With the INSTO Global Meeting happening this week, we decided to share the survey we created at the beginning of this year about COVID-19 recovery. Let us know if it's helpful to you!
For many historic sites and heritage regions, a public-private partnership can offer a lifeline with much-needed funding, support, and awareness. At this summer’s IUCN World Congress, authors Pamela Lanier and Jessica Hughes joined with ecotourism colleague Jean-Philippe Le Moigne in a presentation of three case studies highlighting successful public-private partnerships with a goal to provide a template for others to follow.
Valley of the Moon
Beginning in our own backyard, Jessica Hughes discussed Jack London State Historic Park, also known as Jack London Home and Ranch, a well-loved destination in Glen Ellen California. Declared a California Historical Landmark in 1960 and a National Historic Landmark in 1962, the Park has a long established role as a natural and cultural resource in the region. Yet in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, and during the budget crisis of 2021, it was one of 70 state parks in the California system slated for closure.
Two other Sonoma parks were on the same list: Annadel State Park and Sugarloaf Ridge. All three continue to operate today, an achievement made possible by the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association (VotM) and its advocacy for self-sustaining models of funding.
The Valley of the Moon Natural History Association had been established nearly a half-century ago to support the interpretive needs of the three parks. In this role, it is one of more than 80 cooperating associations authorized pursuant to Public Resource Code 513. Typically, such associations are related to, but independent of the state parks they serve.
It was the passage of Assembly Bill 42, introduced by Representative Jared Huffman in 2010, that allowed nonprofit groups like VotM to assume a central role park operations and to make it possible for state parks such as Jack London to remain in operation without state or federal funding. The State Park system remains an active partner, providing rangers and retaining responsibility for some functions of the parks' infrastructure.
With AB42 in place, VotM then created Jack London Park Partners (JLPP) to oversee management of the park. JLPP receives no funds from State Parks to subsidize the management and operation of the park depends entirely on private revenue and donations.
The public-private partnership model developed by Valley of the Moon Natural History Association to save Sonoma’s parks has been instrumental in saving 14 parks in all throughout the state.
Rapa Nui National Park
In his presentation, Jean-Philippe Le Moigne drew attention to the relationship between indigenous peoples and protected areas. A relationship not historically beneficial, Le Moigne notes, as early conservation efforts of “natural areas” often came about through the displacement and disenfranchisement of the indigenous populations who lived there.
Le Moigne believes a new paradigm is emerging that recognizes indigenous populations within a protected areas must be included as participants in the preservation process and given agency in the management or co-management of its future. “Every single government in the world must advance in this way,” Le Moigne affirms.
Two indigenous communities that have successfully formed public-private partnerships with their governments to co-manage the public use of their homelands are the Likan Antai in Chile and the Machu Picchu in Peru. Yet, as Le Moigne notes, the process can be a long and difficult one and that is something that needs to change.
In 2016 and after a long negotiation process between the Rapa Nui People and the Government of Chile, the public use (tourism) of the Rapa Nui National Park located in Te pito o te henua or better known as Easter Island, passed into the hands of the Ma'u Henua Community, an indigenous legal organization. This action returns full control and management of an UNESCO world heritage site, one that has weathered centuries of colonialism and global tourism, to its indigenous people.
As Le Moigne states, this is a huge achievement that puts in practice the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (2007), and ILO Convention 169 (1989). Regardless of the ups and downs the future may hold, the Rapa Nui now have free determination regarding tourism development in their land.
Walking Amanda’s Trail
Sometimes a natural area of great beauty holds a brutal story of our past.
In her segment, Pamela Lanier illustrated how the generous gift of private land in 1988 made it possible for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to reckon with the US Military’s compulsory removal of native peoples along the Oregon Coast in the century before and to memorialize one of its many victims.
In 1864 Amanda De-Cuys, a member of the Coos people, was separated from her family during a brutal, enforced trek from her home up the coast to the Alsea Sub-agency reservation. The journey she walked is marked today by Amanda’s Trail, located from the town of Yachats along coastal cliffs to the summit of Cape Perpetua and is part of the Siuslaw National Forest (SNF).
