It is Personal!

Alexa Poortier - NOW

We celebrated the 2nd anniversary of NOW on Earth Day, Monday April 22nd. We were in NY that week and there were a few small Earth Day events, but the lack of general awareness about this special day and the lack of gatherings urging the Trump government to act on the Climate Emergency spoke volumes.

Our decision to launch NOW with a mission to boldly advance sustainability was triggered by a conversation that took place in Paris in December 2015. With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in the background, my millennial son pointed out that the climate crisis is the fault of ‘older generations’ and it must be NOW that we must act to help their generation to fix it. The same valid conclusion and demand for urgent action has been loudly voiced by millions of Gen Y & Z supporting the Strike 4Climate and Extinction Rebellion movement since the beginning of this year. And those of us among the ‘older generations’ should not only learn from them, we need to respond with conscious and immediate action because it is the right thing to do.  

Earth Day was created 49 years ago as a day of environmental education and awareness after people experienced the devastation after the oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969. The many environmental disasters that followed prompted people to recognize the costs of environmental negligence, disease, and air and water pollution. It became personal.

Earth Day was also the 3rd anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting in the year 2020.

Since the launch of NOW, I’ve often wondered about what a sustainable world would be like. A breakfast meeting to celebrate World Environment Day in London with the inspiring, charismatic and down-to-earth Sir Jonathon Porritt (who prefer to simply be called Jonathon) led to my first glimpse of this world after reading his insightful book THE WORLD WE MADE.  Jonathon is the founder of Forum for the Future and a legendary environmental campaigner. The book was written from the future (2050) and looking back to today, a story of how we got our world back from the brink of collapse to a more sustainable world. He picked an arbitrary date of 2050 for the book, but also noted the reality that we really don’t have a clue how long it will take and that it will take as long as it takes.

Sir Jonathon Porritt

NOW is a platform about inspiring conscious travel, so I was most fascinated with the chapter on Travelling Differently and reading about travel in the near future – DLs (Destination Lotteries) that make travel possible every three or four years for keen travellers which even the mega rich cannot bypass, and virtual travel holidays, a $500 billion industry promoting next generation VITES (virtual travel experiences) to protect special places by enabling people to enjoy them from afar.

Jonathon tells us something that most of us already know – that ‘the gap between what is actually happening and what needs to happen remains deeply disturbing; and that the windows of opportunity don’t stay open forever – and this one is closing fast.’ Most of us who care share the roller coaster of emotions he described – the anger when we see our planet systematically abused and how seeing the misery of billions of people constantly ignored day after day, makes it harder and harder to bear; the excitement about the prospects of learning to live sustainably; and the frustration that so few actually share this excitement. (Read Phaidon interview with Jonathon Porritt about The World We Made HERE … and order the book as well.)

If travel is a country, the travel industry would be the fifth largest emitter of carbon in the world today, contributing up to 8% of global carbon emissions. It is forecasted to grow by 4% per year and so will its carbon emissions unless we travel differently! Yet the travel industry is the slowest to commit to sustainability or make it a priority. In the last two years, we have spoken with many ‘leaders’ in the hotel sector of the travel industry and in universities for future hoteliers, and it is disappointing that many only ‘talk the talk’ but don’t lead, act or feel shame at their inaction at this most urgent of times. More properties are stepping up and doing more, but many that prefer programmes that are cheap and easy, or settle for CSR contributions, or still greenwash, or choose to camp with the ostriches are clearly choosing to do less or nothing. The most influential reason why more properties are committing to sustainability is the growing demand for sustainable actions from customers and employees. Use the power of your wallet and your vote and only stay in properties that commit to sustainability with accountability and transparency.

Very few in the travel industry and others have responded early to the terrifying Climate Emergency and the need to mitigate carbon emissions, and few universities and colleges are preparing students to deal with the crisis ahead. This is deeply felt by young people today who are getting angry, fearful and concerned about their future. To Generation Y & Z, it is personal.

NOW is a legacy project to help the travel industry we love to thrive and do our part to help future generations to meet their own needs. We are inspired by bright young minds and we will support those who wants to make a difference. In late spring this year, NOW assisted a group of seven future hoteliers (Max Gurney, Stefano Abedum de Lima, Sofia Buzzonetti, Ruber de Wit, Alina Kroeger, Daan VosKuil and Alexander Egger) put together the first student led Embracing Sustainability Forum at Ecole Hotelier du Lausanne with the support of Associate Director Noémie Danthine to boldly inform their audience about sustainability and the urgent need to boldly step-up NOW. These inspiring future hoteliers are the much needed hotel leaders of tomorrow.

