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Should I stay or should I go? The environmental tourist’s travel dilemma

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True environmental travel is about education, and not about taking selfies with a bottlenose dolphin.

We rocked and rolled across the sand dunes of Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Our guide told us how unique the location is, how it is home to fauna and flora not found anywhere else and how it is an important ecological site for the world.

But we’re driving right over it?” I say. “How can this be good?” (And yes, I know I had chosen to do this.) “How else will you see it?” he asked me.

He had a point. But I wondered, should I even be here? However many sapling trees we plant or bananas we don’t eat in an attempt to compensate for our travel, tourism leaves a footprint on the world. We can try to be green, but by travelling and touring we are emitting gases, using fuels and ultimately harming the planet.

Hardcore evangelists of the slow travel movement argue that it is impossible to be green if you fly somewhere, and that in fact, to minimise damage, it’s best if we all just stay at home.

Fraser Island is a top tourist attraction for over 400,000 visitors per year, and sometimes up to 600 visitors at any one site. People promoting tourism on the island tell you how 30 years ago, the island was logged and sandmined. It is only its 1992 listing as a World Heritage site and its 2007 entry onto the Australian National Heritage Register that really kickstarted tourism.

As a sand island, the tides and transitions mean that it regenerates quickly, constantly evolving. But should it be a case of the lesser of two evils? Or can tourism do some good?

Seeing the island isn’t enough. The outcome must be more positive than a mere passive snapshot. The value comes from understanding it, appreciating its uniqueness and resolving to help sustain this.

If people aren’t allowed to appreciate and experience the importance and beauty of these areas, there will be no general acceptance of the necessity for conservation“, says Rob, owner of an eco-friendly property near Fraser Island.

He cites the example of humpback whales, whose population was once in the hundreds but is now more than 15,000 on the Australian east coast and growing by 10% every year. It was only with the emergence of the whale watching industry that this species became well known, and thus activity to prevent their extinction became active.

A study of tourists visiting dolphin reserves and watching in Tangalooma in south-east Australia found that environmental education can have a beneficial effect upon tourists, but that it must be part of a deliberate programme. It’s not enough to expose them to nature and hope they go away behaving more green.

Education can incite curiosity, emotion, and by allowing motivation and opportunities to act, result in changed behaviour. In fact, six times as many participants who joined an education programme reported an increase in eco-friendly behaviour, compared to those who didn’t.

A successful programme generates action, prompting responsible behaviour as well as increased knowledge and enjoyment. It’s up to tourists to choose one that doesn’t disrupt natural migratory or habitual patterns, and also to ask questions to ensure that they do leave with an enhanced appreciation of the animals, and an outlook of advocacy for environmental support – not just a selfie with a bottlenose dolphin.

One of the Fraser Island tour operators told me in great length how their tour guides all carry rubbish bags with them. But we all know not to throw rubbish; there needs to be something more.

It’s not enough for the staff to be trained and know not to throw litter. Customers and visitors must become active participants, and learn about the unique sanctity of the environment that they are to visit if the experience is to be one that is not only not harmful, but actively resulting in a positive outcome.

The researcher Margaret Lowman writes how in the Galapogos species face extinction due to over stretching of resources and damage from visitors. But she adds that she has seen in other areas the “salvation of exploited tropical regions by the interests of conservation and the economy of ecotourism working collectively“.

Keith, owner of Glass House Ecolodge in Queensland, believes that green tourism operators have the opportunity and duty to “provide guests with enhanced experiences that give them a greater sense of the wonder of the environment and the great outdoors“.

Those enhanced experiences must be active and aim for change. A token payment to offset carbon use isn’t enough. Education that is absorbed and leads to change in everyday life is the only way that the levels of damage inflicted by travel can then be argued to have a long-term positive impact.

And of course, it isn’t just the travel to and from a place, or the visits on a tour, which harm the environment. To fully understand the impact of travel, we would also need to consider resources used for travel, lodging, food, etc – all things that we would be using at home.

