The perfect sustainable travel tools to let you carry safe drinking water with you wherever your adventures take you, LifeStraw’s range of refillable water bottles use their award-winning built-in filter technology to make contaminated water safe to drink while you are on the move. They’re ultralight, have a flip-top mouthpiece and carabineer so you can attach them to your bag, and are BPA and chemical free. The filtered water has no aftertaste either, because LifeStraw doesn’t use iodine or iodinated resin chemicals like most water-filtering pills. Look out for both the adult bottle and colourful versions for kids.
A brilliant way to help us travel sustainably for ourselves and our planet, Slow Travel is part of The Slow Movement, a delicious push to reclaim time on our own terms. ‘A cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better’, as Carl Honoré brilliantly put it in his book In Praise of Slow.
The movement began in the mid 1980s with the Slow Food Movement, and now applies to many fields of human activity, from slow cities to slow fashion to slow cinema. The world’s current passion for mindfulness, decluttering, downsizing, home schooling and organic food is all part of being ‘slow’. It’s not about going at a snail’s pace, but about taking the time that’s needed for everything. Of ‘savouring the hours, rather than counting them’, as Honoré says. Of reclaiming space to reconnect with ourselves, other people, and what matters to us in life.
Slow Travel is a brilliant way to do all this. It’s all about embracing the journey as much as the destination. About taking the train rather than a budget flight, say, and using the increased space and time to write, read, talk, draw, snack, stretch your legs or admire the expansive view. It’s about moving by foot or by bike rather than car or plane, so you can truly absorb the landscape, and feel the real time it takes to move from place to place. ‘Rolling through a country rather than over it’, as author Ed Gillespie so cleverly said in his book Only Planet, his book about his 381 day trip around the world without flying.
When we reach our destination, Slow Travel suggests that less is very much more. When I first started travelling, I remember very clearly reading a guidebook from cover to cover (usually a Lonely Planet), pencil in hand, and urgently underlining everything I wanted to see on my upcoming trip. Once there, I would take in the sights as if there was no tomorrow – enjoying them, for sure, but always with a certain devil on my shoulder urging me on quickly to get to the next thing and get through the list. On one particular three month long trip through India by train in my 20s I remember feeling hugely disappointed that I hadn’t had the time to make it to the temples at Hampi. It was that stuck with me, rather than all the other delightful and colourful things I had seen.
Slow Travel is about getting away from this race. Of seeing just one or two places fully, rather than trying to pack lots in. To have a connection with something that not everyone else might have seen. Of choosing to go to the less seen sight of a place, rather than the central tourist feature. Slow Travel is about immersing yourself in a local culture and local life, so you can connect to a place and its people and feel more enriched by the experience.
When we travel slowly, we carefully select things to do that nourish and relax us, rather than stress us out, so we return to our lives renewed rather than more frazzled than when we left. We might stay in a place longer – to volunteer, take a cultural course in cooking or a language, or go ‘wwoofing’ (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). We might go self catering, to shop locally and have a taste of living in a destination rather than just visiting. When we do stay at a hotel, slow travellers make sure it’s a hotel that embraces local culture and customs in its decor, cuisine and activities, rather than hiding its guests away in bland and hermetically sealed rooms. It might be locally owned and run, or it might employ all-local staff. Certainly it gives back to the local community, and enables us to do so too.
Slow Travel is soothing, comfortable, happy. It allows you divert off course, and not have to follow a set itinerary. It can entail not going away at all, and exploring our locality instead. Finding out what you might have down the road from your house, or in a neighbouring county, island or state, that you might not ever have explored before. It’s about travelling locally, and seeing something in a new light, or making sure you have seen all the delights that your own country has to offer rather than fly thousands of miles to see something that might just be a little bit the same. As Gillespie says in The Guardian, referring to Scotland: ‘I know Inverness is hardly a substitute for the Maldives, but it is a little strange to hear your fellow countrymen waxing lyrical about the magnificent mountains of New Zealand when they’ve never even seen the Cairngorms.’
Isn’t it time we all embraced Slow Travel?
Isn’t it time for the trillion dollar wellness industry to wake up when it comes to sustainability ? Here at NOW we are confused that the spa and wellness industry isn’t doing far more far quicker to become sustainable for both people and planet, most especially in the name of sustainable travel and tourism. So we asked Chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Sustainability Initiative Bonnie Baker a series of questions to help explain it. Bonnie is the Vice President of the Board of Directors of Green Spa Network and has over 20 years of experience in the Spa and Wellness industry. A Managing Partner of Satteva Spa and Wellness Concepts, she is also an anthropologist, licensed massage therapist, aesthetician and yoga instructor.
