Simple Steps to Sustainability 3

Over the summer months, I am attempting to give some really quite easy-to-implement steps that will improve the sustainability of your tourism activities, whether you are a provider, for example of accommodation, or a tourist.

For this third instalment, I’m going to look at :

1. Water

2. Detergents

3. Signage

Water –

By reducing the pressure at which your water travels around your property, you will save money and reduce water consumption. Think about it – you may not be able to limit the length of time guests spend in the shower, but you can reduce the water consumed each time.

Also, install ‘push down’ or PR-activated taps, wherever possible. Such taps bring to an end the problem of taps left running, which waste water.

If you don’t have dual-flush toilet cisterns, install them once feasible. If that can’t be done in the short term, place used 500 ml water bottles in the cistern, with stones in, to reduce the flush volume.

Detergents –

Ecover ecological cleaning products

Ecover ecological cleaning products

‘Ecological’ detergents, such as Ecover, contain fewer or no environmentally damaging phosphates than regular cleaning products. Irish brands include Lilly’s Eco Clean.

These products will certainly cost a little more than regular brands, but simply reduce the quantity employed each time to compensate.



Signage –

Nice signage made of wood, Poland

Nice signage made of wood, Poland

If you are responsible for erecting tourism information signs, please do consider the material you employ, as well as languages.

Wood, from a sustainably managed source, looks much more attractive than metal and blends into the environment better. Protect it from rain, especially here in Ireland.

Also, here in Ireland, do always use both our national languages – that too will help in the sustainability of Gaeilge.


Simple Steps to Sustainability 2

Today, I want to look at three more areas, where you can improve the sustainability of your tourism enterprise or activities. Again, I’m trying to stick to basic and easy to implement steps. Today’s topics are :

1. Camping.

2. Lighting.

3. Composting.

Camping –

When adventuring outdoors, in areas of low tourism numbers and where there is no established campsite, try to follow these guidelines. First, do try to set up your tent in a spot where somebody already has done so. Why ? Because that area has already been somewhat ‘damaged’, perhaps with a burnt out spot where a fire had been lit. By using the same spot, you will not cause further unwanted damage to other areas which have remained pretty much pristine. If there is no such place and you simply cannot see any remains of previous campsites (lucky you !) then choose a place where the ground is durable, or tough and can take the pitching of your tent, without being impacted upon.

Try to light your fire by using a fire blanket covered in loose stones or pebbles some 10 cm deep, on top of which you then place your sticks. Avoid burning fires straight on the ground. Do not break branches from living trees and vegetation. Collect drift wood, twigs and dead leaves from the environment around you. Be very careful with fires.

Lighting –

LED bulbs use much less energy.

LED bulbs use much less energy.

Replace used standard bulbs with either CFL or, preferably, LED low-energy alternatives.

Your tourism establishment possibly burns quite a number of bulbs during the season. The higher cost per unit of these low-energy bulbs is quickly recovered by their much lower energy consumption when in use. One word of warning though : I do not recommend you change to either of these types of bulb for the work area in your kitchen. You need the superior bright light of standard bulbs to cut those carrots, rather than your fingers. But everywhere else, make that switch.

Composting –

Composting is not only a sustainable way of treating your non-cooked food waste – it is also fun.

Composting is great for your vegetable garden.

Composting is great for your vegetable garden.

Place your composter in partial sun. Too much sun makes the compost too dry and slow to deteriorate, while too little also slows down the process. Mix your ‘browns’ with your ‘greens’. Examples of browns would be shredded newspapers, egg boxes, dead leaves, bits of cardboard, etc. Use a good strong stick to mix up the compost regularly (I use a broken hurl). Do throw in things like avocado skins, egg shells and citrus fruit peels, but know they won’t break down entirely or as quickly as your regular apple cores, broccoli bits, tomato parts and so on.

If you build your own compost heap, by using pallets, then be sure to cover the heap with an old carpet, to keep it warm, as well as some black plastic , to keep it dry.

