The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Barry Oliver

EPAR­TURE Lounge was last spot­ted wear­ing a fetch­ing smile and sarong, ad­just­ing her watch and mut­ter­ing ‘‘ Fiji time’’, so it falls to Act­ing Lounge to mull over the finer points of travel.

Green is the colour of the week, it be­ing World En­vi­ron­ment Day on Tues­day (see Page 5) and Act­ing Lounge ’ s head is spin­ning with cal­cu­la­tions of car­bon emis­sions by the tonne. Which sounds like an aw­ful lot of C0 in any­one’s lan­guage.

2 Act­ingLounge has to con­fess he has never re­ally thought about his re­spon­si­bil­ity in the car­bon-emis­sion stakes, ex­cept per­haps when oc­ca­sion­ally opt­ing to take the car when he could have walked.

Act­ing Lounge ’ s guilt has to be ad­mit­ted. It is just a mat­ter of punch­ing the flights into a C0 cal­cu­la­tor — there are a num­ber on the

2 in­ter­net — and, be­fore you can say global warm­ing, up pop the un­de­ni­able facts: Act­ing Lounge has been re­spon­si­ble for pump­ing about four tonnes of dreaded C0 into the

2 at­mos­phere through air travel in the past year. Sorry about that.

Of course, there were oth­ers on board and Act­ing Lounge hopes they’ve gone the sack­cloth-and-ashes route too. He sus­pects, though, that many peo­ple don’t give air pol­lu­tion a sec­ond thought while fly­ing. They’re too busy fid­dling with the en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem or wor­ry­ing about deep vein throm­bo­sis. (In a re­cent travel.com.au sur­vey, nearly half of those ques­tioned were un­aware that air travel was a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to global warm­ing.)

But back to Act­ing Lounge ’ s guilt. The www.cli­matecare.org cal­cu­la­tor in­forms him the cost of off­set­ting all this C0 is £35.60

2 ($86). Not a lot when we’re talk­ing about sav­ing the planet. The site can also es­ti­mate the car­bon emis­sions of your house, your car or your busi­ness. If you dare. You can even buy C0 credit gift cer­tifi­cates.

2 In terms of travel, $1 off­sets an overnight ho­tel stay; $12.80 would off­set De­par­ture Lounge ’ s Fiji so­journ (pro­duc­ing 0.71 tonnes of ex­tra C0 ; re­mind Act­ing Lounge to

2 men­tion this to her when she re­turns to base). More wor­ry­ingly, a trip from Syd­ney to Bri­tain and back for one per­son would clock up 5.61 tonnes of C0 , which would take

2 $102 to off­set.

More and more com­pa­nies are giv­ing trav­ellers the choice of buy­ing C0 cred­its to

2 off­set emis­sions. Th­ese then go to a com­mer­cial com­pany that funds green pro­grams aimed at re­duc­ing global warm­ing: tree plan­ta­tions, en­ergy-sav­ing light globes, wa­ter-sav­ing shower heads.

STA Travel man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Euan Fri­day says it’s im­por­tant that trav­ellers re­alise they don’t need to off­set all of their trip. ‘‘ Peo­ple can pay a quar­ter or half or what­ever they’re com­fort­able with. It’s bet­ter than noth­ing.’’

At present this is vol­un­tary, though one Bri­tish com­pany, Ex­plore, has started adding com­pul­sory car­bon-off­set charges to its hol­i­days. But how many peo­ple are likely to agree to an eco-tax on flights that are al­ready bur­dened with taxes to such a ridicu­lous level? Act­ing Lounge be­lieves there’s a fair amount of ex­plain­ing and ed­u­ca­tion nec­es­sary on this topic for the gen­eral pub­lic to ac­cept the con­cept with gusto. Fri­day con­cedes C0 off­set­ting is a chal-

2 leng­ing idea but sees it as a pos­i­tive first step. He says one of STA’s first tasks was to make sure its staff were in­formed.

