Friday, July 12, 2013

Green Travelism - Fair Marquit Value and Discovering What was Meant to be Seen

(Sam Marquit, author of Fair Marquit Value, recently contacted us offering to write a short post on eco tourism. Sam is an entrepreneurial independent contractor and a home renovation/remodeling expert in New York. He makes it a point to share with his readers a day in the life of sustainable building. Forecasting the possible application and implementation of new green building materials and technologies is just one small part of his effort to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint. For more of Sam's writings please visit his blog, Fair Marquit Value.

In addition, both Jin and I believe eco tourism is an important cog in the giant wheel of sustainability and we recognize the large impact it can have on the overall sustainability movement. After reading Sam's post, I was inspired to write about our own experience attempting to find the balance between traveling the world and saving it. I shared my piece below Sam's.  - Lauren)

Rethinking Green Practices 

                                            - by Sam Marquit

Long before “going green” became a buzz phrase on the lips of every celebrity this side of Hollywood, pursuing eco-friendly building process was a major concern for many contractors. Luckily, thanks to increasing awareness brought about by organizations like Green America, public and private initiatives are finally starting to rethink the cost-benefit analysis of green-projects.

Green America is an excellent example of shifting the way we approach eco-friendly projects. In their dedication to utilizing the strength of the marketplace to create environmental stability and social justice, the focus of Green America is three-fold. To begin, the organization focuses on individuals, emphasizing the importance and power of purchasing and investing choices. Secondly, Green America looks to shine a light on the corporate world in order to bring an end to irresponsible practices. Finally, the organization looks to promote positive government economic action in the form of green and fair trade business principles, support for companies that adhere to those principles, and advocating the building of sustainable communities in the US and abroad.

There are plenty of examples of public and private industry rallying behind green practices; two of the most interesting come in the form of major hotels. First, the Ritz-Carlton in North Carolina offers an array of eco-friendly practices ranging from water recycling and conservation programs to a clean linen program. More interestingly, the Ritz proved that thinking out of the box could be a winner for the bottom line. Introducing a green space to the hotel roof in the form of a garden and beehive, the hotel has since utilized the fresh produce and organic honey as both an advertising tool and as part of the hotel restaurant's menu.

Meanwhile, the Palazzo Hotel & Resort has taken its own eco-programs to the next level, opening as the largest LEED-certified structure in 2008. Since then, the Las Vegas hotel was named the “Most Eco-Friendly in America,” and has continued to implement green solutions that have saved money without sacrificing the quality of a 5-star resort. From promoting alternative transportation to water recycling systems, solar panels for heating, and even the ability to reuse its own waste, the Palazzo seems poised to prove the viability of eco-friendly practices. Other Las Vegas hotels have followed suit and developed new green practices as well.

The gradual switch to eco-friendly practices has changed the meaning of “going green” for the better-- leaving us richer, our world healthier, and our prospects brighter than ever before.


Whale Watching with Onca Explorations. 

                                        - by Lauren Campbell Kong

When Jin and I travel, we always take our environmental impact into account. Often, we find sustainable inspiration throughout our travels, and we get ideas on how we can change our expectations, behavior, and cultural norms so that consumer demands can translate into sustainable goals for the travel industry.

Let’s face it, flying and driving have huge carbon footprints; but they are undoubtedly our most popular forms of travel and hoping we will stop traveling or stop driving or flying all together is a little unreasonable. However, there are small changes we can make to our traveling that can have a large positive impact on sustainability.

Photo by Lauren Campbell Kong
When Jin and I travel, we first look at our accommodation options. We prefer to stay somewhere that is considered environmentally friendly, whether that be a hotel with ‘green’ practices/LEED certified or a simple campground where we can pitch a tent. We also look for environmentally friendly tourism options; or at the very least we try to support the local green economy and culture if there are any. We eat at local restaurants or purchase local foods from a local grocery store to prepare at our home base; we bring our own reusable tableware so that we do not have to purchase paper, plastic, or Styrofoam anything. We also try to counter our traveling footprints by supporting the green infrastructure anywhere we go.

When we traveled to Mazatlan Mexico for our honeymoon, we stayed at a resort that provided many green amenities. The resort was also Green Globe Certified with many eco-tourist recommendations nearby. For the fun of it, we chose to go on a whale watching tour with Onca Explorations. Their mission is to support local marine research and generate awareness in the process. In the past few years researchers have noticed a shift in migration patterns due to changing climate. The humpback whale, which travels to the Mazatlan region for feeding and mating, has started arriving later in the season; sea lions too, which arrived 3 months late in 2012. This shift in behavior has been attributed to changing weather patterns, affecting plankton blooms which humpback whales and other mammals depend on for food. There are also severe injuries the whales suffer due to the large fishing industry located in Mazatlan; we actually encountered a juvenile whale caught in shrimping net. One of the marine biologists was lucky enough to grab the rope so as not to lose the whale. After 20 mins on the phone with the federal government of Mexico (because the whales are federally protected and conservationists and researchers may not interfere with their livelihood without federal permission),the biologist was granted permission to cut the whale free; it was quite and exciting experience. We were told by our guide that the funding for such marine research has been slashed; which forced the organization to open up to whale tours, providing the majority of the funding needed for research. It is amazing to think about what a wonderful and educational experience we had all the while supporting marine ecology conservation and research.

As travelers, we see green amenities growing globally and are available in most countries; some more than others. We have also noticed increased awareness for local products. Many major hotel chains are also setting sustainable practices in place and using their efforts as marketing incentives. Taking the time to research what is available where is very important; in almost every trip we have taken, we research and plan what steps must be taken to lower our footprint and to be the most environmentally friendly that we can be. In the process of looking for green options, we find that often we encounter the unexpected, the unusual, and the memorable to tell tales for decades. We are frequently reminded during our travels that “green” is in places where tourists won’t dare to look or it is too indigenous to attract the well-to-do tourists. However, we venture to see the world not as tourists, but as adventurers—as travelers. We come to see what the planet has to offer, not to demand that the planet offer what we want to see.

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