As Lanier explains, earlier efforts by Forest management to connect two longer trails in the state trail route faced the all-too common challenges of funding and safety issues. In 1988, Joanne and Norman Kittel, a Minnesota couple, purchased 27+ acres bordering the North Cape with the intention to form a public-private partnership that would benefit the area.
The Kittels made their purchase with three goals in mind: to build the Oregon Trail through their property, learn local indigenous history and create a conservation easement. Over the next few years, the Kittles and the governing agencies involved worked together through various issues concerning access and safety. One proposed route of the trail was shelved and the Kittles were instrumental in suggesting a less expensive alternate.
In April 1998, the Amanda Bridge, built by public and private volunteerism was dedicated to a crowd of 150. In the following years, another private donor gifted the trail with a statue created by local artist Sy Meadow and dedicated it to Amanda’s memory.
When the trail was completed in 2009, a second dedication was made – this time with 30 tribal members in attendance. The town of Yachats now hosts an annual Peace Hike on New Years Day, which honors Amanda’s journey. This year, due COVID-19 restrictions on large group gatherings, the hike was virtual with Miluk Coos Tribal member Patricia Whereat Phillips, linguist, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) narrating Amanda’s story.
“For those who travel the Amanda Trail, it’s a chance to immerse yourself in a meditative journey,” Lanier concludes. “To learn some of the history of the region and its original people. And a chance to sit by the statue of Amanda and to take a look at the uncomfortable truths of a history 150 years old that continues to play out in the lives of many, each day, today.”
The Amanda Trail is jointly maintained by the Siuslaw National Forest, City of Yachats, Oregon State Parks, Oregon Department of Transportation, and a private landowner.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature wrapped up their quadrennial World Conservation Congress this week; a year later than originally intended due to the COVID-19 crisis. Over the course of the 9-day conference IUCN members voted on 39 Motions, elected new leadership and approved the next IUCN programme for 2021-2024, which will be called Nature 2030: Union in Action. During that time too, four separate summits took place, the Indigenous Peoples’ Summit, the Global Youth Summit, the CEO Summit and the Local Action Summit, all aiming to inspire and invigorate the various groups IUCN works with.
One of our group members attended the Global Youth Summit, while two others attended the CEO Summit. Both were inspiring and insightful.
We from EcoGo came to the conference supporting three motions, Motion 003 Establishing a Climate Change Commission [or Establishing a Global IUCN Climate Crisis Action Platform] from the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance Foundation and Our Drowning Voices, Motion 101, Setting area-based conservation targets based on evidence of what nature and people need to thrive, sponsored by The WILD Foundation and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and Motion 130, Strengthening sustainable tourism’s role in biodiversity conservation and community resilience, proposed by WCPA's (a commission within IUCN) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. Both passed, as you can see here:
Motion 130 covers creating Sustainable Tourism as a topic and integrating nature-based tourism events and activities into future Congresses and IUCN conferences, calls for the creation of an inter-commission working group focused on sustainable tourism’s role in biodiversity conservation and community resilience and urges other commissions to include sustainable tourism in their future efforts. We congratulate WCPA and all co-sponsors.
Motion 101 was a long time in the making, and has passed thanks to the tireless efforts of Vance Martin and his team. As climate change drives the absolute necessity for action, these are the sort of guidelines we will need to rely on to protect nature - key to our survival.
Motion 003 was highly debated. The proposers wanted a Climate Change Commission created, but in revision by the IUCN review body, language was changed to have a task force, rather than a commission created. You can read Our Drowning Voices response to that change here. That language changed under further revision to "Establishing a Global IUCN Climate Crisis Action Platform" or creating a Commission. The motion passed in the 8th and final debate and vote of the conference, though we don't yet know what form it will take.
IUCN also agreed upon a new manifesto for the next four-year period, with a focus on COVID-19 recovery and halting biodiversity loss.
Earlier this summer, SH Hotels & Resorts captured media attention for its carbon neutral efforts by announcing a new feature to in its customer loyalty program. In addition to the usual amenities, guests at high-end properties in Miami, London and Cabo could now choose to redeem earned loyalty points for carbon offsets credits funding projects in North America, India or Kenya.
