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In case you didn’t know, apparently there is a shortage of sand in the world. Since sand is used in a variety of industries, ranging from construction where it is used in mortar, plaster, concrete, asphalt, as well as being used in the pharmaceutical industry, safe to say that it is a very important resource.

This is why over in New Zealand, a report from AdWeek (via Geek) has revealed that a company called DB Breweries has launched an effort to help with the sand shortage. How, you ask? By asking customers to drink more beer, and to put their empty beer bottles through specially-built machines, where those bottles will be crushed into a sand substitute.

Read more on how drinking beer can help the increase of sand. By Tyler Lee

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The UN has declared war on ocean plastic pollution

Photo credit: UNEP/Flickr

The Clean Seas campaign was launched last week, aimed at eliminating major sources of marine plastic and changing shopping habits.

The United Nations has declared war on plastic. In an unexpected announcement that emerged from the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali last week, the UN officially launched its ‘Clean Seas’ campaign. The goal is to eliminate major sources of pollution, including microplastics in cosmetics and single-use disposable plastics, by pressuring governments and individuals to rethink the way goods are packaged and their own shopping habits. By Katherine Martinko. Read more.

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by Nicolas Dubrocard, Former Wild Asia Project Director, auditor for Travelife and Green Globe, and Director of Audit Diagnostic Solutions Tourism

Nicolas Dubrocard

 

I started my path on sustainable tourism exactly ten years ago in Morocco where I was supporting small accommodations and hotels to obtain the Green Key international eco label and to save water through Travel Foundation’s programme called Every Drop Counts.

From the beginning of this journey I discovered that there was an area where it is easy to implement changes with huge environmental positive impacts: the bathroom.

The reasons were obvious: more efficient showerheads and taps save substantial amounts of water and energy (used to heat the water or pump it around the building) as well as limits the volume of grey water to be treated. A showerhead is easy to change, low in cost and has a payback of a few months if the original one is very inefficient. I visited hotels with shower water flows between 20 and 22 litres per minute, which is twice the amount recommended by international eco labels!

One can only imagine the amount of water and energy that could be saved annually!?

A quick calculation: let’s consider that a new showerhead can reduce the flow by ten litres per minute and the guest uses it only once a day for ten minutes (already a low figure) — the savings would be around thirty six cubic meters per year per room permanently occupied!

Most of the decision makers consider that this is not an interesting area for cost savings because water is cheap; they do not consider the real cost of water, including pumping, treatment, heating (keeping in mind that a hotel needs to heat a third of its water needs).

The financial savings is so considerable that it becomes ridiculous. It’s even inconceivable to still find that these older devices are still place, especially in destinations where the water resources are at risk; massive water wastage will lead to more tension between local communities and hotels.

So the first step for hotel managers, hotel engineering directors and even at home is to monitor and control the water flow in the shower. Don’t wait, do it now!

This part of the business is so easy, it should be mandatory and it’s a shame if a hotel’s owner or managing company is not following the sustainability experts advice during the hotel’s building phase; they would save so much time, money and natural resources!

After the technical aspects, I also had a look at the communication in the bathroom: the famous towel reuse programme. Again, the positive impacts are immense: water, energy, labour and chemicals are embedded in the towel cleaning.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

What has happened over the past ten years? The initial situation was simple: no one cared about reusing towels. At some point, some hotels started to communicate about it, asking the guests to participate to the towel reuse programme. Then, every hotel started to create its own communication. Most hotels, at the time, believed they were doing something cool and positive but they have mostly been using guilt as a leverage: “Save the planet”, “Help save the environment”, “Do you know how much chemicals we use to clean your towels”… highlighting the negative aspects of having new towel every day. This kind of wording was analysed and there are now much better ways to engage the clients to participate, such as using social norms[2]. In a few years the messages to reuse the towel have flourished in bathrooms like Caulerpa Taxifolia in Mediterranean Sea. Looking at this trend, it is amazing to realize that the industry at large did make a move – but is it really a change?

I’m afraid it’s not.