NOW continues to support movements that demand action to prevent further global heating, climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. Our urgent actions or lack of it in the next decade will determine how gravely affected we will be. This will affect all of us … it will become personal.

NOW is not anti travel or anti flying. NOW promotes travelling sustainably because it is the right thing to do. We all need to travel differently NOW before the world we made limit our choices. It must be NOW!

Travel sustainably (and feel good) with these traveller tools.


May 7, 2019 Embracing Sustainability Forum at Ecole Hotelier du Lausanne, Switzerland

Sustainability Forum Discussion
Sustainability Forum Discussion
Sustainability Forum Discussion
Sustainability Forum Discussion

Make Mine a Dish of Perennials, Please

Perennials

Choosing perennial crops to grow is a much cleaner, more sustainable choice when it comes to cultivating food, which is why it’s also wise to choose dishes that feature more perennial foods from hotel and restaurant menus when we travel – most especially when they’re in season and locally grown. So what are perennial crops, and why are they healthier for the planet?

Perennial crops are crops that live longer than two years without needing to be replanted, unlike annual crops. Fruit trees and nut trees are perennials – everything from almonds and cashews to apples and oranges. So are berries, including blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, sweet fruits such as kiwis, and tomatoes, which are classed by growers as a fruit rather than a vegetable.

Strawberries

Also on the list are favourite herbs such as oregano, rosemary and basil, and more vegetables than you might imagine, including aubergine (aka eggplant), okra, chayote squash, peppers, horseradish, watercress, kale, wild leeks and asparagus. Tubers such as Jerusalem Artichokes and rhubarb are also perennials, while bulbs which are usually grown as annuals but can be grown as perennials include radicchio, onions, fennel, shallots, chives and garlic.

Perennial Restaurant

All these foods are not only delicious, but noticeably healthy too. They’re also far kinder to the planet than annual crops such as corn, peas, lettuce, watermelons, rice, spelt, wheat and other grains. Whilst annual crops such as these need rich soil, specific conditions, and to be replanted each year, perennials, once established, keep on providing for a much longer time. Annual crops are grown in large batches and usually in rows, which sucks the nutrients out of the soil, so that producers need to rely more on fertilisers to help them grow, as well as more time, attention and fuel to run machines, all of which furthers their carbon footprint. It’s our reliance on annual crops that has helped mass deforestation all over the world, which has in turn helped increase the temperature of our planet.

Rabit

By contrast, perennials help keep the soil healthy by providing lots of leaves to replenish the nutrients they are taking, which in turn help encourage the healthy bacterial and fungal growth needed for good soil health. Perennials also store carbon – most particularly trees, which use photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into sugars and other carbohydrates instead of allowing it to be in the atmosphere and speed up global warming. Forests do release some carbon into the atmosphere through decomposition and respiration, but they trap much more than they release.

Vegan

With this in mind, it stands to reason that if we rely more on food from trees and the hunter gatherer diet of fruits and nuts, alongside other perennial shrubs and plants, we’re strengthening the planet as well as ourselves. There are healthy, sustainable ways to produce annual crops too, of course – but the more we shift our staple foods to perennials, and make annual crops our sides, the greener our eating habits are going to be.

Humulus Lupulus

So next time you’re at a hotel or B&B, ask them where they source their food, and how many perennial versus annual crops they use in their menus. It will be telling to see which chefs and waiters know the difference. And do start growing more of your own too, so you can continue your perennial habit easily once back home. It’s when our wheat and corn fields are turned into organic  orchards, our hotel gardens into micro allotments, and our own back yards into gardens to feast off, that we will really know we are making progress.

The NOW Guide to Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing

The Global Wellness Summit cited our need to reconnect with nature as one of just eight main wellness trends of 2019, and forest bathing as an increasingly popular part of this process. Spotted as a trend to watch way back in 2015, it has been growing apace each year, and for travellers, there’s more emphasis on green spaces and outdoor activities at hotels and other places to stay around the world.

So what is it? Forest bathing begun in Japan, where it’s called shinrin-yoku, which loosely means, spending more time around trees. Forest bathing doesn’t involve any swimming – instead, you soak up the special atmosphere of the forest by using all your senses. And you do it for all the reasons you want to get into the great outdoors – to escape life’s busy-ness, get away from emails and get off social media, and remind yourself what being alive really feels like. As the GWS report points out, we’ve lost touch with nature. More than 50% of the world now lives in an urban area, and by 2050 that will rise to 68% – compare that to just 30% in the 1950s. Studies have shown we need nature for positive mental and physical health, and the medical profession has begun to incorporate this into their treatment plans for certain patients.

