Wednesday, 13 December 2006

responsible tourism conference offers free flights to delegates

The 2007 conference of the Institute of Travel Management (ITM) will be taking as its theme Responsible Tourism Management. The annual conference attracts the industry’s biggest movers and shakers and 2007 will see a key note speech from Jonathan Porritt of Forum for the Future, a leading sustainable development think tank.

So why have they got it all wrong?

For the simple reason that all delegates are offered free flights to the Edinburgh based conference courtesy of sponsorship deals with the likes of BMI, FlyBe and British Airways. Is Edinburgh so unreachable by train?

When questioned with this seemingly paradoxical situation, the response from the conference organisers was as follows:

“As some delegates will be travelling from the south of England it may not be feasible time wise for all delegates to travel via train which is why there is an alternative offered to those who will be coming from further a field.”

It would appear that a 4 and a half hour journey from London is just too much for the busy modern executive.

At the moment the tourism industry is willing to preach to consumers about responsible travel but not take on board any of this practice in its working life. When will people realise it's as important HOW you get as what you do while you're there.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

empty roads

Public transport frequently emerges in the debate around sustainable tourism. By promoting the use of green tourism businesses, we also have to promote the use of public transport. In my own experiences this can sometimes be a little frustrating when trains are delayed and buses only run twice a day. Therefore it was encouraging to learn that one man took to the road for a whole year to draw the lines between the UK's YHA properties. Not once was he permitted to drive or rely on any other form of transport other than public transport. In his own words the experience was not as difficult as it may seem. The product of his work can be found at which contains a map detailing the bus routes to youth hostels across the country.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

recycling ecoescape: part 1

Thanks to Arthur at Calverts, we have our first suggestion of how to go about recycling well loved and well read ecoescapes at the end of next year.

Fuel for the fire

ecoescape can be turned into a very handy log for your open fire or the barbeque. You just have to follow some very easy instructions and incredibly the briquette will burn for 1 - 2 hours and leave a very small ash deposit!

1. Take one very well used guide and remove staple.

2. Half fill a bucket with water.

3. To the bucket add the old copy of the guide, and any other newspaper you have lying about.

4. Soak until you have a gooey pulpy mush.

5. Next you will need something to squeeze out the excess water. You can buy them here or here. Put the mush in the briquette maker, squeeze and leave until dry to form a very handy brick shape or 'log'. Logs can be made without the briquette maker providing pulp is dried out and compressed properly.

6. Alternatively, the pulp can be added in small amounts to a compost heap.

You may wonder why we are talking about ecoescape's return to the ashes before it has even been printed, but that's how much we care about what it means to create a product which is sustainable and part of a life cycle and not simply thrown into landfill. If you have more ideas for ecoescape's after life email Don't forget ecoescape will return with a new installment in 2008!

Saturday, 25 November 2006

exit strategy

As I mentioned before, ecoescape will have a responsible life cycle. This means that not only will we think about what goes in, but we will also more importantly be looking at what comes out. In other words what happens when ecoescape has been consumed, read, digested and loved? As much as we would like everyone to treasure ecoescape forever on their mantlepieces the breadth and width of the country, we would so much prefer it if we all combined creativity and recycling to help restore this guide's ambition to be high impact on behaviour but low impact on the planet. So what do we do? email your ideas to To start, we'll publish instructions on how to make your very own waste paper briquette much like Strattons Hotel have done (below).

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

advertising in ecoescape

ecoescape is genuinely encouraged by all the support it has recieved from individuals, organisations and friends and family so far. What a font of knowledge the project has opened up and will set free! There's so much to tell that we just know we'll have to save some for next time when the guide will return year after year...

Our next step is to appeal to the media and commercial organisations for support. ecoescape can help them reach faithful audiences and also discover new ones as green becomes more mainstream.

We are keeping advertising in the guide to an absolute minimum to cover printing and distribution costs. However, there are a few remaining bargains to be had. Please contact Laura with your media pack request on

Friday, 17 November 2006

The responsible life cycle of ecoescape

Not only will ecoescape aspire to close the print production loop of its life cycle, but the supply chain responsible for that loop will all hold and practice values which do business in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.

As publisher and developer of ecoescape, Lo Carb Travel has a strict operational manifesto which monitors the environmental and social impact of its work. An integral part of this work is to source suppliers which share similar values.