Why hasn’t the spa industry responded to sustainability before now?
Because of both practical and philosophical challenges.
- A very small percentage of resort and wellness facilities are taking sustainability seriously by incorporating it into their core values.
- Sustainability requires practices that promote regeneration over time. The industry invests in short term return rather than long term results in brand development and environmental impact. There is a perceived cost or impact to the bottom line figures when implementing eco-savvy measures.
- Ownership / Management resist taking risks of implementing strategies toward sustainable outcomes due to “green washing,” and the stigma associated with it. Few companies are willing to take a stand and conduct due diligence necessary for talking or taking more robust action. Authentic “Eco” oriented competitors have the competitive advantage.
- There is an underlying belief that personal wellness can exist in isolation, a perceived separation of people from Nature as part of the larger “Web of Life”.
- The term Sustainability could be adding to confusion about a course of action. Sustainability implies maintaining the existing state of affairs while natural systems are inherently changing, evolving and fluctuating.
What do you think are the most urgent issues concerning sustainability and health for both planet and people in wellness tourism and the spa industry?
The work of wellness must have a dynamic approach, incorporating individuals and the business into larger circles of connectivity and co-evolution that emphasize ecological, economic and social impact.
Reforestation, water, plastic reduction, air quality and alternative energy are the most urgent issues concerning health for the planet and people.
- Reforestation is the most urgent need affecting the planet. Carbon emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels continue to rise and according to the UN, the world needs 350m hectares of forests to be restored by 2030 and help us stay under 2°C. That is over 13 billion trees per year planted (and surviving) 2 trees per person per year.
- The original concept of Spa is “health through waters,” making water a fundamental resource for the Spa industry. Issues affecting water sources such as contamination and consumption are important topics for the Spa industry and travel sector alike as waterfront destinations see the consequences of ecological impact.
- Although water conservation is perhaps not the most important issue for a manager’s agenda, water restrictions would certainly affect guest satisfaction, and the important point is that water efficiency, management programs and investment in water saving technology will reduce costs (up to 40%) and save the resource.
- Plastics contamination and pollution of the oceans, waterways and eco-systems affects plant and animal life.
- The increased need for organic ingredients requires a new approach to agriculture and soil health.
Are there any solutions, and if so, what are they?
- By building a treatment program, menu, or travel itinerary that highlights the native botanical, geophysical, or cultural features, a destination creates opportunities for programming, marketing and investment that clients and guests will find compelling. Guests feel more comfortable as they themselves recognize the urgency for the wellness industry to take measures to protect the environment and reduce the impacts of a the industrialized world.
- Trees are the best technology to combat climate change, regulate the water cycle, and filter air according to the non-profit organization We Forest. Tree planting initiatives are abundant and can be tailored to global and local community initiatives through hotels and Spas.
- Tactical approaches to eliminating toxic chemicals, using “eco-friendly” products, installing water purification systems, and linen re-use programs coupled with marketing, guest incentives and loyalty programs have proven to have positive results on many levels.
- Innovation and alternative solutions to plastic such as algae are being developed as a possible packaging resource, for oxygen production and energy solutions, according to Anne Bramham of ASTECC.
- Make sustainability more accessible, less “Elite,” celebrating small steps and a globally accessible approach.
- Re-definition and re-visioning of economic models to prioritize ROI as a regenerative index.
- “Green Spa” development, natural influences in “healing” design as part of overall infrastructure and program.
- Initiate public conversation, encourage responsible media coverage and education for the public and politicians.
- Stimulate deeper, more conscious “wellness” conversations.
What would be the fastest or easiest issue to fix and what would it take?
There is no quick fix or easy solution in itself. There are three main levels for action: Plastic reduction, water conservation and reforestation are the most practical and impactful solutions for our industry.
All would take a commitment and management level mandates to implement policies and procedures that
(1) regulate the use of plastics and create recycling programs,
(2) install water flow equipment, filtration and regulate usage,
(3) channel resources towards reforestation efforts through larger non-profits and initiatives that are able to implement.
It is incumbent on businesses to step ahead of legislation and create their own sustainability statements and green core values. Creating internal sustainability departments and green teams dedicated to develop standards and research practical tools is one solution.
