Going the extra mile in the Galapagos
There are few destinations that bring the importance of wildlife conservation more alive than the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin’s own living laboratory. Guests are made aware of conservation efforts here as soon as they arrive, with 45% of the entry fee tourists pay to visit the islands going directly towards the preservation of the National Park and its marine reserves. Cruise vessels operating here have to adhere to strict rules – itineraries are set by the park authorities to minimise impact and ensure landing sites are not over-visited. Only guides authorised by the National Park are allowed to work here, and part of their remit is to ensure guests under their care are aware and respectful of conservation regulations.
As well as adhering to the minimum requirements set by the Galapagos National Park authorities, there are some cruise operators who go the extra mile to reduce their impact. The Latin Trails Sea Star Journey and sister vessel Galapagos Seaman Journey both feature waste water filtering systems. Whilst all boats are required by law to release their blackwater at least 15 miles from the coast, the Journey vessels process this water and purify it before it is released. The bio-degradable toiletries on board are produced by the Chankuap Foundation, a sustainable operation based in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Furthermore, guests of the Journey vessels are able to offset their carbon footprint through forest conservation projects partnered by Latin Trails in Ecuador and Paraguay.
Both the Sea Star Journey & the Galapagos Seaman Journey are also proud members of the IGTOA Galapagos Conservation Partner Programme. This programme is a by-invitation-only initiative, reserved for vessels who actively support the organisation’s mission to protect and conserve the Galapagos Islands and ensure that tourism is a positive force. Booking a cruise vessel which is a member of IGTOA’s partner programme is one of the best ways of reassuring your clients they will be supporting vital conservation efforts in the Galapagos.
Community matters in Quito
One of the most memorable aspects of a stay at the Illa Experience Hotel in Quito, Ecuador is trying one of the complimentary cultural activities on offer for the hotel guests. These ‘experiences’ are sourced in the local community of San Marcos, the residents of whom gave their backing to the hotel from the very start. The experiences now support the income of the families who live here, as well as showcasing the cultural traditions of this historic neighbourhood. Illa also regularly donates to the Chocolate Spoon project in San Marcos, a restaurant which feeds local street children and supports their education. Within the hotel itself, Illa is proud to have the only eco-friendly lift of a hotel in downtown Quito; no fossil fuels used in its operation, and all hot water in guest rooms is generated through a highly-efficient heat pump.
Nature pioneers in Patagonia
From its very inception one of Patagonia Camp’s principal aims was to engender a respectful harmony with nature and, 11 years on, this commitment still rings true. Firstly there are the initiatives we almost come to expect from eco-lodges and camps operating today; the provision of re-usable water bottles for guests, full glass and plastic recycling procedures and a commitment to energy efficiency. However much research has been carried out into more complex systems, which stem from a genuine interest and passion for preserving the precious natural surroundings of the camp. The waste composting initiative, for example, has advantages not just for the camp itself (for its own organic produce used in the restaurant) but it also improves drainage, benefiting the land of local farmers. Perhaps most impressive is the camp’s sophisticated water treatment system, which uses zero chemicals. No water has to be brought into the camp from outside, and the system has proved so successful that scientists from Chile’s central government have travelled to Patagonia to study it.
Making sustainability a way of life in Argentina’s Central Sierras
Sustainability is at the very heart of Estancia Los Potreros in Córdoba’s Sierras Chicas, to the extent that it was recognised last year as one of National Geographic’s ’21 Places to Stay if You Care About the Planet’. Nearly all the energy used at the estancia is generated from entirely renewable sources (wind and solar power). The farming here is proudly organic and sustainable, the style of which encourages local wildlife, as well as contributing to the strong ‘farm-to-table’ ethos of the delicious food guests will enjoy here. A zero food waste policy applies at the estancia, and even wine bottles are returned to the local winery to be refilled with the Los Potreros own label wine. More recently, owners Kevin & Louisa have also been spending time investigating various water filtration systems, and installation of the chosen method is expected any time now which will eliminate the need for bottled water at the estancia entirely.