Let’s look at one more aspect: the staff training. This is the Achilles’ heel of most hotels. It is very complicated to change the way housekeepers are working – what they have learned and even their sense of ethics (which dictates to change all towels in the bathroom). One can also not forget the limited amount of time to clean each room which really means that a housekeeper should not lose any time making a decision regarding the towels. As a consequence, it happens that towels meant to be reused are replaced, making the client very angry. Imagine that you already took time to review all the documentation (sometimes written so small that you need magnifying glass to read it!), to understand finally where to hang your towel and now very proud of yourself, you realize that these very towels have been replaced, destroying all your efforts to save the planet, to reduce the use of a significant amount of chemicals, while on vacation…you will feel bad, betrayed… It is enough to write a negative online comment!

And what should guests think about the resort hotels asking them to reuse the bathroom towel while offering a free flow of 2m X 1m beach towels?

I had the chance during my career to adapt and implement over a period of two years a programme called “Kuoni Water Champion” in Thailand, aiming to help 26 hotels to reduce their water consumption[3]. During this action we emphasized as much as possible towel reuse and we tried to introduce a new approach following the Make A Green Choice programme initiated by Starwood in Europe, Africa, Middle East division in 2015.

This programme has three advantages; firstly, by giving guests the choice to decline housekeeping services, housekeepers do not have to make the decision regarding towels in a room; secondly, it is rewarding guests who participate in the action (via a voucher, loyalty points or donation) therefore diminishing the feeling that when participating to a towel reuse programme the biggest winner is the hotel; and thirdly, it also means that there is real monitoring and follow up where guests are encouraged to participate in and are made aware of the programme upon their arrival. There are certainly some downsides to this system; it may in a mid or long term reduce the need for housekeepers and contribute to unemployment; however, at least there is an alternative to the towel reuse communication.

For each problem in the hotel industry, there is a solution. Some chains or individual hotels are really committing and doing their best. However, there is still a majority of industry players refusing to embrace the sustainability topics, keeping closed eyes on potential sources of revenue or cost efficiencies.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

When will the hoteliers and hotel owners understand that sustainability is not a gadget but the best way to manage a hotel and increase their benefits? When will the architects stop building inefficient buildings?

Should we wait another ten years to realize that we could actually shape right now – with a little investment, repeated trainings and a lot of good will – a more sustainable industry where the hotels will not be seen as energy and water squanderer and where tensions with local communities are avoided?

 

*****

 

[1] For the person interested in monitoring their water flow in the shower, here is a short video in English and Thai

[2] A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels, by Noah J. Goldstein, Robert B. Cialdini , Vladas Griskevicius

[3] Free manual to download

 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

 

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We often fin right over them on our way to the next coral head, but we can’t ignore the importance of seagrass meadows when it comes to ocean health.

seagrass meadows

If you dive in the tropics, you’re probably quite familiar with coral reefs. You know your hard corals from your soft corals and your parrotfish from your wrasse. Some of you may even know your pleurobranchs from your nudibranchs. But you may not know much about the beautiful stretches of seagrass that you sail over to reach those reefs. In reality, we can’t ignore the importance of seagrass meadows when it comes to ocean health, and we shouldn’t ignore these environments as divers. By Charlie Wiseman. Read more.

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Our nation needs to talk more about the future of water, which I believe is one of the top public health and economic challenges now facing our country. This is a moment of opportunity – to drive smart, equitable, resilient investments to modernize our aging water infrastructure; to invent and build the water technologies of the future; and to protect our precious water resources. To seize this opportunity, we need urgent and sustained action at all levels of government and from all sectors of the economy. – Gina McCarthy. Read more.

water challenges

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park. Copyright Eric Vance, All Rights Reserved. GPS coordinates available in metadata. Reproduction rights granted to US EPA for EPA publications only. Reproduction rights are not transferable.

 

 

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Saving coral reefs one scuba diving centre at a time

Categories: Asia, Non-Profit, Planet, Private Sector, Sea, Water, Wildlife
Comments Off on Saving coral reefs one scuba diving centre at a time

I learned to scuba dive at the age of 12 and was a diving instructor by the age of 15 – pretty unusual for a girl growing up in the middle of England!

By Chloë Harvey – Reef-World’s Programmes Manager

My underwater encounters throughout those formative teenage years inspired me to study Marine Biology at university – those, coupled with my natural (and some may say tiresome) desire to learn more about the way things work.