With this move, SH Hotels joined other major and luxury properties offering carbon offset options to their guests including Meliá Hotels International, which launched a similar program in 2019. Canada’s Coast Hotels and Resorts has been inviting its guests to add a $1 a night to their bill to purchase a night’s carbon credit since 2010.
Providing your guests a voluntary option to offset their own carbon emissions can be an important and rewarding part of your business’s carbon-neutral policies. It’s a beneficial way to convey your brand’s commitment and it offers your guests an option to do their part in decarbonizing travel and hospitality.
But is a carbon-offset program for guests something that only a major luxury brand or global company can afford to launch? As we learned from a recent presentation on carbon offsets from Travel International/Impact Travel Alliance: Seattle, researching and implementing a successful carbon offset program could take some work!
Fortunately, there are a growing number of businesses ready to assist any destination of any size with affordable and scalable turn-key solutions. They can partner with hotel management to provide many or all of the tools needed to build an offset program, including carbon emission calculation technology, shopping cart integration for online ordering, and, most importantly, financial transparency in carbon offset programs sponsoring.
We took a look at four of them:
Founded in 2017 in Auckland New Zealand, Carbon Click is the collaborative partner that’s hosting the SH Hotels loyalty program. The company has roots in the hospitality industry when its founders met while working on airline carbon offsetting initiatives.
CarbonClick quickly expanded focus to retail and ecommerce businesses with an out-of-the-box “Green Button” API, allowing customers to voluntarily add a small, calculated fee to offset product shipment and other emissions. Their Green Button integration is now available for businesses using Shopify, Woo Commerce and Magneto ecommerce solutions.
Revenue generated from the app, after fees for the service, is split 50/50 between a carbon offset project based on your locale and a high-impact international clean energy project. For scalable loyalty programs, like the one at SH Hotels, or a bespoke application customized to
your needs, contact their team.
Another shopping cart app, developed in 2014, this one offers the quickest and most seamless way for a small hospitality business to integrate voluntary carbon offset purchases into their online purchase portal. Contributions are pooled into a fund that invests in projects vetted by the company and certified by Verified Carbon Standard or Climate Action Reserve.
Customers choosing to make a contribution receive email confirmations with a unique link to their “Giving Portfolio” tracking their donation history. Participating businesses can track marketing performance metrics associated with the app, including customer loyalty trends and cart abandonment rate analytics in the Carbon Checkout Dashboard.
The app is currently limited to Shopify-enabled businesses and some destinations may not feel that currently chosen projects, a wind power facility in Mexico and a landfill gas to energy project in South Carolina, connect with or convey their own locale’s brand. But
if you are looking for ease of use and fastest implementation, this solution offers the basics.
By far our favorite for its alignment of company mission and range of businesses it serves. As part of the LivClean suite of business solutions, which also include eCommerce and Corporate packages, EcoStay is specifically designed for the smaller or independently owned properties looking for affordable sustainability initiatives with an emphasis on the guest’s experience.
Headquartered in Canada, EcoStay currently partners with several major Canadian hotel chains including the Alberta Hotels and Lodging Association, as well as US-based Best Western. Projects funded through member hotels focus exclusively on forestry conservation, with programs in British Columbia, Vermont, and Alberta. Plans for additional US projects in Maine and Alaska are underway.
According to president Christina deVries, Ecostay welcomes businesses of all sizes. “We have small boutique hotels & lodges, and even an eco-adventure glamping experience as members. We can also work with properties that only operate seasonally,” she said. “Implementation is very streamlined, with on-line staff education, free start-up marketing package, and it takes less than 5 minutes a month administration.”
4. Sustainable Travel International
For hotels and destinations ready to build a comprehensive carbon-neutral and sustainability program unique to their operational needs, Sustainable Travel International is widely recognized is the go-to resource. Your carbon offset purchase is only half the picture and they can work directly with you to measure, reduce, and then offset emissions for your business. Several educational tools and articles are available freely on their website.