So far the chain looks a little something like this:

Lo Carb Travel - ecoescapeeskimo designCalverts – and the chain is growing

Monday, 13 November 2006


This autumn sees the ecoescape art project plant its seedlings and spread its message. We need your help!

With the earnestness of the climate change debate, ecoescape aims to build a portfolio of images which etch the message in pollution and in nature. Using (but not disrupting) nature, the letters can be spelt out above ground, or even better, planted beneath the ground to blossom next spring coinciding with ecoescape's official launch. We can send you bulbs which can be planted between now and December.

Along side the positive fruition of nature, we need the message to be drawn in places which have seen the negative effects of pollution, climate change and carbon emissions - for example the side of the road, a dirty vehicle, dirt from a power station..

Arrange, draw, plant, create and take a photograph of your art work. Post to this blog site or email

Friday, 3 November 2006

Sustainability in English Tourism

On 1 November, industry leaders in sustainability in tourism assembled for the first conference of SusDestinations in the New Forest. The topic of the day surrounded ways in which to overcome the challenges of communcating sustainable tourism and to encourage businesses to adopt green practices. This inevitably addressed the need to reassess the adequacy of the quality accreditation schemes in helping businesses go green. Ben Tuxworth, Strategy Director for Forum for the Future, was an excellent Chair and managed to both sustain debate and entertain his audience. The Green Business Tourism Scheme was a key focus of the day, as industry official assessed its impact and approach.

The audience numbered over 160 delegates which proved that it was a much needed event. The question put to all who attended, was how do we continue this debate and embed sustainability into tourism? Anthony Climpson proposed to set up a network which would support dialogue of this kind, which received a positive response from potential members.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

slow travel, slow trains?

Inspired by a colleague, I took Carl Honoré's "In Praise of Slow" on a weekend trip to Cornwall. I decided to right down at bit about the slow experience..

13 October 2006

This morning I left in plenty of time to catch the 9.34 train to Birmingham New Street to connect with the Virgin Voyager train to Plymouth. Travelling with my bicycle, I was nervous about ascending the train with crowds of people, so I took the advice of the ticket office advisor to arrive early. The train turned up 15 minutes late after sending its passengers the length of platform 5 twice in anticipation of the train's expected arrival. I spent the entire duration of the journey to Birmingham wondering if I would make the all important connection to Plymouth.

After upsetting numerous passengers with the presence of my bicycle, I fled the train in Birmingham, to the nearest lift. Thankfully there were two minutes between my emergence on the correct platform and the departure of the 11.12 train to Plymouth. My legs were shaking in fear of missing the said train as I was informed that the next one would not depart for another 2 hours. The prospect of spending that amount of time in the dark depths of Birmingham's main station was too frightening a thought.

Taking a deep breath, I fell into the bright red Virgin Voyager seat and reached for my chosen travelling campanion, Honoré's "In Praise of Slow".

It soon became clear that the last hour and a half of my life was more significant than I imagined. Not because, having missed the train I would arrive at my ultimate destination hours late, but because the notion of time had totally absorbed my very being for the duration of the first morning of my weekend holiday. Rewinding further to when I first opened my eyes this morning, my schedule was fixed and everything I would go to do from that moment onward would be dictated by the notion of passing seconds, minutes, hours. It would influence my outlook on other humans, my work and the world around me.

I say work as the question popped into my mind between Nottingham and Birmingham New Street that, could time ultimately destabilise the very foundations on which ecoescape is built? In other words, if trains were unreliable, how could I be promoting this supposed alternative to the fast, angry, aggressive car? Thankfully Honoré's text came to me at just the right moment and my perceptions were tilted as swiftly as they became warped into an irrevocable situation.

It reminded me that ecoescape was born from the Slow movement. The fact that the train was late actually pales in its significance. It's about rejecting "time sickness" and opening up to the moment, the experience and making connections, (even if these aren't timetabled ones).

"In our fast moving modern world, it always seems that the time-train is pulling out of the station just as we reach the platform."

Luckily for me it wasn't entirely the case this morning. But all the same, it's helped start this trip off on a different level, one which coasts time, respects nature's time patterns and slows down.

Interestingly, over the course of the weekend, neither myself or my friends felt the desire to follow any time governed schedule and felt strange when we all had to leave on Monday to return to our fast paced lives. It appears that my watch also felt the need to slow down having lost several hours over the weekend and on Tuesday I woke up to natural daylight (which made me one hour late for work..!).