Even so, about 100 trav­ellers took up the off­set­ting op­tion in the month af­ter STA’s scheme was in­tro­duced.

That was no more than 10 per cent of cus­tomers, ac­cord­ing to Fri­day. Over at travel.com.au, 72 tonnes of CO

2 have been off­set in the month since it started of­fer­ing the choice.

‘‘ That’s the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing 25 large cars off the road. It re­ally shows a com­bined ef­fort can make a big, big dif­fer­ence.’’ says man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Adam John­son.

But that’s not the No. 1 pri­or­ity. ‘‘ The very

Dbest thing we can do is ed­u­cate peo­ple,’’ says John­son, whose com­pany has gone a step fur­ther by of­fer­ing off­set­ting on car hire and ho­tel stays as well as flights.

Travel.com.au has teamed up with Easy Be­ing Green, an Aus­tralian com­pany that is aiming to cut five mil­lion tonnes of C0 this

2 year. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Gild­ing says any back­lash against fly­ing will hit Aus­tralian tourism hard be­cause of the long dis­tances vis­i­tors have to travel to get here.

‘‘ We’re pun­ished by miles so it’s a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant is­sue for Aus­tralia,’’ he says. He ad­mits the idea of buy­ing C0 isn’t an

2 easy con­cept to ab­sorb. ‘‘ I’ve been two years fo­cus­ing just on this and I still have trou­ble ex­plain­ing it,’’ he says.

Of course, travel can never be fully sus­tain­able. We’re not go­ing to stop jet­ting off to all cor­ners of the world. We’re not go­ing to stay at home and travel by horse.

And even if we did, what would hap­pen to com­mu­ni­ties over­seas that rely on tourists for sur­vival? Surely in that case the dam­age caused by the flight would be less than that caused to the tourist-starved com­mu­nity.

If you take a long-haul flight but stay in green ac­com­mo­da­tion and get around on shanks’s pony (or bike, horse, camel, don­key), and eat or­ganic veg­eta­bles, is that OK?

Would it be kin­der on the planet if you drove, rather than flew, from Syd­ney to NSW’s Coffs Har­bour? An­swers on a post­card, please.

HOW far will all this go? One sug­ges­tion Act­ing Lounge sees is to think twice about what you pack when tak­ing a flight. The ex­tra weight means the plane uses more fuel. Surely we’re not in so much strife that we can’t take an ex­tra pair of track­pants? But maybe we are.

ACT­INGLounge is in­ter­ested to see that TripAd­vi­sor, the on­line travel dis­cus­sion fo­rum, has come up with its top 10 world’s most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly places to stay.

Top of the list is Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Fiji Is­lands Re­sort on Vanua Levu. But what has caught Act­ing Lounge ’ s eye is the prop­erty oc­cu­py­ing sixth spot: our very own Dain­tree Eco Lodge in Queens­land.

The list was part of TripAd­vi­sor’s eco­tourism sur­vey, in which 78 per cent of trav­ellers said they took up of­fers at ho­tels not to have their sheets and tow­els changed daily. Six­tysix per cent thought green moves in travel were mak­ing a dif­fer­ence and 34 per cent would pay more to stay at an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly ho­tel.

ACT­ING Lounge loves: Eco­tourism Aus­tralia’s just-launched 2007 Green Travel Di­rec­tory, which sorts the wannabes from the real thing: www.eco­tourism.org.au.

ACT­ING Lounge loathes: Eco­tours that aren’t. Load­ing a bunch of tourists into a four-wheel-drive to look at some trees does not an eco­tour make.


Feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous? World Ex­pe­di­tions has money off three wilder­ness trips. Fancy two free nights in Fiji? Or pick up free­bies to warm the win­ter whale-watcher. All th­ese cut-rate of­fers are fea­tured in Travel &In­dul­gence ’ s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily, at www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Dave Fol­lett

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