They also foster partnerships between tourist businesses and their communities, strengthening local supply chains and economic support between the stakeholders. The funded carbon reduction projects are chosen based on the co-benefits they provide to local communities and biodiversity and their alignment with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To learn more about Sustainable Travel International and how it can partner with your business, contact them online at Carbon Offsets for Businesses – Sustainable Travel International.
5. Ecologi for Business
You've given your guests opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of their journeys. But what about yourself and your employees? Ecologi, founded in Bristol UK in 2019, has a possible solution.
With a commitment to radical financial transparency and just the right amount of skepticism, this climate tech start-up has developed Climate Positive Workforce®, a subscription product for small and medium businesses. In their model, your business's total carbon footprint calculation is based on number of employees along with an average of their business and personal travel impact.
What made Ecologi stand out for us was the passion of its commitment to climate action and its honesty in recognizing that motivation and enthusiasm alone wasn't enough. To ensure scientific peer-review and accountability of the projects they fund, Ecologi works with a voluntary group of academics and researchers, who serve on their Ecologi Climate Committee (ECC).
As Sam Jackson, Climate Impact & Partnerships Manager explains it: "In order to truly maximise our climate impact, we would need to tap into a whole wealth of climate knowledge, from leading experts in the field."
Additional business products from Ecologi include shopping cart app integrations for Shopify and Zapier, a customizable API tool that generates carbon offset purchases based on the online customer actions you choose, and an "Add More Impact" button for your profile or website for one-time and voluntary contributions.
Summer 2021 could mark the turning point in travelers’ demand for carbon offsets. While the pandemic abruptly halted tourism’s skyrocketing growth in 2020, it also drew attention to the severe economic impacts destinations face in a crisis—and climate change is widely accepted as next on the horizon.
In a recent webinar, Kaitlyn Brajcich and Paloma Zapata at Sustainable Travel International / Impact Travel Alliance: Seattle offered an overview of carbon offsets: a commodity that’s now ready for takeoff.
First: Calculate Your Footprint
Brajcich began with the basic protocol for companies and individuals alike: calculate the carbon footprint of your activity and reduce what you can first. Then purchase carbon credit offsets to mitigate the remaining balance.
And it’s not just air travel that creates your carbon footprint, Brajcich reminded. A single vacation encompasses many factors: transit involved, luggage weight, accommodations, food consumption – even souvenirs purchased. For tourist businesses and destinations pursuing net-zero goals, energy sources, supply chains, and energy-efficient designs become part of the equation. It all adds up.
Know the terms and the market
Carbon offsets are measured by the tonne (metric ton), and one carbon credit represents the reduction of one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.
Pricing of a carbon credit depends on a number of factors associated with the carbon offset program offering the carbon offset project generating it and can vary widely from provider to provider.
Research your provider
With so many carbon offset providers to choose from – and more entering a growing market – it helps to know where to look for yours. The ones used by major businesses, including airports and airlines, are generally larger for-profit vendors or even industry colleagues, such as Tesla. Smaller businesses and individuals will find offset providers in NGOs and destinations leading environmentally focused projects.
Here’s where it starts to feel like “the Wild West,” as Zapata described it in the webinar. Not all carbon offset projects are created equal, she cautioned, and it is imperative to research and to look for third-party verification and validated standards. She highlighted media coverage of lapses and regulatory challenges besetting projects in years past as well as the increased focus in certification on additionality, leakage, permanence, and actual amounts of carbon storage or reduction delivered.
Still, as Forbes’ Rob Day noted, prior criticism and new scrutiny is a strong incentive for improvement as demand surges in the private sector. According to Day, the discipline of project finance is at the heart of the carbon offset market and clearly stated obligations with measurable results are key to stronger enforcement mechanisms throughout the industry. And in May, Singapore announced its commitment to strengthen universal trust and verifiability of carbon offsets, as part of its plan to be a global carbon services and trading hub.
