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.
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