THE COLOUR GREEN

All set to cel­e­brate World En­vi­ron­ment Day, Barry Oliver con­sid­ers the push to­wards guilt-free hol­i­days

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

I’ VE only just re­alised it, but my green travel cre­den­tials go way back. Well, quite a few years any­way, to when I spent a few balmy days and nights ex­plor­ing New Zealand’s Queen Char­lotte Sound. Our mode of trans­port was kayak and our South Is­land ac­com­mo­da­tion was a tent un­der the stars sur­rounded by curious sheep. The air­con­di­tion­ing was a gen­tle sea breeze. No tow­els and sheets to wash; no elec­tric lights to leave on. We left, at the most, a tiny foot­print.

Un­for­tu­nately, I spoiled it by ar­riv­ing from Syd­ney by plane (well, I could hardly go by bike), but I like to think my lit­tle wa­ter ad­ven­ture off­set quite a bit of those nasty car­bon emis­sions, even if I didn’t re­alise that was a prob­lem at the time.

Green travel has ar­rived in a big way. More and more com­pa­nies are get­ting in on the act, spurred, per­haps forced, by the weight of pub­lic opin­ion. World En­vi­ron­ment Day on Tues­day will only add to pres­sure on the travel in­dus­try to get its green­house gases in or­der, es­pe­cially with politi­cians fu­ri­ously try­ing to get the coun­try on the right en­vi­ron­men­tal track.

Ho­tels started the green ball rolling years ago with the bright idea that sheets and tow­els didn’t need chang­ing ev­ery day. Guests were told they could do their bit for the en­vi­ron­ment by us­ing them for an ex­tra day or two, or three . . . Then came turn off the lights, turn off the air­con­di­tion­ing, use en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly toi­letries, don’t waste wa­ter. ( A study in The Philip­pines found ho­tel guests used as much wa­ter in 18 days as a rural fam­ily did in a year, while in Egypt it was found a large ho­tel used as much elec­tric­ity as 3600 fam­i­lies.)

At present it’s all about car­bon emis­sions, ei­ther not caus­ing them or can­celling them out, so you can hol­i­day with a clear con­science. Since we’re not all go­ing to sud­denly stop trav­el­ling by plane, hir­ing cars and stay­ing in en­ergy-guz­zling five-star ho­tels, we can clear our debt to the en­vi­ron­ment by buy­ing car­bon cred­its that will go to a com­pany that op­er­ates en­vi­ron­men­tal schemes (plant­ing trees is pop­u­lar). That way we’ve bal­anced the ledger: no harm done, or at least the harm has been bal­anced by the good. Sim­ple.

Travel.com.au has just started of­fer­ing CO off­sets on flights, ac­com­mo­da­tion and

2 car hire. Cus­tomers can use a CO cal­cula-

2 tor on its web­site to work out the car­bon emis­sions for their trip, then buy cred­its to wipe out the ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment. In part­ner­ship with Aus­tralian-owned Easy Be­ing Green, a money-mak­ing busi­ness, the cred­its are used to fund projects aimed at re­duc­ing global warm­ing. Easy Be­ing Green’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Gild­ing says tree plant­ing is the cheap­est way of ab­sorb­ing CO but is ul­ti­mately not the

2 so­lu­tion. ‘‘ We can keep on emit­ting more and more CO and buy­ing our way out of it

2 but even­tu­ally there will be no space left to plant trees.’’

Gild­ing says his com­pany’s aim is to cut CO pro­duc­tion at the source by in­stalling

2 en­ergy-sav­ing light globes and wa­ter-sav­ing show­er­heads, which will re­duce the amount of coal-fired power that is used. When that’s done, the com­pany will move on to so­lar hot wa­ter sys­tems, which cut a lot of CO

2 but are a more ex­pen­sive so­lu­tion.

How much does it cost?

It costs only about 38c to off­set the pol­lu­tion caused by hir­ing a medium-sized car for a day; on a re­turn Syd­ney-Lon­don flight the cost would be a heftier $74.89. For an around-the-world trip, ex­pect to be look­ing at an ex­tra $260; to In­dia, $125.

You don’t have to pay, though a few brave travel com­pa­nies in other coun­tries are mak­ing it com­pul­sory to buy car­bon cred­its when fly­ing. Here, so far, it’s left to the trav­ellers’ con­science.

Travel.com.au man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Adam John­son con­cedes that car­bon off­set­ting isn’t the per­fect so­lu­tion but sees it as a pos­i­tive first step. ‘‘ Un­til we have more cli­mate-friendly planes in the sky, off­set­ting their con­tri­bu­tion to global warm­ing is very im­por­tant,’’ he says. John­son says his com­pany is also get­ting its house in or­der by min­imis­ing CO emis­sions and switch­ing to

2 100 per cent GreenPower.