Resources can be found through LEED Certification, EarthCheck, New Plastics Economy Innovation Center and The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST). Agenda 2030 is a guide to the future and represents business opportunities for companies to design their own strategies. The Green Spa Network has practical tools and assessments for Spas that want to actively pursue a green path. Businesses are powerful change makers and are beginning to compete not only to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world.
It simply makes sense to be kind to our benefactor, the Earth, to contribute to environments that are health-giving, and to begin to comprehend that the Human being and the Earth being are in the same need of Well-being.
To understand how spas can be sustainable (and highly unsustainable) in their practices, products, architecture, treatment and training of staff, read our feature Just How Healthy Are Spas.
NOW urge travellers to support only sustainable travel experiences. To find out if a spa is sustainable, download our Super Tough NOW Questions to Ask Before Booking a Spa.
This month itmustbeNOW Magazine talks to Charlotte Landolt-Nardin, the founder of Jardin des Monts. Meaning Garden of the Mountains, this exceptional certified organic brand of infusions, syrups and cosmetic products uses herbs and plants hand harvested from a mountaintop garden in the Swiss Alps and artisanal processes inspired by traditional herbalism. Use them to help you travel more sustainably. Find out more at https://www.jardindesmonts.ch/en/
One word that describes you?
Which is your favourite part of your job?
The balance. I love harvesting the plants in our garden, the creation of products and connecting with people in our team and our customers.
Who is your greatest influence?
My father, his love and respect for nature, and his commitment to sustainability.
Best advice you’ve been given?
There is always a solution.
What was your Plan B?
To be a humanitarian and work with kids.
Your personal indulgence?
Walking in nature and breathing fresh air.
What steps do you take to make your life more sustainable?
I go to the market to buy local organic products with no packaging directly from the farmers. Organic products should not touch plastic, and most shops have too much packaging. I recycle. I support sustainable companies.
What hotels walk the talk on sustainability in your experience?
All the Soneva hotels. I have stayed at the lovely Soneva Kiri in Thailand.
What must happen now to help make our planet more sustainable?
It must be NOW that we take action. There are many sustainable solutions. Hotels must act to become truly sustainable, use energy and water resources better, support local communities, serve local water in glass bottles and get rid of plastic bottles, and stop using all products made from petroleum.
If you could have one hour with a world leader, who would it be and what would you say?
If he was still alive today, I would have chosen to get to know Nelson Mandela. He was imprisoned for decades but he did not lose his humanity and helped bring together people of different colour and race.
Any regrets so far?
When a person grows up and looks back, we realise that there is always something we can do better. Time goes by too fast and we must pause and enjoy the moment, and have a more natural lifestyle.
Cited on The New York Times’ ‘where to go in 2018’ list, this tiny Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas has made human happiness a top priority by cleverly measuring the Gross National Happiness of its population since the 1970s. Introduced by the country’s fourth king, father of today’s ruler, GNH is seen as more important than Gross Domestic Product, and embraces sustainable tourism, development and the environment, education and health, and the preservation of its rich cultural heritage and traditions.
Despite having its share of poverty and illiteracy, Bhutan is generally seen as the happiest country in Asia for its focus on GNH, inspiring mountain scenery and strong sense of national identity. It’s the world’s only carbon-negative country, producing less carbon than its lush and varied forests absorb. Cigarettes are banned, and the population is required to wear national costume – a tartan judo-style jacket known as Driglam Namzha – during daylight hours.
Land-locked between India, China, and Nepal, Bhutan has been almost completely cut off for centuries, and it has never been conquered or wholly colonised by other nations. Radio broadcasting began in 1973, but television and the internet were banned until 1999. It’s overwhelmingly Buddhist, with a large Hindu minority, but also deeply superstitious: traditional homes have carved wooden erect phalluses on the main door lintels to ward off evil spirits.
Bhutan allowed its first foreign tourists in 1974, and now specializes in high value, low impact tourism. Its dependence on travellers brings opportunities and employment for local communities but a range of challenges too. To help secure its long-term economic development and sustainability, tourists can only visit by booking through licensed tour operators with packages that cost $200 to $250 a day, depending on the season. Some of that money is earmarked by the government for health care, free schools and infrastructure.
The fifth and current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (affectionately known as K-5, also the name of a local whisky) is passionate about making tourism work for his country. He created, for example, The Laya Royal Highlander Festival, held each October, to attract tourists to a poor region with an ethnic nomadic population. It showcases events such as yak judging, wrestling matches, pony races, native dancing and a contest for the best mastiff dog – as you do.