I started off investigating marine biological and ecological functions, but have more recently moved into the area of how the industries and human processes that thrive off marine ecosystem services, impact the sustainability of our ocean planet. scuba greenfins

Tourism is currently one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the world, generating 10 per cent of global GDP and supporting one in every 11 jobs. The Asia and Pacific region represents the major source of tourists, as well as being the number one destination for tourists worldwide – it’s underwater diving and snorkelling adventures promise vibrant coral reefs, making it a common draw for tourists.

Having lived and worked in many popular tourist destinations across Asia, I have seen first-hand the negative impacts of booming tourism. These impacts are felt socially as well as environmentally, especially by fragile natural ecosystems like coral reefs. scuba greenfins2

In response to these negative impacts I have been working with some of the leading conservation and industry voices in the region, developing a program that supports sustainability within the diving and snorkelling industry. This programme is called Green Fins, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Reef-World Foundation led initiative. Green Fins is effecting measurable and meaningful change in core business practices and is positively influencing the way this industry works. In the below video Jim Toomey (and his cartoon friends) will take you through a fun and enchanting run through of the Green Fins approach.

Service providers are the cornerstone for sustainability and whilst diving and snorkelling activities carry significant environmental risks, if activities are well managed their opportunity to provide environmental awareness and education is enormous. There are good case studies from all over  the world highlighting how operators successfully strike a tourism/education balance. Unfortunately though, this is not commonplace.

Mass tourism often drives unsustainable practices, as businesses prioritise cashing in on the opportunity to make a quick financial gain, without consideration for the longevity of the industry.  Green Fins is working to make the industry partner with government agencies in environmental management, putting business owners in control of protecting their natural asset. The approach involves businesses voluntarily agreeing to adhere to a 15 point environmental code of conduct for diving and snorkelling activities.scuba greenfins3

The end result is a win-win – enhanced business performance and the protection of the underlying natural asset. By systematically eliminating negative environmental impacts, businesses can increase the health of coral reefs and ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem services they provide.

Businesses who are successfully applying Green Fins are also noticing a shift towards a more loyal repeat customer base that make longer stays and are willing to pay more for services. This constitutes the basic building blocks for sustainability within the industry.

The most sustainable choice no longer being a sacrifice, but the one that makes business and professional sense

The marine tourism industry is changing, and those wanting to be ahead of the game need to get on board. The change will result in the most sustainable choice no longer being a sacrifice, but the one that makes business and professional sense. Dive and snorkel industry partners and government agencies in some of the most thriving tourist destinations are using the Green Fins learning and outreach tools to apply best industry practice. Today almost 500 dive and snorkel businesses across Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines and Vietnam are leading the charge and applying Green Fins to support consistent improvement in environmental business practices.scuba greenfins4

In response to the demand, expansion to Singapore, Sri Lanka and Palau is underway, and plans for replication in the Caribbean and Mediterranean are in progress. Education and communication materials are also available in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, to ensure best practice and guidance is widely available to these growing segments of the market.

If Green Fins is available in your area, then sign up for free. If it is not available in your area then consider adopting and applying the code of conduct and guidelines within your business independently by following the dive and snorkel centre handbook.

Joining the Green Fins network means joining the only international sustainable diving and snorkelling programme, recognised by divers and leading authorities as a program which is doing exactly what it says on the tin … Greening the industry’s Fins! 

Find the original article here.

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by Maeve Nightingale, Mangroves for the Future Programme Manager, IUCN

 

Cox's maeve

Home to a golden sand beach, towering cliffs, amazing surf, rare conch shells and colorful pagodas, Cox’s Bazar should long ago have been on the map as a popular tourist destination. Yet, little is known about this fascinating fishing port located in the South Asian nation of Bangladesh.

Cox’s Bazar is best known for having the longest beach in the world – a 120 km of continuous sandy shore running the length of the coastline. The town is named after Lieutenant Cox, an officer of the British East India Company who sought shelter in the then British territory after the conquest of Arakan by the Burmese. A majority of the population, many of which are originally from Myanmar, are descendants of the Arakan refugees creating a continuum of ethnic diversity and cultural harmony that shapes Cox’s Bazar today. Products of the Rakhine people are a favorite amongst tourists. Their unique culture attracts visitors from home, and abroad.

