Ford’s green commitment – now and the future

The time I spent at the Forward with Ford conference last week was both fun and highly informative.

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Green trends, sustainabilty and Ford

I’m currently attending the media-focused Forward with Ford conference in Dearborn, Michigan. Having never expected to be in or near the Motor City, this is a fascinating and very interesting experience.

But here’s a taste of what I’ve been observing and discovering – and what I’ll be blogging about over the coming days.

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Copenhagen Summit severely limits NGO participation

World on Fire 2With the eyes of the world on Copenhagen and the U.N. Climate Change Conference, it seems that organizers will be limiting who can get inside during the last most critical decision-making sessions. While 45,000 people are registered, today and tomorrow only 7,000 civilian observers will be allowed entrance, with those numbers reduced to 1,000 on Thursday and a mere 90 allowed in the conference center by Friday, the day of final negotiations. Continue reading

Sustainability and Adventures with Purpose

Richard BangsIn today’s conference, author, nature film maker and outdoor adventurist Richard Bangs awed and mesmerized us with two clips of his latest eco-films from around the world.

“It’s all about what can we change and what can we improve,”
he said.

A brilliant wordsmith, Bangs’ films are shown on PBS and other television networks around the world.

The two clips covered eco-adventures Bangs took – one in New Zealand and one in Switzerland. Panoramic views were breathtaking, jaw-dropping with scenes from the New Zealand wilderness – capturing lakes, rivers and even the most remote “eco-chalet’s” in the world. Pictures of Switzerland’s Matterhorn and the Alps – often with little to no snow – truly displayed why author Mary Shelly called them “the backbones of the earth”.

The magic of a New Zealand sunset

The magic of a New Zealand sunset

“Tourism today is lodges built for comfort. Yet, he said, most folks seek the shadows and wild things. They want to see “the wizardry and witchcraft of the wilderness,” he said.ecoBangs stressed that

“How can we capture that magic, to allow people to come and have those experiences, with that sense of warmth and sense of family,”  he said? There has to be an emotional connection, Bangs said.

Excellent points to consider for those involved in environmental tourism, or those considering moving that direction.

Is Sustainability a requirement for eco-tourism?

Costa Rica natureIn yesterday’s sustainable tourism conference, speaker Lawrence Pratt dissected the issue and importance of sustainability in regards to successful eco-tourism. Pratt – from INCAE, a multi-national graduate business school that was established by support from President John Kennedy – said that sustainability is integrally linked with eco-tourism and vice verse.

But sustainable tourism goes beyond Nature, he said. In Costa Rica in particular, it’s taken on a highly diverse profile.

The Certificate of Sustainable Tourism (CST) has helped Costa Rica create a country position as an eco-tourist destination. In fact, he said, the CST has been successfully replicated in other countries.

But he questioned whether sustainability really helps drive eco-tourism and if it’s a requirement to creating the tourist-related income desired.

Pratt gave dramatically diverse examples of companies that promote themselves as having sustainability practices, including:

  • Holand America and their sustainability program
  • Motel 6, which, Pratt said, will wind up becoming the greenest small hotel chain in the U.S. through their current efforts

“By claiming sustainability, you’re no different than Motel 6 or Holland America,” Pratt said to attendees, assuring them that these 2 companies were actively pursuing their green efforts.

Pratt posed the questions: what’s needed to expand current eco-tourism efforts and what drives it?

With no set answers, he said perhaps a new definition of sustainability was needed and that Costa Rica needed to reinvent itself in this.

What will make Costa Rica different from the rest of the world who has already adopted this concept and practice, he asked?

Excellent questions for any country or region wanting to drive eco-tourism.

Sustainability Development and Eco-tourism

Costa Rica beachDuring her detailed presentation at today’s conference, Gina Guillen – senior advisor to the Costa Rican Minister of Tourism – discussed the challenges and benefits of eco-tourism.

 Eco-tourism, Guillen said, generated over $1 million in revenues last year. This went to help conservation efforts.

She discussed  the Blue Flag certification program, which helps protect Costa Rica’s oceans, beaches and waterways.

Eco-tourism helps generate social development, she stressed, stating that she believed there has to be a balance between sustainability and development.

Adopting "green"- peer pressure works

Four SeasonsDuring one presentation at today’s conference, it was revealed that famed hotel chain, Four Seasons, had adopted green practices  in Costa Rica.

And only here.

Why? Peer pressure apparantly. With the concerted efforts of Costa Rica’s tourist board, CANAECO, along with the support of the Costa Rican government, Four Seasons realized that it was in their best interest – and would help attract more tourists – if they embraced sustainable practices.

So what would it take for them to implement them company wide,  wonder?  Just a thought.

Sustainabilty – from rivers to reforestation

In today’s conference, speaker Rafael Gallo outlined his challenges and successes with protecting Costa Rica’s rivers and his evolving environmental activism.

Beginning as a white water river rafting operation, Gallo began with local tourists. In 1985, Gallo and his brother began a campaign to save Costa Rica’s rivers.

“We had to protect the rivers that gave us income,” he said.

In 1986, the brothers were able to delay the building of a dam on one of the rivers for six weeks. Ultimately this forced the corporation to do an Environmental Impact Review, a step they’d ignored.

From there, Gallo bought land along the river, with plans to restore land that had been deforested. He even hired a farmer to help reforest who’d originally cleared the land of trees!

Gallo worked with the surrounding communities. Recognizing the importance of providing financial benefits that empower local people, he has helped turn them into eco-preneurs, some with franchises of this river rafting company, helping them become self-sufficient.

His eco-activism continued to evolve and grow, creating a foundation to successful lobby against another river dam.

Always ahead of the environmental game, Gallo was the winner of the 1st National Geographic Eco-Tourism award. His re-forestation projects include planting over 10,000 trees on land that had been deforested.

Gallo is currently working with the country of Bhutan to help them establish river rafting as a viable sustainable recreational tourist service.

Sustainable architecture's impact


Bruno StagnoYesterday, renowned architect Bruno Stagno spoke during the sustainable tourism confrerence about the importance of creating sustainable architecture that adapts to the local climate.

Stagno, winner of numerous international awards including from the Dominican Republic and Holland, stressed the need to recognize and incorporate Nature in architectural design, or, as he calls it, bioclimatic architecture.

Stagno said that 50 percent of the world’s existing forests are located in tropical areas. Of the UN’s membership, 108 countries in are in these areas.

“We have to develop guidelines foe eco-development,” Stagno said.

Stagno is currently working on projects to bring forests to urban settings, particularly in San Jose, Costa Rica.

More soon.

Update from Conference on Sustainable Tourism

forests-south-central-costa-ricaSpeaker Jackeline Lopez of Mapache Rent A Car spoke of their “passionate reforestation” program.They work with mature forests, not with planting new forests, she said.

They also are involved with a new co-generation plant for waste. Prior to its opening, in 2007 saw the annual generation of 22 tons of waste. The impact of the new plant was dramatic – a 50 percent waste reduction.

A Costa Rican waste cogenereation plant

A Costa Rican waste cogenereation plant

This is a clean process, with continual monitoring of emitted gasses. The process is certified and the resultant waste is traceable. 

The company has two commitments:

  1. to reduce GHG emissions
  2. energy savings

There are eight such facilities across Costa Rica. The company has received numerous recognitions from Costa Rica’s Ministers of Energy and of the Environment for their successful environmental efforts.

More to come.