Simple Steps to Sustainability 1

Over the summer months, I’m going to attempt to give you some really quite simple steps to improve the sustainability of your tourism activities, whether you are a provider or a tourist.

Today, I will look at the following basic elements of your tour, business or home :

1. Electricity.

2. Walks.

3. Picnics.

Electricity –



Change from the ESB to Airtricity. Short and sweet. It’s that simple. Avoid Bord Gais. Both major electricity suppliers are burning pretty much always fossil fuels. Support Airtricity in its wind generated power. Call them and switch. It’s simple and it’s cheaper.


Walks –

Come walking with Tourism Pure

Come walking with Tourism Pure

Follow this simple rule. When you are out walking in the beautiful Irish countryside (or anywhere overseas for that matter), stick to the path, where there is one. This avoids plant damage and habitat loss. Look at it this way : where there is already damage, don’t add to it. However, where there is no path and you really need to get from A to B (like on a mountain) then do not all walk on the same line. Rather, spread out on eachother’s sides. That way, your impact is small and no path is created. Now you are walking through the landscape as would a herd of animals. Limited damage and no trace afterwards.

Picnics –

The easiest way to avoid dropping litter in the countryside is to not bring any in in the first place. When preparing a picnic for the family or group of walkers, remove the packaging before you leave the house. Use sturdy, re-usable, well sealed containers. Have the biscuits in one; the sandwiches in another. No packaging means no packaging to be carelessly dropped along the way. Re-use the same containers next time.

Reflections on Ecotourism (3)

So, returning to the three pillars of sustainable tourism, we recall that they’re environmental, social and economic. We can expand them out a little if we like, to : physical environment / conservationist , socio-cultural / societal and economic / profitable. They’re about retaining enough of the first two and having enough of the third.

And we can all relate to these concepts. Let’s look at them overly simplistically.

If tourism results in damage to, or destruction of, the natural environment (the very thing, perhaps, which brings the tourists to a certain location in the first place), then the writing is clearly on the wall.

If tourism to witness a different culture results in degradation of that local culture, its traditions and mores, then, once again, we can see how unsustainable that would be. Although we can go to Africa and meet locals with Offaly jerseys on, is that really good ?

Thirdly, if supplying the tourism products and services is not economically sustainable to the local business, then what benefit is that to the provider ?

It is this third pillar – the one which attracts the least frenzy from the green tourists and eco-warriors out there – I want to discuss. I’d like to get your feedback.

You see, in my experience, despite some best intentions, this is the weakest pillar. In my experience (and I’m not saying it is always the case), the very providers of ecotourism and green tourism products are often not gaining sufficiently.

But what I don’t want to do here today is start hammering the intermediaries. I’m not going to talk about blood-sucking tour operators who take the largest chunks of profit for themselves. No. Why ? Because it is incumbent on all of us ecotourists to deal directly with service providers, where possible. Where not, try to seek out local, small-scale intermediaries who have a true relationship with the providers themselves and who do not take excessive profit margins.

It is perhaps the very nature of ecotourism providers (and, again, I stress that I am not saying this is true of all), that they are not all that motivated by cash. They might be people who just switch off from the modern, wasteful, pollutant, greedy, selfish world, as they see it. They might be ‘tree-huggers’, they might be ‘alternatives’, they might be ‘new age hippies’.

To many ecotourism providers, words like ‘marketing’, ‘sales’, ‘growth’, ‘profits’, and so on, are anathema. In many ways, that is a wonderful thing and a beautiful standpoint to hold dear. But wherein lies the sustainability ?

Of course, those who champion all the aforementioned words and concepts view life from another position. To them, profit and money are the bases of our existence. To them, sustainability can only be, primarily at least, financial and, therefore, economic.

This, surely, is the fundamental argument about sustainability and ecotourism. That no, not just economic sustainability will suffice. That yes, a balance must be struck between having enough and retaining enough. That yes, genuine ecotourism providers deserve our support because, honestly, they probably won’t be out banging on our doors for it.