Sustainability efforts are not just confined to the boundaries of the estancia itself however. In order to preserve the beauty of the region for future generations, Kevin & Louisa actively work with a number of university groups studying such things as the spread of non-indigenous plant species and the change in habitat due to wildfires. Córdoba’s provincial reserve team also release native animals which have either been rescued or bred in captivity back into the wild in the hills surrounding the estancia. This is in addition to other long-standing initiatives adopted by the estancia such as tree planting, support of a local rural school and the donation of clothing to a remote community in Northern Argentina.
Back-to-nature wine production in Chile
The most unique aspect of the wine at Matetic Vineyards is its biodynamic method of production, adopted by the family from the very beginning. The principle of treating the vineyard as just one part of a much wider ecosystem is said to not only improve the quality of the wine itself, but also have a more positive environmental impact than standard wine production. A variety of intricate methods aim to enhance the richness and biodiversity of the surrounding ecosystem, and employing manual processes to reduce the reliance on machinery improves energy efficiency. Natural techniques are adopted to improve soil porosity and fertility, no chemicals are used for pest control and waste waters left over from the wine-making process are treated and purified.
The principles of sustainability are also observed at the vineyard’s hotel, La Casona. Cardboard, paper, batteries, cans, plastic and food waste are all recycled, with the vegetable waste being used in the compost for the restaurant’s organic vegetable garden. The lights around the hotel grounds are powered by solar energy, and biodegradable detergents are used in the hotel laundry. Waste water is treated at the on-site plant and used to irrigate a nearby cork oak forest. The estate has also forged a very close relationship with the local community, providing employment opportunities at both the winery and hotel.
Leading sustainability practices in Latin America’s greenest destination
No other country in the world has more protected natural reserves per capita than Costa Rica, and visitors here soon see why the country is often cited as a model for sustainable tourism and responsible economic growth. You are therefore likely to see sustainable tourism in action however you choose to travel in Costa Rica, but there are still ways to ensure you book your travel arrangements through a responsible provider.
The CST scheme (Certificate for Sustainable Tourism) evaluates hotels and tour operators in Costa Rica and is approved by the Global Sustainability Council. In order to be ‘CST certified’ operators are measured on the impact their hotel or organisation has on the natural environment, its management of natural resources, relationship with local communities, how it treats its suppliers and staff and its promotion of safe & ethical business practices. Operators are also recognised if the services they offer encourage genuine opportunities for cultural and environmental education for tourists. Swiss Travel Costa Rica have been CST accredited since 2006, and are proud of their maximum ‘5 leaf’ status; you can therefore recommend an itinerary booked through them with full confidence.
For clients who have an even more active interest in sustainability in Costa Rica, Swiss Travel can also arrange volunteering or visits to a wide variety of projects that can easily be factored into a touring itinerary around Costa Rica. Just some of these include a San Jose based NGO which supports the city’s homeless people, vulnerable children and young adults, visits to a variety of wildlife and jungle cat conservation projects as well as tree-planting projects (including one where visitors can calculate their own carbon footprint.)
Greener trains & community initiatives in Peru
As a founding member of Turismo Cuida, Inca Rail has already been actively participating in various sustainable tourism initiatives for a number of years. All trains run on fuels specifically selected for their lower carbon emissions, and proper waste management and recycling practices are well-established within the organisation. More recently Inca Rail’s own internal initiatives have heavily reduced the consumption of products packed in plastic. Plastic consumption within Inca Rail is now close to zero, with the train’s on-board services predominantly wrapped in recyclable paper and cardboard.
Inca Rail have also collaborated in various activities organised by Turismo Cuida in Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. Amongst these activities are awareness-raising initiatives in communities and local business on responsible waste disposable and recycling, fundraising to protect sites of national cultural importance in Peru and also financial support for local students wishing to study tourism.
For more information on any of these projects, as well as resources and product training please contact Oonagh at Talking Stick Marketing on (00 44) 1242 506444 or email [email protected]