Forest Bathing

So how does forest bathing work? In theory you can bathe yourself in a forest all by yourself, wherever you may be, on your own terms and in your own way, but forest bathing isn’t a clever ploy to rebrand going for a walk as a holistic therapy. It’s closer to mindfulness than hiking or exercising outdoors, requiring us to slow down, walk slowly and pay attention to everything around us. In a forest bathing session, you are gently guided in a series of meditations that requires you to close your eyes, sense the leaf-padded ground beneath your feet, smell the trees around you, listen to the breeze, and so on – all to help quieten the mind and deepen our connection with what’s growing, moving and generally going on around us.

We all know that fresh air and exercise increases our sense of wellbeing, but a more intricate science behind forest bathing was first discovered in the 1980s by the Japanese government. The scientific research they commissioned found that a two-hour forest-bathing session could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. It found that chemicals released by trees known as phytoncides could have an anti-microbial effect on our bodies, boosting the immune system, and that spending a regular amount of time in forests helped reduce depression. As a result of this research, shinrin-yoku was introduced as a national health programme in Japan, the most densely populated country on earth, with correspondingly high stress levels, but also one of the most heavily forested.

Forest Bathing

The first designated forest-bathing location was the beautiful Akasawa forest in Nagano prefecture on the old Samurai Trail, where groves of Japanese cypress trees tower 35m high. And today, the Forest Bathing Society lists 62 forests on its website which are deemed to have the optimum environment for shinrin-yoku and which have signposted ‘therapy roads’ or trails. One of the most accessible from central Tokyo is the Okutama Forest Therapy Centre, a two-hour train journey from the city, which offers guided walks and forest yoga.

But whatever trip you’re on or holiday destination you’ve chosen, you don’t have to be in a magnificent forest to forest bathe. Whether you’re in a woodland, public park or private garden, it’s still possible to explore and reconnect. Published last year, Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature by forest bathing expert Amos Clifford offers specific activities you can use to begin a practice of your own, wherever you are.

Guided forest bathing for stressed city dwellers is also catching on in the world’s cities. In New York, Treebath offers guided forest-bathing experiences in Central Park, Battery Park and the Hudson River Park (tree-bath.com), while in London pop-up forest bathing sessions are on offer in many of the largest parks. In the UK too, The Forestry Commission, which manages almost 1m hectares of woodland in England, has published a top 10 trails to forest bathe and plans to roll out its own forest bathing programme soon (see forestry.gov.uk).

Forest bathing

Increasing numbers of wellbeing holidays are also offering forest bathing as part of their mix. Reclaim Your Self offers a Japan holiday that mixes dynamic yoga, forest bathing, hot springs and temples (see reclaimyourself.co.uk), while La Clairière, a bio spa hotel in the Vosges natural park in Alsace in France, offers a five-night forest bathing package which includes three guided forest walks and a body treatment with essential pine oils (see la-clairiere.com).

Forest bathing isn’t just good for us, of course – it’s also helping more people to respect our beleaguered eco systems and take better care of them. The more people who fall in love with the great outdoors, the more they want to protect it. So let’s get out there and commune.

The Mantis

The Mantis

The Mantis is a lightweight, all-in-one hammock tent made by Kammok, a 1% for the Planet member and B-corp certified company that’s committed to using its profits for the good of the planet and other people. It takes just 60 seconds to put up using a knotless suspension, so you can set up camp faster as well as travel lighter – there’s an ultra light version too.

Enabling you to sleep off the ground, hammock tents do not disturb the ecology of the ground as other tents can do – and to help protect the two sturdy trees you’ll need to hang this one, Kammok’s Python 10 hammock straps feature a tree-friendly variable width design for a wider surface area that better protects tree bark and cambium.

Kammok’s Mantis will have minimal impact on you too, because the fabric curves to the natural arch of your back, helping you sleep better and limiting the stiff necks and sore backs you can sometimes get with camping. You’ll keep dry with the included rainfly, but if you’re going to be in really extreme weather, The Kammok Glider weather shelter has its own fully integrated rainwater retention system.

Kammok uses all the scraps from its hammock manufacturing to make tote bags to reduce waste, and gives 1% of proceeds to Explore Austin, a non-profit mentor programme that inspires and helps young people to experience and benefit from the great outdoors in the USA where the company is based. The tents are not made from recycled materials, but are designed to life a lifetime, and if buyers want to get rid of them, they are encouraged to donate them to wilderness therapy courses and organisations such as Explore Austin in their own countries.