It is a mutual responsibility, from those in the tourist industry and tourists themselves, to ensure that they get the best experience and offer back the greatest support for the environment that has hosted them. If we can ensure that despite using these resources we are having a positive effect upon the world, then travel can be an environmentally enhancing experience. Pack your bags and get out there.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Further reading:

Ecotourism flourishes when local people are engaged with sustainability

Sustainable tourism: ‘going green’ doesn’t just mean a splash of colour

When on a responsible holiday, do as the locals do

Sustainable tourism: people power and destination stewardship

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2014

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Environment

5 Eco-friendly Appliance Maintenance Tips

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Eco-friendly Appliance
Shutterstock Photos - By Punyhong | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/punyhong

Modern day society is becoming ever more conscious about the effects of human consumption on the environment & the planet.

As a collective, more people are considering taking action to positively counteract their environmental footprint. This is accomplished by cutting down on water consumption, recycling and switching from plastic to more sustainable materials. Although most people forget about the additional things that can be done at home to improve your individual eco footprint.

Appliances, for example, can be overlooked when it comes to helping the environment, despite the fact they are items which are found in every household, and if they are not maintained effectively they can be detrimental to the environment. The longer an appliance is used, the less of an impact it has on the environment, so it is essential for you to keep them well maintained.

If you’re considering becoming more eco-conscious, here are 5 handy appliance maintenance tips to help you.

Don’t Forget to Disconnect From Power First

General maintenance of all your appliances start with disconnecting them from power; microwaves, washing machines and ovens all use residual energy when plugged in, so it’s essential to unplug them.

Disconnecting the plugs can help keep them in their best condition, as it ensures no electrical current is running through them whilst they are supposed to be out of use. Additionally, this can help you save on energy bills. By doing this you are minimising your energy footprint.

Here we break down 4 tips to keep the most popular household appliances maintained.

Eco-Friendly Oven Maintenance

Ovens generally require very little maintenance, although it is essential to stay on top of cleaning.

A simple task to make sure you don’t have any issues in the future is to check the oven door has a tight seal. To do this ensure the oven is cold, open the oven door and use your hands to locate the rubber seal. You can now feel for any tears or breaks. If any have occurred simply replace the seal. More oven tips can be read here.

Eco-Friendly Refrigerator Maintenance

When keeping a fridge in good condition, don’t forget about exterior maintenance. Refrigerator coils, although an external fixture, can cause damage when overlooked.

Refrigerator coils can be found either at the front or rear of a fridge (check you user manual if you are unsure of its location). These tend to accumulate various sources of dust and dirt over a substantial time-period, which clog refrigerator coils, causing the refrigerator to have to work twice as hard to stay cool. An easy tip to solve this is to periodically use a vacuum to get rid of any loose dirt.

Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Maintenance

Most people tend to remember the basics tasks for maintaining a washing machine, such as not to overload the machine, not to slam the door and to ensure the washing machine is on a solid and level platform.

In addition, it is necessary to routinely do a maintenance wash for your washing machine. This means running an empty wash on the highest temperature setting and letting it complete a full wash to erase any build up and residue. You should repeat this task at least once a month.

Try to schedule this task around your bulk wash load times to save on water consumption.

This will help keep your washing machine in peak working condition.

Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

Dishwasher maintenance can be simple if implemented after every wash cycle.

To keep your best dishwasher hygiene standards, scrape away excess food whilst making sure to keep the filter at the bottom of the cavity empty between cycles. This simple task can be highly effective at preventing food build up from occurring in your dishwasher.

If you need additional tips or tasks you, can reference your manufacturer’s guidebook to check for a full breakdown. You can also head to Service Force’s extensive database of repair and maintenance manuals – including extensive troubleshooting guides for all of the critical appliance maintenance procedures.

In conclusion, you can save both money and energy by keeping your appliances in peak condition. The steps outlined in this guide will help us all preserve the environment and reduce industrial waste from discarded appliances.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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