Saturday, 7 October 2006

does green mean quality or does quality mean green?

Tourism businesses in the UK are urged to improve their quality standards. For accommodation providers this means being awarded accreditation with the AA or national tourist board schemes. VisitBritain has set itself ambitious targets to increase numbers in these schemes and as of this year is only promoting quality accredited accommodation providers.

The new common standards which have been set offer consumers clear guidance on the level of quality they can expect from hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and holiday parks.

It is interesting to find out how the Green Business Tourism Scheme (GBTS) works alongside the quality scheme. The GBTS offers a similar accreditation scheme, but based on green criteria. This can include anything from waste and energy efficiency to biodiversity and social awareness. The awards are extremely tough to gain and are levelled at gold, silver and bronze.

A business, therefore, can have both a quality rating and a green rating.

So it’s never been easier for us consumers to pick out the tourism products most suited to our needs and budgets. However, it would be great to find out from the business perspective how easy it is to align themselves to these schemes. Do they choose green over quality? Or does one naturally lead into the other?

In order to qualify for a green rating, all accommodation providers must first be quality accredited.

I’ll address a comment from an eco-lodge owner who maintains that it is impossible for the lodge to be quality accredited because of limitations in what they could provide in order to be environmentally friendly. In other words, certain items deemed as necessities in the quality schemes are deemed unnecessary by those working with the environment in mind.

The criteria for self-catering properties to become quality accredited by the National Quality Assurance Standards (NQAS) is contained in the document here. Generally speaking, most of the criteria can be applied to a self-catering eco-lodge. However, the challenges occur further up the spectrum with the 4-5 stars. For example, for a 5 star accreditation, it is necessary to provide two items from the following list: tumble drier, telephone, hi – fi, video recorder and DVD player. These facilities would greatly pale a green accommodation.

In the Lincolnshire eco-lodge, there is no colour TV (one of the minimum requirements) or a “cooker with an oven, with at least two shelves, a grill and at least four boiling rings that may be used simultaneously with the oven or grill”. Instead you will find a very antiquated radio with home-made rechargeable batteries and a wood burning stove with capacity to slow cook a delicious meal and heat the entire lodge and water supply simultaneously. Why undo this work by adding a colour TV, hi-fi and tumble dryer? The wind turbine supplying the lodge with its own source of electricity already works hard enough!

One of the comments in the guest book at the lodge read “overall an environment of ‘quality’ which has provided a well valued break from busy lives”. Guests clearly love the experience and find that adapting to its green ways is not that difficult after all and certainly does not detract from the quality of experience. An interesting study would probably prove that consumers’ experience is actually enhanced if they can see that their stay does not harm the environment and helps the local population.

So what defines quality? Understandably it’s about safety, appearance, service and facilities. On all these counts, green businesses do not generally fail. So do they deserve a lower star rating for not providing a colour TV? Having a one star rating may not be good for business and perhaps has put off the more basic accommodation providers from applying. The fact that business owners are prepared to commit to the environment speaks volumes about the level of commitment they will provide to their customers to ensure that their experience is a quality one.

Essentially, could green become integrated into the quality assessment, rather than separating off into another scheme? Why not embed green criteria into the assessment if this can prove that quality is about caring for the environment? Could accommodation providers drop grades for consuming high levels of energy or not installing a recycling system?

Whatever the future for our tourism providers, my aspiration is that sustainable tourism will no longer be an end in itself, but rather a basic driving force behind the tourism industry which values the environment before everything else.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Green Places to Stay

An exciting new green travel guide has hit the shops. The first Green Places to Stay guide in the inspirational Alastair Sawday series is a whirlwind tour around the globe taking in the greenest accommodations along the way.

Compiled by Guardian writer, Richard Hammond, the guide is both practical and pleasing to the eye. If you're planning next year's getaway, the guide is a must have to help you decide where to stay. Remarkably, the range of accommodation, from tipis to luxury hotels ensures that there is something to suit all types of traveller and budget.

The book is also full of practical advice on recognising green tourism providers and how they are making a difference. Importantly the guide asks all the right questions to ensure that the accommodation featured within has a positive social impact in the communities in which they are located.

