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.