Go to Bhutan to have an astrologer read your fortune, watch the migration of white heron birds, hike mountains, cross rivers, climb to Tiger’s Nest monastery, visit Paro and be fascinated by the former capital Punakha, which best shows Bhutan’s regal past. For more information go to tourism.gov.bt.
There is no better demonstration of how hotels, lodges, tour operators and airlines can do their bit to support the environmental and social health of our planet than a whirlwind tour of this year’s Tourism for Tomorrow finalists. Organised by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the Tourism for Tomorrow Award judges have selected finalists under five themes; community, destination, environment, innovation and people. By understanding the issues and solutions facing the travel industry, travellers are empowered to make more informed choices, so read on…
It feels hard to imagine witnessing the health of a community decline as tourism businesses around it prosper, but sadly this can often be the case. Healthy communities provide more committed employees, a better cared-for local environment and therefore happier guests. A travel operator that knows this better than most is &Beyond – through its non-profit Africa Foundation, it has set up community projects, including building classrooms and clinics, in 56 communities throughout South Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa. On the other side of the Atlantic, Uakari Lodge uses tourism to provide meaningful employment to 10 surrounding communities – each US$1 generated by the lodge creates US$5 for the local community. Taking an even more direct approach to supporting communities, over 500 travellers have helped Global Himalayan Expedition set up a solar powered microgrid in previously off-grid Himalayan villages.
So much of why we travel is because of the extraordinary beauty of the natural world, which is in a more fragile state than ever. Supporting a healthy environment involves biodiversity conservation, protection of natural habitats and addressing climate change. Airports and aren’t renowned for sustainability but everyone needs to do their bit. Thanks to collaborative efforts with suppliers Airport Authority Hong Kong has achieved a 25.6% reduction in its carbon intensity. Melia Resorts in Mexico have committed to protecting mangrove forests and restoring neighbouring reefs. On the opposite end of the scale, since 1995 the tiny 1km long Chumbe Island Coral Park has shared its inspiring, conservation-led outlook and precious environment with 9,400 local people — who in turn now want to protect what they see.
Venice, Barcelona and Thailand are just a few of the destinations struggling with over-tourism. The world’s population is more mobile than ever, and while that is positive in many ways, some places are oversubscribed when it comes to travellers. Destinations need to be managed responsibly to ensure local populations and the environment stays healthy. An enlightening example of this is Parque Arví which offers residents a welcome respite from the smog of Medellin — before it opened there was only four metres of green space per resident, yet now there is 12. Further north, two organisations stand out for their efforts in bringing together businesses to put sustainability on the map — in Jackson Hole 260 businesses have been trained in sustainability by a program set up by the Riverwind Foundation and Thompson Okanagan Tourism has successfully engaged with 4,5000 organisations to ensure that tourism benefits indigenous communities, villages and towns alike.
Innovating for health
Given that we’re unlikely to stop travelling all over the globe anytime soon, innovation is the lynchpin when it comes to making travel have a positive impact. Innovation can be as simple as a bus service. No ordinary public transport system, Parkbus in Canada not only takes up to 45 vehicles off the road per coach, helping to reduce congestion, but through tailored schemes provides disadvantaged groups with access to the wilderness. In Bali innovation comes in the form of Pemuteran Bay Coral Protection Foundation’s ‘bio-rocks’, which are helping a previously poor fishing village turn the tide on coastal destruction. Meanwhile, looking up to the sky, Virgin Atlantic is tackling the environmental challenges of inflight catering by partnering with the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
Not only is supporting and developing loyal employees an essential part of running a good travel business, in a world riddled with unemployment and social injustice, providing opportunities to those that need them most, is the right thing to do. Cayuga Collection have always put the treatment of staff high on their list of priorities; employees are not only local, and employed year-round (even out of season), but a medical programme takes care of their whole family’s health. Taking responsible employment one step further, Tree Alliance in Thailand has set up restaurants specifically to help train disadvantaged young people in hospitality skills. In Cambodia, Heritage Watch has developed a simple program working with teachers to educate kids about the importance of cultural and environmental preservation — in response to temple looting.
Tourism for Tomorrow winners will be announced on 19th April. Find out more here:
NOW would love to feature your ‘Giving Back’ stories too. For more information, take a look here: https://www.itmustbenow.com/itmustbenow-magazine-contributor/