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Is it contradictory to fly somewhere for a ‘sustainable’ holiday?



One of the most contentious aspects of sustainable tourism is air travel. Can flying ever be ‘sustainable’ when considering the carbon footprint of your holiday? Alex Blackburne attempts to lay out the pros and cons.

Powered flight is one of man’s greatest achievements. Ever since the Wright brothers took to the air for the very first time at the beginning of the 20th century, it has acted as a catalyst of discovery and exploration for millions of people every year.

But sustainable tourism – which isn’t about not travelling, but instead, improving the ways we travel to and experience new destinations – has always enjoyed a rather prickly relationship with air travel. Many claim that our inclination to fly is contradictory in our search for sustainability – which means balancing the needs of the planet, its people and everyone’s prosperity.

Environmentalists are right in saying that flying is damaging the planet, but also claim that it is an unnecessary mode of transport when cleaner options such as trains and boats exist. And the figures seem to back up their point. As American author and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau put it in the 1800s, “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the Earth.” A rather chilling quote upon reflection.

People in developed countries find themselves in a privileged position in that they can jump on a plane and be on the other side of the world within a matter of hours.

The old cliché, “travel broadens the mind”, is truer now than it has ever been before in history. And in the context of sustainable tourism, there are countless places whose economies depend on the constant flow of relatively affluent travellers landing on their doorstep each year.

Nations like Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Egypt, South Africa, along with almost every developing country in the world, rely on tourism as a significant and regular income stream. To stop flights to these places would effectively be issuing them with a sentence of austerity: probably the main argument for people in the pro-air travel camp.

What’s more, conservation efforts worldwide would be lost – or at least severely impacted – without the use of air transport.

But the point that rightly aggrieves so many is the impact of flying on the planet. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that by 2050, emissions from the aviation industry could be up to 10 times greater than 1992 levels – which stood at 2% of CO2. However, scientists claim that because the emissions are produced in areas of high altitude, aviation’s impact is even greater. Either way, this makes the industry one of the fastest growing contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a report by the Airports Council International (ACI), 9 billion plane tickets will be sold in 2025 – nearly double the amount sold in 2010. Heathrow airport – already the third busiest in the world – is currently in discussions to build a third runway to deal with this projected increase, though plans have been criticised by green groups. However, to deal with air travel’s increasingly heavy footprint, carbon offsetting serves as one solution. This means compensating the emissions produced from your travels, usually by investing relatively small amounts into things such as renewable energy and the planting of trees.

According to, it costs just under £21 to offset a 12,000 mile flight from Heathrow to Tokyo that emits 2.79 tonnes of CO2. Meanwhile a shorter flight – Aberdeen to Gatwick (851 miles) – costs just £1.30. All small prices to pay to counterbalance the impact of your flights.

But carbon offsetting does have its critics. – one of the leading tour operators for sustainable holidays – removed the ability for customers to offset their emissions in 2009.

We believe that the travel industry’s priority must be to reduce carbon emissions, rather than to offset”, its managing director Justin Francis said at the time.

Too often offsets are being used by the tourism industry in developed countries to justify growth plans on the basis that money will be donated to projects in developing countries. Global reduction targets will not be met this way.”

While it is mainly commercial flights that are targeted by anti-flying groups, one aspect that many people fail to consider is just what else is travelling on the plane with the passengers.

People often forget that if you’re flying on vacation to Thailand or from Bangkok back to London, your plane is not just about passengers who’ve been on holiday”, Paul Steele, executive director of the Air Traffic Action Group told in for last year’s Guide to Sustainable Tourism – the follow-up of which is being published next month.

You’ve got business people, government people, but also, importantly, the belly of that plane is full of goods. The aviation industry transports 35% of the value of the world’s goods.

Those aircraft aren’t just flying for the tourists, they are also flying to fulfil a whole range of different needs; not least of which is the transport of goods.”

It comes down to personal choice. We can all agree that more sustainable, responsible and environmentally-friendly travel and tourism industries are needed in order to move society and ecology onto a more level and prosperous playing field for the long-term.

The UN is on board; secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said in September last year that tourism was “well-placed to promote environmental sustainability, green growth and our struggle against climate change through its relationship with energy”.

Reducing the negative impacts of tourism goes much deeper than how we get to our destination. Our focus must be placed on the impact our travels have on local communities, and whether the places we’re visiting will be viewed with wonder or regret in the future.

Further reading:

Sustainable tourism: the only option

UN emphasises ‘vital role’ of sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism can help tackle the world’s biggest challenges, says UN official

Avoid plane strain

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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