One niggle – the tents are made in China, in factories that do not offset their carbon, though Kammok told NOW they plan to start offsetting all their carbon this year (2019). Find out more here.

The Mantis

Action message from NOW

Feel good about travel. Use these two new travel tools and ask tough questions before you book.

Calculate & Offset Your Carbon Footprint NOW and be part of the solution to our carbon crisis.

NOW Track & Book will help you find, track and directly book inspiring places to stay committed to sustainability with accredited certifications, accountability and transparency. They are doing their bit to help sustain our planet, creating joy around being healthy, giving back to communities and making a positive difference.

 Tough Questions to Ask Before You Book

Earth Overshoot Day – Let’s Move The Date

Earth Overshoot Day

Announced today, World Environment Day, this year’s Earth Overshoot Day is going to be 29 July. It’s the day our resource consumption for the year has exceeded the earth’s capacity to regenerate enough to supply our demand, and it gets earlier each year – in 2018 it was 1 August; in 1997 it was 30 September; in 1977 it was 12 November. At this rate, it is projected the day will be in June by 2030.

Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by international think tank Global Footprint Network, who divide the world’s biocapacity (the amount of natural resources generated by the earth that year) by our ecological footprint (humanity’s consumption of the earth’s natural resources for that year) and multiply by 365. The message is clear. We use more resources than nature can regenerate through overfishing, over harvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can absorb. 

Country overshoot days

This is the date for the whole planet, but note that not all countries will have an overshoot day. A country will only have an overshoot day if their own ecological footprint per person is greater than global biocapacity (1.63 gha).

It’s time to wake up and take action NOW so we can try to move the date and safeguard ourselves if we can’t. As Sir David Attenborough said in a TIME magazine feature ahead of his spectacular Our Planet series on Netflix, ‘The question is, are we going to be in time, and are we going to do enough? The answer to both of those is no.’

Travellers have a big part to play in making a difference, as Alessandro Galli, Director of the Mediterranean Region for the Global Footprint Network, told NOW. ‘The transformation to a sustainable, carbon-neutral world will succeed if we apply humanity’s greatest strengths: foresight, innovation, and care for each other. And tourism provides a great opportunity to experiment with ways of living that are aligned with the one-planet reality we live in.’

Like NOW, the Global Footprint Network campaigns throughout the year to urge people to make wiser choices to help #MoveTheDate in different ways – check out their ongoing solutions.

Steps to move the date

This year, they have taken things one step further by helping the MEET Network design a clutch of 3 to 7 night ecotourism packages in six Mediterranean countries, in the hope that this will inspire networks around the world to do the same.

Having checked the footprint of each involved service provider and worked to lower it, we are confident we will soon bring to the market real ecotourism products with a minimal footprint on the environment,’ says Galli. 

The packages highlight what every travel company and place to stay should be focusing on for the sake of our future. Small-scale, family-run, local and traditional accommodation, preferably with alternative sources of energy in place; food that’s sourced locally or regionally, that’s light and balanced rather than over bountiful and heavy, and that uses vegetables and cereals, non-endangered fish-based products, and non-intensive meat based-products; and a focus on slow travel, with bikes, kayaks, walking, horses and public transport favoured over cars, and the encouragement of motor-free activities to enable guests to slow down and connect to the natural area they are visiting.

So how can we as travellers also help #MoveTheDate? Alexa Poortier, founder of NOW, says: ‘How we walk is more important than how we talk. Be informed and determine your impact by calculating your Ecological Footprint and personal Overshoot Day with the Global Footprint Calculator.’ Be a part of the solution to our climate crisis. If you choose to fly to your destination, calculate your carbon footprint and offset your carbon emissions. Use the power of your wallet to only support tourism companies and places to stay that seriously commit to sustainability with accountability and transparency. Be empowered to act NOW.’

And what if Earth Overshoot Day arrives in June by 2030? It will be even more important to have made real changes to our lifestyles. Take a look at NOW’s 10 tips for travellers overwhelmed by Climate Change, NOW’s 15 genuine ways to help change the world, and NOW’s Tough questions to ask hotels before you book. Find out more about Earth Overshoot Day at www.overshootday.org.

Action message from NOW

Feel good about travel. Use these two new travel tools and ask tough questions before you book.

Calculate & Offset Your Carbon Footprint NOW and be part of the solution to our carbon crisis.

NOW Track & Book will help you find, track and directly book inspiring places to stay committed to sustainability with accredited certifications, accountability and transparency. They are doing their bit to help sustain our planet, creating joy around being healthy, giving back to communities and making a positive difference.