Lead­ing Ho­tels of the World has linked with Sus­tain­able Travel In­ter­na­tional to give guests the op­tion of a car­bon-neu­tral stay. The good news is it’s LHW, not the cus­tomer, who buys the cred­its: about $1 for a one-night stay.

Will trav­ellers pay more?

Young Aus­tralians are will­ing to pay to off­set car­bon emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by STA Travel. Eighty per cent said they would buy car­bon cred­its to bal­ance a flight and would chose a travel agency or air­line that off­set emis­sions over one that did not. Ninety-six per cent of those sur­veyed — aged 18 to 30 — said they were con­cerned about car­bon emis­sions by planes and the ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment. But only 11 per cent said this would stop them fly­ing.

STA runs a car­bon cred­its scheme, Your Trip Shouldn’t Cost the Earth, through Ori­gin En­ergy, which funds pro­grams such as tree plant­ing, in­vest­ing in so­lar en­ergy and fight­ing de­for­esta­tion.

Aber­crom­bie & Kent has taken up the green ba­ton through its Cli­mate Change Chal­lenge, which aims to raise $US1 mil­lion ($1.2 mil­lion) world­wide. The Aus­tralia Mu­seum’s Queens­land Lizard Is­land re­search sta­tion, which is help­ing in the fight against cli­mate change, is one of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Part of the push is a Walk-aThon be­ing held in July with for­mer Aus­tralian mid­dle-dis­tance run­ner Craig Mot­tram. A & K wants vol­un­teers to form teams and walk 10,000 steps a day, about 8km, rather than drive, and find spon­sors for the num­ber of steps taken. Mot­tram will be do­ing his bit — no cheat­ing as he’ll be wear­ing a pe­dome­ter to count his steps — with progress re­ported on the web­site.

In a sep­a­rate ini­tia­tive, A & K plants a tree for ev­ery hol­i­day book­ing made through the com­pany.

What should we be do­ing?

Most of the en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age oc­curs when planes take off, so short flights should be avoided. Car­bon emis­sions from trains are one-third that of planes. Ships are bet­ter, if slower; kayaks, sail­ing boats, bikes, horses and walk­ing are the green way to go. (Of course, it de­pends what you step on.) Camp­ing has been de­scribed as the orig­i­nal green hol­i­day and will take you places that five-star ho­tels can­not reach.

The re­new­able en­ergy charge has reached Aus­tralia’s snow re­sorts. Per­isher Blue’s Vil­lage 8 Ex­press chair­lift has switched to green en­ergy for the com­ing 2007 win­ter sea­son. It’s the first of the NSW re­sort’s 50 lifts to be pow­ered by 100 per cent re­new­able en­ergy.

Ad­ven­ture com­pany Pere­grine is aiming to be car­bon neu­tral by 2008. It urges its cus­tomers to off­set flights through Cli­mate Friendly, which has a car­bon cal­cu­la­tor on its web­site. Vis­i­tors can work out car­bon emis­sions for ev­ery­thing from flights to run­ning their of­fice, car or home. There are even gift cer­tifi­cates. You can neu­tralise emis­sions caused by an av­er­age wed­ding — 16 tonnes — for $352. A prac­ti­cal, if un­usual, present for the happy cou­ple.

Eco­tourism Aus­tralia’s latest Green Travel Di­rec­tory of­fers a car­bon off­set op­tion for air or road travel. The di­rec­tory, re­leased last month, lists more than 700 eco-cer­ti­fied op­er­a­tors na­tion­wide. Avail­able for $5 plus postage (www.eco­tourism. org.au).

News Cor­po­ra­tion, par­ent com­pany of News Lim­ited, pub­lisher of The Week­end Aus­tralian , has com­mit­ted to be­ing car­bon neu­tral by 2010 through en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, buy­ing re­new­able power and off­set­ting un­avoid­able emis­sions. Chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive Ru­pert Mur­doch says the cli­mate prob­lem will be solved only with mass par­tic­i­pa­tion by the gen­eral pub­lic. www.newscorp.com/en­ergy www.lh­w­green.com www.easy­be­ing­green.com.au www.cli­mate­friendly.com www.cli­matecare.org www.peo­ple­and­planet.net www.aber­crom­bie­and­kent.com.au www.sta­travel.com.au

Car­bon neu­tral: Ca­noe­ing at Myall Lakes, NSW, main pic­ture; right from top, trekking in Nepal, camel-rid­ing on Syd­ney’s Manly Beach, and cy­cling in West­ern Aus­tralia

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