Cox's fishermen-on-inani-beach-coxs-bazar

“Fishermen on Inani Beach, Cox’s Bazar”©IUCN Asia/Ann Moey

From Cox’s Bazar all the way down to Teknaf: a place of culture, wildlife and natural landscapes

Located north-west of Cox’s Bazar town, the Island of Sonadia has been identified by the Government of Bangladesh as an ‘Ecologically Critical Area’ or ECA to protect it from over exploitation (Environmental Protection Zone as a result of the 1995 Environmental Conservation Act). It is a barrier island, meaning it is protecting the mainland from erosion by lying parallel to it. Sonadia Island provides diverse habitat that supports three different vegetation types—sand dunes, salt marshes and mangroves. Along with its associated marine area, it provides habitat for several threatened species including marine turtles, shore birds and cetaceans. The Island is one of the last remaining habitats of the Spoon Billed Sand Piper, a very rare shore bird.

Nearby, St Martin’s Island – the only coral-bearing Island in Bangladesh – is a site of interest for establishing one of the first national Marine Protected Areas (MPA) through the support of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and its regional coastal ecosystem programme, Mangroves for the Future (MFF), opening up opportunities for conserving wildlife and promoting sustainable tourism activities. MPAs involve the protective management of natural areas so as to keep them in their natural state. MPAs can be conserved for a number of reasons including economic resources, biodiversity conservation, and species protection. They are created by delineating zones with permitted and non-permitted uses within that zone.

Other important local attractions include the Forests of Shilkali and Chunuti, which are managed and protected by local communities. Chunuti Wildlife Sanctuary is the country’s third oldest sanctuary and home to a herd of majestic Asian elephants, the rare Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Kalij Pheasant and Crab-eating Maongoose, all of which can be seen whenhiking in the forest. The Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary is another place of diverse wildlife, featuring a hill forest in the middle part of the Teknaf Peninsula.

Driving Cox’s Bazar tourism industry towards inclusiveness

Sustainable approach to tourism means that neither the natural environment nor the socio-cultural fabric of the host communities should be impaired by the arrival of tourists (UNESCO). In fact the goal is for local communities to benefit from tourism, both economically and socially, without sacrificing their natural environment in the process.

Tourism can be a driver for social growth and economic development if it carefully considers local assets to build attractive and marketable tourism products while maximizing benefits sharing and reducing negative environmental impacts.

”Defining a Sustainable Tourism Strategy for Cox’s Bazar will require developing a common vision at the local, national and regional level, to pave the way for local to national economic development opportunities and work across industries including fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture, handicrafts, tourism facilities and service providers,” says Maeve Nightingale. The first step of this strategy will be a participatory consultative initiative where national, local government, tourism industries and related businesses as well as local communities work together to design the vision and way forward for a sustainable future for Cox’s Bazar, recognizing that conservation and tourism and community development opportunities go hand in hand as marine and coastal environments provide key natural assets, essential to the tourism industry and coastal communities. Therefore, coastal tourism development should be an inclusive process that values local communities and creates benefits-sharing systems.

Cox's “Women from Nuniarchi Conservation Village selling their hand-made products” © IUCN Asia/Petch Manopawitr

“Women from Nuniarchi Conservation Village selling their hand-made products” © IUCN Asia/Petch Manopawitr

To guide the tourism sector towards sustainability, IUCN has developed guidelines for the integration of biodiversity in hotels and resorts development; to integrate business skills into ecotourism operations; and to ensure sustainable tourism in Parks and Protected Areas. In parallel, MFF works to leverage opportunities for communities to develop small-scale, sustainable enterprises, which support local livelihood development. Some of these initiatives include facilitating the supply of local sustainable seafood to hotels and restaurants, souvenir product development for hotels, development of ecotourism services. In Thailand, MFF/IUCN influence coastal industries through interaction with supply chains and customer base e.g. several Marriott Hotels & Resorts have now local seafood strategies in place for their restaurants. A Thailand seafood guide will also be developed for awareness.

Cox's one-of-joars-eco-cottages-mff-funded-project

“Lunch with MFF grantee Joar at one of the eco-cottages in Shyamnagar”© IUCN Asia/Amin Raquibul

Emphasizing the importance of these types of collaborative approaches, MFF works closely with communities in Bangladesh to achieve a sustainable, community-based ecotourism industry. In Shyamnagar, a sub-district located close to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, MFF works together with Joar an NGO that supports natural resources dependent communities by providing alternative sources of income from the operation of eco-cottages and related ecotourism activities.

