Globe-trotting is becoming more prevalent and accessible than ever. But are eco-conscious travelers and their mindful habits also on the rise?
In the past 10 years, awareness for the environment has definitely increased. But there’s definitely still room to improve our efforts when it comes to translating our awareness into actions. This is due to the fact that as travelers, we usually always look for the cheapest options, rather than the greenest ones. Additionally, there’s a lot of ‘green washing’ done in the hospitality industry, with many establishments claiming fake achievements which have confused consumers. So how can you tell if an eco-resort is really doing what it says it’s doing?
We attended the ‘Sustainable Tourism Asia: Solutions for Hospitality & Tourism’ by CSR Asia event last year. The event brought travel professionals from big hotel chains, representatives from NGOs and green consultants together, to learn about how as individuals and conscious travelers we could quickly skim through a checklist of items which could really prove the sustainability impact of any hotel. This list doesn’t officially exist yet- so we created our own.
Here’s a handy list of 10 things to look at as conscious travelers while searching for the perfect, really sustainable eco-resort.
1. ASI/MSC (Accreditation Services International / Marine Stewardship Council) certified Seafood
Let’s first clarify the difference between the ASI and MSC. ASI (Accreditation Services International) is the accreditation body which will give credits to the certification body such as the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) to certify that the seafood has been sustainably fished.
Seafood has been massively depleted due to both over-consumption and the nasty chemicals – including plastic – in the oceans. Today, each person on the planet eats an average of 19.2kg of fish a year – around twice as much as people did 50 years ago. In 2013, roughly 93 million tonnes of fish were caught worldwide. Those are just some of the scary stats about overfishing, which is quickly becoming of the biggest threats to the health of both humans and the seas. This is why MSC, an independent non-profit, sets standards for sustainable fishing: Including creating eco-labels for restaurants and hotels to get which certify the provenance of the seafood.
#LittleGreenStep: Look for the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label for seafood on menus.
2. Rainforest Alliance certified Chocolate & Coffee
‘There are 123,000 acres of forest deforested daily. And agriculture drives 80% of the total deforestation.’ Those are some of the figures which triggered the creation of the ecolabel Rainforest Alliance, which fights against climate change and deforestation while promoting ethical working conditions in emerging countries growing cacao and coffee beans.
#LittleGreenStep: Look for Rainforest Alliance certified coffee and chocolate.
3. ASI FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified Paper & Toilet Paper
The FSC certification indicates that the forests from which wood fiber is harvested are managed in a way that reduces their environmental impact. Currently, over 190 million hectares of forest are FSC certified, in over 80 countries worldwide. Though it’s worth noting that just because one item is FSC certified, it does not mean that the whole company is.
#LittleGreenStep: Look for toilet paper and paper that’s FSC certified.
4. Food waste reduction initiatives
Some hotel chains can waste up to 1 tonne of food each and every day; This could be easily avoided, leading to huge savings for hotels and restaurants. There’s actually existing tech and impactful industry players such as Winnow helping big chains reduce their food waste. After planning better, hotels and restaurants can also be associated with food-donation programs such as with local Food Banks and Soup kitchens.
#LittleGreenStep: Look out for how the hotels/restaurants you’ll be visiting manage their food waste.
5. A “no single-use plastic” policy
There’s a wave of hotels and restaurants which have decided to go plastic straw free. There are also some hotels and restaurants leading by better example which have decided to go completely plastic-free (including big chains such as Shangri La in the Philippines for instance). Amazing movements such as the #TravelWithoutPlastic have also been created by travelers for travelers, to find restaurants and hotels that’ll help you travel plastic-free. You’re not the only one!
#LittleGreenStep: Look for restaurants and hotels which are completely single-use plastic free.
6. Carbon offsetting for your flights
Airlines account for 2% of total carbon emissions worldwide. You can offset your flight’s carbon footprint through a simple click online while booking your ticket. You can also make sure that the hotel you will be staying at has a carbon offsetting program. But wait- what does “carbon offsetting” actually mean? Well, it means that someone – individuals and companies – who releases carbon into the atmosphere can neutralise their impact by paying money (“buying credits”) to regulated organisations like Terrapass, which will then invest the money back into projects and/or organisations (such as reforestation projects), helping to clean the air.
#LittleGreenStep: Buy carbon credits to neutralise your carbon emissions from taking a flight.
These last four markers are really for you to go above and beyond in your search for the best eco-resorts! We thought it would be worthwhile to let you know about them.
7. GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) certified Hotels
GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) is a third party certification body which provides a framework including 41 criteria and 165 performance indicators supporting sustainability initiatives on operations and processes (while LEED certifies green buildings and constructions).
#LittleGreenStep: Look for GSTC certified accommodation options and travel destinations.
8. Renewable Energy plans
There is no proper certification or easy way to know if a hotel or restaurant has been using renewable energy but 99% of the time, it is easy to find this information online. Things to look out for include heaters powered by solar panels and energy generated from the wind.
#LittleGreenStep: Look out for information on how your hotel gets its energy.
9. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an American system of standards certifying buildings and constructions with high environmental impact. These buildings are certified to be healthy, efficient and sustainable.
#LittleGreenStep: Opt to stay in LEED-certified hotels or AirBnBs!
10. EarthCheck certified
EarthCheck is the world’s leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism. They help businesses, communities and governments to deliver clean, safe, prosperous and healthy destinations for travelers to visit, live, work and play. It’s worth a simple search on their website that the destination you want to visit is indeed sustainable / ecologically viable to visit before you buy those plane tickets.
#LittleGreenStep: Check the sustainability of tourism in your intended destination before you plan your trip.
We at Green Is The New Black also help hotels, restaurants and large scale events to implement some easy yet impactful Green Steps and have supported chains like the Super Loco Group in Singapore or Kerry Hotel – Shangri La group in Hong Kong. If you are a hospitality professional or even a consumer, we’d love to help your favorite hotel and/or restaurant to become greener. Contact us at [email protected] today!
We hope that you’ll find these ten tips helpful, and implement them into planning your next great adventure today. For more tips, why don’t you check out 7 more ways to offset your carbon footprint today? Or for something closer to home, have you planned your trip to EarthFest this weekend yet?