Climate change and pollution: the toll of tourism
While a strong economic driver, international tourism is also a burden on the fight against climate change. It is time for the sector to acknowledge its environmental responsibility and to transition to a more sustainable model.
by Teresa López
The total number of international travellers increased in 2017 for the eighth consecutive year, reaching 1,323 millions and breaking all records. These tourists bring a lot of money and can activate certain economies, but also mean enormous volumes of water and energy usage, as well as waste creation and pollution.
National governments and international organisations are starting to realise that the sector needs a change. So do tourists, who are slowly increasing the demand for travel services more committed to the environment. Once again, ecolabels can play a key role here in proving which businesses are making a real and effective effort to be more sustainable.
The Green Key standard is a good example. The standard is awarded to more than 2,900 hotels and related businesses in 57 countries. In their own words: “A Green Key stands for an establishment’s promise to its guests that by opting to stay with such an establishment, they are helping to make a difference on an environmental and sustainability level”.
Green Key strongly advises to buy renewable energy and to go a step further and choose a product like EKOenergy. The two international ecolabels signed a collaboration agreement in 2016 to promote the use of sustainable energy in the hospitality and tourism sector worldwide.
“A growing number of hotels in Europe have already switched to EKOenergy and include the EKOenergy logo in their communication with their guests. Follow their lead and go the extra mile,” encourages Finn Bolding Thomsen, International Green Key Director.
In the hospitality sector “it’s time to realise that not anything goes”
Sleep’n Atocha, located in the centre of Madrid, is one of the many hotels that already consume sustainable electricity with the EKOenergy label. After decades of experience in hospitality in Spain, Director Gorka Rosell is 100% committed to a real change in the sector.
“The sector in which we are in is indifferent to environmental issues and its consequences. We have been destroying landscapes without caring for anything, and I think it is time for us to realize that not anything goes,” he says, especially referring to coastal resorts.
Gorka highlights the amount of hotels that still focus almost exclusively on short term economic results. On the contrary, since Sleep’n Atocha was founded almost three years ago, he has worked hard to make sustainability a core part of its identity.
Furniture from recycled materials, hygiene products offered in bulk, eco-friendly food and drink options, waste management… and, of course, sustainable energy. ”There is no difference or extra difficulty in buying EKOenergy instead of electricity from a polluting source. It is an obvious thing to do if we want to think ahead”.
The company tries not to pass on these environmental costs to the consumer in the final price. “I understand the hotel’s ecological and sustainable attributes as part of the cost of production”. However, thanks to big efforts to be efficient and avoid waste – encouraged by the Travel Life Gold Standard that the hotel holds – Sleep’n remains competitive.
Due to the large production of waste in the hospitality business, any measure to cut the consumption of energy, water, food or plastics is meaningful and has a real impact. Here at EKOenergy, we encourage those in the tourism sector to take a stance. A simple way to start? Moving to EKOenergy! In addition, we ask them to raise awareness, amongst all clients and stakeholders, of the necessity for sustainable tourism.