Rajvi Desai, Visit.org
46 years ago, a movement began. It recognized the sense of impending doom that destructive human activities had started to instill in the citizens of the world. In 1970, driven by the concern for our planet’s future, Earth Day was established. It was supposed to epitomize the growing realization that we need to start thinking of the consequences of our actions. 46 years later, we are still celebrating Earth day on April 22, 2016.
How far have we come?
Leaders of 120 countries are expected to sign a Paris Agreement agreed upon at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which highlights greenhouse gases mitigation and a global plan to limit global warming to less than 2 degree Celsius. Our governments are doing their part. It’s time for the citizens of the world to do theirs as well.
“What can I do?,” you ask. “Travel,” we answer.
An increasing number of hotels around the world are going green by adopting energy-saving measures like fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, motion sensors for a majority of rooms and facilities, etc. These hotels also provide sustainable activities for travelers to create awareness about local environmental and social issues amongst visitors. Although some hotels offer year-round activities, they definitely amp up their sustainability game for Earth Day.
We live in an era when people have a heightened sense of responsibility towards the environment, especially because of the detrimental effects of our actions that seem so tangible today (Did we really have a winter in 2016?). Sustainable hotels are known to retain customer loyalty because we, as consumers, are increasingly looking for conscientious products that benefit our world. This Earth Day, take an oath to incorporate sustainable practices not just in your everyday life, but in your travel as well.
If you find yourself traveling to the Dominican Republic this April, Paradisus Resorts in Punta Cana offers several Earth Day activities and environmentally conscious tours to its visitors. With a sustainable future in mind, a majority of their activities are targeted towards children who need to grow up to be advocates for the environment that our ancestors took for granted. Children will be engaged in tree planting, gardening and a recycled picture frame workshop. The kids can entertain their creativity in an arts and crafts workshop using solely recycled materials, or be close to and appreciate nature through bicycling and playing outdoor games.
Another tree planting event will take place on the beach, where travelers can plant trees with the staff, learn about life in Punta Cana while simultaneously bettering the environment one seed at a time.
The area is abundant with mangrove trees, the amphibians of the plant world. Lately, mangroves have come under threat of extinction because of housing developments, port facilities, roads, farms, etc. Paradisus Punta Cana offers a “Life Enriching Activity” to its visitors where they can walk through the variety of mangrove species the property is teeming with. They can also visit the mangrove greenhouse that was established to preserve the naturally occurring diversity of vegetation and endangered orchids on the resort.
The resort is also actively involved in the preservation of the Leatherback Sea Turtle, the largest of all living turtles. The turtles were first found on the resort’s beaches in April 2015, when the resort officials protected and preserved the turtle eggs so they could hatch successfully, ultimately rendering 70 hatchlings to make it to sea. They are looking forward to the next turtle-nesting season, when they will repeat the process and make strides in saving an endangered species of turtles.
Sustainability is an aspect that all travelers should look for in their accommodation as it helps generate a steady stream of revenue for the local community to engage in environmentally conscious efforts. If just by being in a place and taking in its beauty, heritage and culture, you can help save turtles or preserve mangroves or instill a sense of responsibility in your kids, why not always choose green?
Paradisus Resorts has another establishment in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which has been named a Green Leader by TripAdvisor recently, achieving the most demanding award for sustainability, the Platinum status. Being a Platinum Green Leader requires the hotel to successfully educate guests about green practices, recycling programs, towel reuse programs, energy-saving guest room controls and an overarching and consistent commitment to sustainable practices. The hotel offers engaging environmental classes on the beach to visitors, ensuring that all inhabitants have a positive impact on the local environment.
Riviera Maya, where Paradisus Playa del Carmen is situated, has another sustainable establishment, a nonprofit called Alltournative. Through the organization, visitors can engage in exciting activities like zip lining, rappelling, canoeing and swimming through the jungles while experiencing the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula. Alltournative also offers a tour of the temples of Cobá where the visitors can participate in a traditional Mayan ceremony. All the tour revenue paid by the visitor is channeled back into the community to build solar panels, a community sports center, additional hectares of locally-staffed sustainable organic farms and low power bathrooms and kitchens to reduce water usage.
Color yourself green in Mexico with a sustainable stay and sustainable activities to help the locals live greener lives while you embark on a greener adventure.
Another impressively sustainable hotel is The Naples Grande Beach Resort, a 23-waterfront-acre establishment, adjacent to a protected 200-acre mangrove estuary in Florida. They have established year-round eco-friendly initiatives that include energy management programs like low wattage lighting and energy efficient generators, and a resort-wide recycling program that has saved over six million gallons of water. The resort has come up with fascinating and creative ways to be sustainable, the kind you find yourself telling your friends over the phone about.
They have built a boardwalk that consists solely of recycled milk jugs, which visitors have to walk over to get to the resort’s three-mile beach.
Visitors can take complimentary eco-tours and discover rapidly disappearing species of mangroves preserved by the resort, as well as observe native wildlife from December through April (not too late for your Earth Day vacation) through the Conservancy of South Florida. Visitors can also go kayaking or canoeing through the mangrove estuary and relax with the assurance that their mere presence is benefiting the things and people around. Sustainable stays are the new travel trend, and this is one time that nobody is going to snicker at you for joining the bandwagon.
According to a new study by the Global Travel Business Association, which is a group of the world’s business travel managers, the percentage of travel booking companies that require a hotel to adopt “sustainability” measures has increased from 11% in 2011 to 19% in 2015 in the United States.
The only way now is forward, but governments and sustainable establishments need conscientious consumers to lend a hand. When you travel, stay at a sustainable resort. When you go sightseeing, do it with nonprofits in the region- you can find tours offered by nonprofits on Visit.org in more than 30 countries. If you don’t travel sustainably, your great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren might not have the opportunities to visit the same places you had so many wonderful memories of.
Change the world, one happy, green memory at a time.