 Tough Questions to Ask Before You Book

小心使用科技

Being mindful of technology

出外度假,不論是享受溫泉浴或鍛煉身體,甚或只是離家走走,獨自一人或是陪同心愛的人一道見識一下新人新事,都是美好的時光,有助恢復身心活力。作為旅客,我們會物色那些為客人悉心安排途中大小事宜的酒店和旅遊點,而且要求越來越高,既希望途中可以彼此保持聯絡,還期望與大自然混成一體,居停之處不受污染、遠離人群,每餐進食的都是合時、有機的食品。

現代科技對於提升這些旅遊體驗的質素,相當重要。我們會隨身帶着智能電話,使用互聯網物色和預訂假期,在旅途中連接免費wifi聯絡餐廳或查看天氣,在酒店房間裏看電視聽音樂。無論離家多遠,日常規律有多不同,我們都希望使用一點現代科技,那可能是步行計、閱讀器、音樂錄音、靜觀減壓流動程式、地圖、甚或是緊急聯絡資料。即使我們將電子裝置留在家中,不帶同外出,不過現代科技仍然是滿佈四周,用作管理交通工具和居所,以及人們睡覺時各色各樣細微但必需處理的事情。

儘管如此,許多意見都認為,現代科技對人們的福祉不一定有好處。2017年「全球福祉高峰會」報告書指出:「在人類歷史中,智能電話科技的爆發式增長速度,超過任何其他科技。這些造型優美而且看上去無害的小裝置,有如枷鎖,將人們和互聯網、社交媒體和工作鎖在一起,除了睡眠外無時無刻不是如此。這種無時無刻而且窮凶極惡的捆綁,將工作和生活的分隔、睡眠、以及所有『自由時間』或真正平靜的感覺,都迅速抹掉。

雖然說起來有點誇張,人們在度假時,即使身在遙遠的國度,但一旦無法和朋友和家人保持聯絡,便會感到渾身不自在。這種無法壓制不停要和別人通訊的衝動,妨礙了我們親歷其境、體驗當下的機會。人們一心所想的,就只是拍一張好照片,然後用即時電報傳給親友,或是擔掛酒店的wifi訊號夠不夠強勁。

現代科技對健康的其他影響,已有不少文獻記載,包括引發肥胖、頭痛、焦慮、睡眠欠佳、以至男性精蟲數目下降和癌症等。除了對身體的影響外,亦有研究報告指出,使用社交媒體和「過度與他人連接,會引致各種心理問題,諸如精神無法集中、自戀、依賴即時滿足,甚至抑鬱。」 由一群美國矽谷僱員組成的團體「數碼責任」,就曾經這樣指出。

不同年齡組別的人,許多都想不分晝夜和別人連接着,有使用iPad和平板電腦的孩童,也有使用面書的祖父母輩。不少人日夜都攜帶着智能電話,不但有放在口袋裏的,還有安裝在手錶、戒指、筆桿或眼鏡裏的。應對之道,或許就是擁抱這些神奇裝置的同時,要注意保護自己,尤其在旅途中。

保護的方法,可以先由實物做起。流行病學家和毒物學家德維拉.戴維斯醫生撰寫的《擺脫連接》一書,內容是關於手提電話輻射的。他告誡人們,千萬不要把手提電話放在衣服口袋裏,通電話時間不要過長,聽電話要用擴音器或者耳機,電話交給嬰兒或兒童前先要將之調校為飛行模式。《英國時尚》雜誌最近報道,美國時裝設計師加比拉.赫斯特已開始採用特殊物料製作衣服口袋的內裡,以防手提電話的輻射影響人體;一些廠商例如「杜米」生產的旅行箱,內設用特別物料製成的小袋,可以保護放在裏頭的信用卡,以免歹徒在人多擠逼的地方,利用智能技術「偷取」信用卡的資料。

與此同時,心理保護同等重要。在這方面,主動權完全在我們自己手中。冥想教導我們操控一己的心思,不要讓心思反過來操控我們,同一道理,我們要自行掌控手上的智能裝置,不要讓它們主導我們的日常生活。深夜時分看熒幕,會抑制人體內的褪黑素,影響入睡,所以旅客應該將手提電話調校為飛行模式,抗拒深夜使用。飛往遠方的旅客,由於晝夜節律受到干擾,這點尤其重要。維持個人身心福祉,平衡至為關鍵,而取得事物正確平衡,正正是我們每一個人的責任。

記着  — 多問問題,不要猶豫。

翻譯:SP

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