You can buy the guide from Amazon or Waterstones (RRP £13.99).

ecoescape is excited to announce that Richard Hammond has agreed to write the foreword to the guide so we look forward to his words of inspiration.

Visit Richard's weblog at

Monday, 2 October 2006

Future London

If London were a footprint, the heel would be a yellow wild flower meadow with butterflies and birds circling the London eye; the outside edge would be a line of pink chrysanthemums lining the foot of the Gherkin; the blue Thames would flow through the middle winding round wild orchards, veggie patches and contented ducks. The small toe would be a ray of sunshine, the middle toe, a green bin and, the big toe erm… the Olympic rings.

If this is all sounding a little too idyllic, it’s a view of London very much in Ken Livingston’s vision to 2012. This vision is currently on display at London’s ScienceMuseum where visitors can discover how to make small differences to contribute to a greener London. It’s a bold move, and one which is long overdue as pollution levels reach sky high in the UK’s capital. With the Olympics on the horizon, the Mayor of London sees the opportunity to change things and embed sustainability into 2012 developments.

The exhibition itself is characteristic of the present climate change debate. Its colourful, interactive displays present the facts without preaching. It’s an aspirational London which wants to shout out about its green spaces and eco builds, and to encourage people to visit and adopt similar practices.

This green campaign is designed to appeal to the senses. The exhibition surrounds you with colour, sounds, and smells to demonstrate that the environment is present in all we see, do, eat and consume. Therefore the potential for change is great. The ideas are simple and by presenting them in a familiar way, it is easier to see how they could fit into our everyday lives. Having said that, perhaps this audience already visits their local farmers’ market and cycles or takes the bus to work.

Appealing to a wider audience will be key to the climate change message. The Olympics is a good starting point as the audience is so wide and varied. If Ken can show how his London will be both sustainable and ready to become centre stage in 2012, it should be an interesting show.

Monday, 25 September 2006

An Inconvient Truth comes to Nottingham

Nottingham's art-house cinema, Broadway, screened An Inconvenient Truth on Friday evening preceding a panel debate on climate change. The film, I thought, was a polished communications project from a man who has spent much of his career speaking in public arenas. But what Al Gore had to say was inspiring, thought-provoking, and perhaps for the first time, accessible to a wider audience. He has the passion for life that GWB dismisses and goes to great lengths to crush.

Essentially politics has let us down. Politics in the sense that whilst scientists have discovered, politicians have denied, challenged, ignored and suppressed. In all this time glaciers have fallen into the sea, lands have been flooded and people have starved.

And the climate change debate on a micro scale in Nottingham reflected people's frustrations. Why if global warming has been recognised for so many years do the local authorities continue to advocate unsustainable construction, widening of motorways and incineration facilities?

There are very passionate and concerned people in Nottingham and indeed throughout the UK but they are rarely offered an opportunity to voice their views on what happens in our country. And the sad truth is that the majority of the audience at the Broadway on Friday is striving to make changes in their lives to tackle the impact of climate change, but ultimately realises that unless the majority of the population change their behaviour and consumption habits, we can’t make the differences that we strive for. I guess this is where we look up to the authorities to tell us how they will change things and how they will communicate to those who are unaware of the situation. And I genuinely believe that people just don’t realise what is going on, or at least how to change their behaviour. And from some of the responses on the panel, I don’t even think they really knew either! One panelist even dropped in the importance of globalisation in the response to the widening of the M1! Suddenly the scales appeared before our very eyes: the planet in one, and gold bars in the other!

The event was a great opportunity to find out how people felt about the challenges of climate change and also a rare chance to present these to the powers that be. However, there was also a certain element of preaching to the converted. We were told by one panel member that each of us is responsible for changing our habits and that it wasn't just the responsibility of the authorities. Wise words apart from the fact that the audience already is adapting their lives to fight climate change.

Nottingham wants to be a leading city in tackling climate change - and we have our very own Al Gore in the form of Alan Simpson, Labour MP who introduced the movie on Friday. Al Simpson, I know is genuinely dedicated to this cause and I know because I have seen his eco-home during architecture week. May be Alan Simpson can speak some sense to these local authority leaders who claim to possess political will, but can't seem to translate this into political action.

Anyway, it was great to see passions run high and people saying what they think, as this so rarely happens. (Hooray for the wind turbine guy at the front!!).

