participants in getting the most out of their camera equipment to capture great images. Robin will also be putting together a book of images from the trip for all participants, which can be individually tailored.

What can individuals do to aid your cause?

Individuals can support our work in a number of different ways, for example,  by joining FFI as a member—our packages start at just £36 per year. We also regularly launch public appeals for donations to support specific conservation projects that urgently require funds. This is how many of the supporters of our gorilla conservation work originally found out about us. We also have a charitable bond scheme—an innovative funding mechanism by which investors purchase bonds to support FFI and choose the return (up to a maximum of 10%) they would like to receive on their sustainable investment after five years when it is due for repayment. FFI benefits from as much as 15% of the total value of the investment.

For those who wish to support FFI in a very significant way, we also have two very active high-value donor programmes—Friends Against Extinction and The Conservation Circle—and an increasing number of our supporters are also choosing to support our work by pledging us a gift in their will. Many of our supporters also encourage their employers to consider whether a corporate partnership with FFI may be mutually beneficial for both the company and for conservation. Please contact the Development Office at FFI for details of any of these ways to help. We’d be delighted to hear from you on 01223 431 954.

What sets Fauna & Flora International apart?

As the world’s longest running conservation organisation (next year we celebrate out 110th birthday) FFI are known for concentrating on sustainable, lasting solutions to save wildlife and their habitat. All of our conservation is based on sound science, puts people at the heart of all solutions and tackles the wider causes of biodiversity loss.

FFI are different in that we possess impeccable scientific credentials, respond quickly to changes on the ground, and build up skills and capacity within each country to ensure the long-term sustainability of each of our projects. Constantly innovating, the sustainable conservation models developed by FFI are frequently replicated throughout the world.

We are also lean, with minimal overheads (95% of our income goes directly to delivery of conservation activities) and we enable our donor investments to work hard by leveraging further funds through collaboration.

From an eco-tourism point of view, why are gorilla treks so popular?

A large part of the popularity of gorilla trekking is down to the iconic nature of the species. They really are extraordinary animals and anyone who has gazed into the big brown eyes of a gorilla will never feel the same again about either their own origins or the desperate need to safeguard the gorilla’s future. This connection is not hard to fathom when you consider the fact that they share 98.3% of their DNA with us.

Another factor is that IGCP has been very proactive in building the capacity of the tourism sector to provide well-managed tourism activities that provide economic incentives for communities to protect gorillas rather than to hunt or trap them. Though, of course, preventing the latter is a constant battle.

It is probably worth noting here that there are a great many commercial trips advertised to see gorillas, many of which might bill their offerings as ‘eco-tourism’. The extent to which each trip is directly or indirectly benefiting gorillas, their habitat and the communities who share it with them differs wildly.

“A sustainable future for the planet, where biodiversity is effectively conserved by the people who live closest to it, supported by the global community” – What is needed to realise this vision?

Our vision is bold and aspirational, as a vision should be. However, the 2013 gorilla trip and others planned to the different countries in which we operate are all tangible examples of how we can work towards our vision. The 2013 gorilla trip uses accommodation set up and approved by IGCP to deliver maximum social and economic benefits to communities who previously relied on the unsustainable use of the natural resources around them. The income for gorilla conservation from gorilla trekking licenses and the employment associated with tourism brings additional economic benefits that make living gorillas much more valuable to local communities.

Bringing the people with the resources to make a significant difference to conservation into direct contact with these communities in the hope that they will in turn gain the support of their friends and peers is just one step we are taking towards enlisting the support of the wider global community.

To fully realise our vision, we need a massive injection of resources—both financial and human—as the scale of the challenges facing future generations is considerable. However, we are optimists or we would not be engaged in this work. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Further reading:

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2012



How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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