Cox's "Joar's Eco-Cottages (MFF Funded Project)”©IUCN Asia/Amin Raquibul

“Joar’s Eco-Cottages (MFF Funded Project)”©IUCN Asia/Amin Raquibul

Raising awareness for public-private partnerships

In the long run the future of tourism as a driver of sustainable and inclusive development in Cox’s Bazar will necessitate a participatory approach, working together and active support from both private, public sector and the community.

Strategic guidelines like a participatory tourism development planning is necessary for Cox’s Bazar to ensure a holistic approach for sustainable tourism development that includes considerations for managing freshwater, wastewater, drainage, waste management, infrastructure and other essential services necessary for tourism. At the same time preserving, the much treasured cultural and natural heritages as the foundation not only for tourism but also for societal well being is essential. Recognized for its potential to become a top tourist destination, Cox’s Bazar has been selected to be the venue of this year’s PATA New Tourism Frontiers Forum – 24th and 25th November 2016. Mohammad Shahad Mahabub Chowdhury, National Coordinator for MFF Bangladesh will be moderating the session “Rethinking Sustainable Coastal Tourism.” The session will focus on how the private sector is a critical stakeholder for the stewardship of coastal resources.

Cox's "Boat Renovation on Inani Beach Cox's Bazar”©IUCN Asia/ Ann Moey

“Boat Renovation on Inani Beach Cox’s Bazar”©IUCN Asia/ Ann Moey

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About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation, with almost 1,300 government and NGO Members and more than 15,000 volunteer experts in 185 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by almost 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

Learn more at: www.iucn.org

About MFF

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.

Learn more at: www.mangrovesforthefuture.org

 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

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Water Scarcity

Image Source: Yahya Arhab/EPA

According to a new global analysis published in the journal Science Advances this month, water shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today.

The results are fascinating and the causes are clear. Continuing population growth coupled with increasing food demand is stretching water limits around the world.

It was also interesting how rising incomes have been leading to a change in diets where people are tending to eat meat more regularly.

To read more on this article published in The Guardian Environment Section click here.

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Diving into Conservation

Categories: Recommended Reading, Sea, Southeast, Water, Wildlife
Comments Off on Diving into Conservation
Photo: Reef World Foundation/Green Fins

Photo: Reef World Foundation/Green Fins

I was that kid who spent most of his life underwater. I would spend hours swimming around the bottom of the pool, trying to see without the use of a mask, and testing the boundaries of a new world. Whether peering at it through chlorine-filled red eyes, or between winces trying to ignore another ear infection, I have always been fascinated with the underwater environment. I couldn’t wait to learn to dive and I decided at a young age that I would make it my life’s ambition to work with our seas and oceans. That kid is now a professional SCUBA diver and marine biologist working in international conservation focussing largely upon sustainable diving and marine tourism. By JJ Harvey. Read more.

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World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, known as the Ramsar Convention.

World Wetlands Day Besides providing essential services such as water, food and energy, wetlands offer significant opportunities for tourism, which can in turn deliver economic benefits for local communities and the sustainable management of wetlands.

Revival of wetlands, as in the case of Ein Afek Nature Reserve in Israel, is important for not only nature conservation but also eco-tourism, wetland education, and ecological research. Wetlands offer a range of recreational activities include sunbathing, swimming, boating, diving, snorkeling, photography, bird-watching, and simply enjoying the landscape. If not properly managed, however, tourism can also harm wetland, as in the unfortunate case of China’s Qinghai Province where Qinghai Lake became a huge rubbish dump.

The strong connection between wetlands and tourism brought the World Wetlands Day theme for 2012 to be “Wetlands and Tourism.” Ensuring well-managed tourism practices in and around wetlands and educating tourists on the value of wetlands contributes to the health of the world’s wetlands, and the long-term benefits that wetlands provide to people, wildlife, economics, and biodiversity.

Learn more how about how to successfully use wetlands for tourism through the UNWTO’s Destination Wetlands: Supporting Sustainable Tourism; Wetlands International’s publication Factsheet Wetlands and Poverty Reduction Project or the Use of Wetlands for Sustainable Tourism Management in the Boondall Wetlands Reserve, Australia.