As I write, it has emerged that 20 environmental activists have broken onto the tarmac at Nottingham East Midlands Airport in protest against aviation fuelled climate change. It seems that the debate is hotting up...

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Will new air travel restrictions keep travellers closer to home?

This question was posed by Synovate Research as a result of a survey carried out in response to recent restrictions on air travel and the chaos caused at airports. 40% of respondents from the UK concluded that air travel is much less appealing now than ever due to inconveniences caused by tighter security restrictions as well as the threat of terror itself.

Having boarded my first flight at the age of 21 heading to Moscow with a number of university colleagues, the prospect of heading as far eastwards as I had ever done, was indeed appealing. This pre-empted the boom in cheap flights which soon put pay to the initial excitement of take off and landing. Air travel has become a commodity rather than part of a holiday and in some ways this essential part of the journey has become a written off, dismissed period of time. Get from A to B. Don't mention the T-word. Pack all sharp objects. Check. Drink that bottle of water BEFORE security. Check. The list goes on. No wonder the British public are beginning to shy away from air travel.

Let's take the opportunity to reduce our air miles and think about the consequences our short haul flights are having on the environment. Let's go slow. Let's look at the options.

Get to Europe by Eurostar and enlist the help of to find details of onward trains. Sail to St Malo, Bilbao or Brest and see the sun rise over the Channel whilst inhaling the early morning breeze. Be the first passenger to leave the ferry triumphantly by bicycle.

There are so many options when you think about it.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

following the Future Footprints

Today I found out about the Future Footprints group based in the South West of England. Future Footprints, led by Lynn Gibbons is funded by Sustainability South West and was set up to promote sustainable tourism by embedding sustainability into the visitor experience. And this summer clearly has been a busy one for them.

With 80% of the South West's tourists arriving by car, the challenge is on to persuade travellers to swap the car for more sustainable forms of transport. And I'm told the possibilities are growing by the day. With a "Rail Ale Trail", what better excuse can you have for leaving the car behind and doing a pub crawl to end all pub crawls? Then there's the increasing network of cycle paths and routes criss-crossing one of England's most visited regions. And save money at the same time. A number of attractions have incentivized sustainable transport by offering visitors arriving by people-powered or public transport a discounted entry.

Future Footprints has devised innovative ways of promoting its sustainable tourism products so keep an eye out when you're next in the west country.

Friday, 8 September 2006

can ecoescape be carbon neutral?

ecoescape promises to be carbon neutral. This is a task we have been researching for a while now and it is important that we get it right. Throughout ecoescape's existence, we will go to painstaking effort to reduce the CO2 emissions which are generated as a direct result of the project. We will track the emissions caused and also emissions saved. By the time the guide is launched in 2007, ecoescape aims to have offset the emissions generated and render the project carbon neutral. A carbon diary will be kept throughout the development of ecoescape to monitor this aspect. ecoescape is devising an offsetting plan and would welcome any innovative ideas for bringing us to zero.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

A good eco-lodge

A genuinely environmentally friendly place to stay is a rare find. However, a small handful of eco-lodges have emerged across the UK which have proved that a green holiday is really possible. Having stayed at the eco-lodge in Lincolnshire, I was amazed at how easy it was to slip into a green routine without feeling that any modern luxuries were missing.

Two other eco-lodges are found in Shropshire and East Sussex. If anyone has stayed at any of these or has discovered any other purpose built eco-lodges in the UK, please write. And for all those who aren't sure, I have attached a very handy guide by Justin Francis of Responsible Travel which lets you decide if your eco-lodge is really eco.

Sunday, 27 August 2006 launches

It's day one of ecoescape online. I should introduce the project to the world.

ecoescape was born out of a concern for the impact of tourism and travel on the environment. And the lack of information about what we could do to change our behaviour and make a difference.

ecoescape recieved funding to address this information gap and offer tourists in the UK a valuable and free tool to help them on their way to a low impact, low carbon holiday. The guide is in development and will be ready for spring '07. is a primarily a window on this adventure and it's also a blog which stands as an invitation for all to participate. So ideas, inspiration, comments or rants are all welcome.

The project is a not-for-profit venture and any profits will go towards sustainable tourism projects in the UK. For information about advertising and sponsorship opportunities, download the media pack using the link on the left hand side.

If you have any specific questions, email me I'll be pleased to hear from you.