Resources to bookmark
So whether you are a traveler looking to offset your long-awaited vacation or a small business committed to decarbonizing travel and tourism, where do you start? From carbon footprint calculator to carbon offset provider, here’s our list of the top resources to watch:
Though times are difficult right now, I find myself inspired by the way the world has become united by a singular threat. The World Conservation Congress will now be January 2021, but the theme of the congress, "One Nature, One Future", is more poignant than ever. I am reminded of my first WCC in 2012, in Jeju, when we brought the above banner to share a very similar message.
“Our Planet, Our Future” was drawn by young immigrant children in the Bay Area under the guidance of their teacher, Elena Garnache. The world imagined by these children is lush, its oceans blue, and its people live as a part of nature, not separate from it. Through these trying times, I look at what these children imagined for us and feel warmed and hopeful, and I pray for a future where we live connected - One future, one nature, one singular, beautiful, blue planet.
After having attended the INSTO Meeting in Madrid last month, we at the Sonoma Sustainable Tourism Observatory, we can now happily release our Annual Report for the year. This report focused on the Tubbs Fire - how it happened, the tourism impacts, and how our region is preparing for future fire incidents.
This report was written before the most recent fire in Sonoma County, the Kincade Fire and before the planned public safety blackouts that affected the region. We will be discussing this October's events in a future report.
"The more digital we get, the more ritual we need." - Lynne Twist, Co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance.
We at Sonoma Sustainable Tourism had the pleasure of attending the Pachamama Alliance's annual San Francisco Luncheon. More than 1400 supporters were in attendance, along with the founders, and the executive director of the Fundación Pachamama Ecuador, Belén Paez.
Most impressive, perhaps, was the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative, a multi-year project to secure permanent protected status of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon Headwaters —which will include indigenous management of the key social, economic, and political aspects of the area and include a complete ban on all industrial-level extractive activities.
Pachamama Alliance is active with over 20 indigenous cultures in central and southern Ecuador and northern Peru where they have operated for the past two decades, to protect, educate, and create a global effort towards keeping the rainforest alive and flourishing.
The Drawdown Initiative is another program they're spearheading, through a series of in-person workshops and an online course currently available on their website. The goal is to implement 100 solutions not just to slow climate change, but to reverse it by 2050.
Saving the Amazon headwaters is something we can't afford not to do. Sign the Sacred Headwaters Declaration here.
We at Sonoma Sustainable Tourism have officially turned in our Year Two annual report! Bearing a heavy focus on the October 2017 Fires that struck our area almost a year and a half ago, the annual report is available to download below and will be excerpted in future blog posts this year.
Edit: A helpful reader found we had attached the next year's annual report. Thanks much for letting us know!
Unlike the Napa Valley with its crowded highway 29, which runs through the heart of the wineries, Sonoma County offers a more pastoral scene of narrow winding roads leading to small family owned wineries off the beaten path. At one turn, you might be surprised by a winery in an abandoned brick Hops Kiln; at another, by having to stop to let traffic through on a narrow one-way bridge over Dry Creek.
As in Napa valley, many of Sonoma’s wineries are making remarkable progress on the path to sustainability. Benziger Winery is one of the leaders; it took an early lead in biodynamic farming and tells its story in a remarkably detailed vineyard tour.
The light on Sonoma Mountain in October is golden. Sitting at a table on the patio at Benziger Winery, there is electricity in the air. You hear the steady drone of insects and the distant mechanical whine of harvesting. The sounds of de-stemmers and sorting tables tell you that this is a working farm and not just a showplace for finished wine. The beauty of this location may be what first attracted Mike Benziger and his wife Mary.
The Benzigers began farming operations in the late 1970s and quickly discovered that the wine business is capital intensive. They solved their cash flow problems by starting a high-volume, jug-wine brand called Glen Ellen Winery. In 1989, Benziger, including the Glen Ellen brand, would sell 3.2 million cases for a gross revenue of $90 million. Shortly after reaching this milestone, Mike met a man named Alan York, an expert in biodynamic farming, and everything about his winery changed.
Until this point, Mike farmed his winery conventionally. He sprayed grapes according to a calendar, one part of the year spraying pesticides, another, fertilizers. “The earth didn’t look as rich as it once had,” said Chris Benziger. “Things seemed drier and harder and quieter.” Mike and Mary, following Alan York’s lead, began to realize that maybe the conventional way wasn’t the best way to grow grapes. They stopped spraying their vines, created havens for good insects, and began composting. Slowly their vineyard came back to life.
Although the decision to become a biodynamic winery had less to do with green marketing than with keeping the 85-acre property healthy, once Benziger became biodynamic, people began asking about the wine they were producing from purchased grapes. Was that wine biodynamic as well? Since the Benziger property was the first in Sonoma County to become certified biodynamic by the Demeter Foundation, the answer was “no.” In fact, most of the wine the winery produced was still farmed conventionally. In 2001, Mark Burningham, Benziger’s VP of winegrowing, created his own certification process for sustainable grape farming called “Farming for Flavors.” As of 2007, Benziger would only buy grapes meeting the Farming for Flavors criteria.
The Sustainable Winegrowing Pyramid
At the base of the pyramid is “Personal Connection to the Land, Observation, Anticipation.” This is vigilant, involved farming. It means knowing, for example, where a plant might get mildew in certain conditions and cutting it back before the mildew spreads to the rest of the vines.
The next level is “Biodiversity and Estate Farming.” This is really the idea that the terroir of the site will speak in the wine if the farmer doesn’t try to completely destroy the natural habitat.
Next on the pyramid is “Self-Regulating Systems.” At most wineries, you might see cover crops between the rows of grapevines or a small garden at the visitor’s center; the Benzigers have taken this to the extreme by planting connecting insectaries in pockets of the vineyard to give predatory bugs an incentives to range into all parts of the vineyard, providing extra defense against disease-causing insects.
Next, because the property is certified biodynamic, it is a “Closed Nutrient System.” This means that the vineyard composts everything, and that no outside compost will be added.
The last two pyramid planks and the pyramid’s apex are where biodynamic farming really differs from organic farming. “Biodynamic Preparations” are often what people cite as the only thing they know about biodynamic farming. According to Demeter USA, the certifying organization for biodynamic farms in the United States, nine biodynamic preparations made from a variety of herbs, mineral substances, and animal manures are used in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies are for humans.[ Benzigers’ website also has a widget that shows the current phase of the moon which gives reference to what they mean by the next plank, “Working with the Rhythms of Nature.” One of the tenets of biodynamic farming is that crops should be planted and harvested according to lunar cycles.]
At the tip of the Benzigers’ pyramid is “Spirit.” Although less tangible, you definitely feel Spirit on the property. The Benziger’s stamp is everywhere—in the way they do business with their employees and customers, and in the way they make their wine.
Today, Benziger really seems to care about worker happiness: “Green Teams” monitor employee morale and secret shoppers make sure that the customer experience in the tasting room is good as well.
The company also differentiates itself by its level of community activism, which at other wineries ends with donating wine and tasting room visits to auctions. Benziger goes beyond that, with its greatest philanthropic commitment being to Jack London State Park. The winery donates its tasting room profits to the Park during Earth Day weekend each year, and sends paid vineyard workers to the park for trail restoration and campground clean ups. The winery is also the signature sponsor for the Park’s Broadway Under the Stars series.
Benziger is also a leader in the area of water conservation, so much so that in 2010 the National Resources Defense Council named Mike Benziger the “Water Steward of the Year.” The Benzigers began to really look at their water use when their wells started to run dry. They did two things to conserve quickly. First, they removed underperforming grapes that need frequent irrigation; second, they built wetlands to recycle water using planted hollow reeds as a filter.
The Benzigers also water differently. Instead of using scheduled drip irrigation to water the grapevines, they watch the weather closely and use drip irrigation a few days before a hot spell to keep the temperature around the vines cool so that the grapes don’t overheat. Otherwise the grapes are dry farmed.
Today, Benziger’s priorities are to make and sell the best wine they can for as long as they can while remaining good stewards of their land so it will continue to produce great grapes long into the future.
- Excerpted from The Good Company: Sustainability in Hospitality, Tourism, and Wine by Robert Girling, Heather Gordy, and Pamela Lanier through Business Expert Press
- Chapter prepared by Rachel Kau-Taylor, MBA