Gold Rush Beneath the Deepest Sea

A crab defends its territory on a seamount in the North Atlantic. Seamounts host a very rich biodiversity, with corals, crustaceans, sponges and echinoderms among the most frequently found organisms. (Photo courtesy Mountains in the Sea Research Team, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) Public domain

A crab defends its territory on a seamount in the North Atlantic. Seamounts host a very rich biodiversity, with corals, crustaceans, sponges and echinoderms among the most frequently found organisms. (Photo courtesy Mountains in the Sea Research Team, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 31, 2018 ( News) – Cold, dark, and under extreme pressure, the deep sea holds a wealth of unique and unusual species, habitats and ecosystems. And it contains rich mineral resources, some of them in unique or highly enriched concentrations.

Deep-sea mining is the retrieval of mineral deposits from the deep sea below 200 meters, an area that covers about 65 percent of the planet’s surface, making it the largest habitat for life on Earth.

“The deep seabed … contains valuable mineral deposits. There is growing commercial interest in mining the ocean floor for these minerals. We might be entering into a gold rush to get to these resources and there is a growing competition between countries and companies to exploit these minerals with limited consideration for the effects on nature,” said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director, Global Marine and Polar Programme, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Regulations under development at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to manage deep-sea mining are not sufficient to prevent irrevocable damage to these marine ecosystems and a loss of unique species – many yet to be discovered, warns a new report from the IUCN.

The report, “Deep seabed mining: a rising environmental challenge,” provides a comprehensive overview of deep-sea mining and its potential environmental impacts.

The report was launched July 16 in Kingston, to coincide with this year’s gathering of the International Seabed Authority, the treaty organization established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, at its July 2 to 27 meeting.

At the 24th ISA meeting, from left: Alfonso Ascencio-Herrera, ISA Legal Counsel and Deputy to the Secretary-General; Pearnel Charles, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica; Michael Lodge, ISA Secretary-General; and Mariusz Orion Jędrysek, ISA Assembly President, Kingston, Jamaica, July 24, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

At the 24th ISA meeting, from left: Alfonso Ascencio-Herrera, ISA Legal Counsel and Deputy to the Secretary-General; Pearnel Charles, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica; Michael Lodge, ISA Secretary-General; and Mariusz Orion Jędrysek, ISA Assembly President, Kingston, Jamaica, July 24, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

The ISA was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.

The ISA’s current goal is to agree on a mining code to regulate the exploitation of the deep seabed. The organization must address both sides of its dual mandate – promoting the development of deep-sea minerals while ensuring that this development does not harm the environment.

There is growing commercial interest in deep-sea mineral deposits as a result of projected rising demand for copper, aluminium, cobalt and other metals. These minerals are used to produce high-tech applications, such as smartphones, and green technologies, such as electric storage batteries.

The IUCN report advises that an effective regulatory framework based on high-quality environmental impact assessments and mitigation strategies is needed to avoid lasting harm to the marine environment from deep seabed mining.

These strategies, in turn, must be based on comprehensive baseline studies to improve the understanding of the deep sea, which remains understudied and poorly understood.

The International Seabed Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities, authorizing them to explore and exploit specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources.

The Convention has also established a body called the Enterprise, which is to serve as the Authority’s own mining operator, but while much discussion in Kingston revolved around the Enterprise, no concrete steps have yet been taken to establish it.

Some 150 participants from national governments, civil society, contractors, and academia attended the ISA Council meetings in Kingston, and 220 attended the Assembly.

The Council made progress on the draft exploitation regulations, while recognizing the need for further work on the payment mechanism, environmental protection, and the Enterprise.

As of May 2018, the ISA had issued 29 contracts for the mineral exploration of the deep sea.

Seventeen of these contracts are for exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone  and Central Indian Ocean Basin. There are seven contracts for exploration for polymetallic sulphides in the South West Indian Ridge, Central Indian Ridge and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and five contracts for exploration for cobalt-rich crusts in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Commercial mining in international waters is expected to begin no earlier than 2025. Exploratory mining in the national waters of Japan started in 2017, and commercial mining is predicted to occur in Papua New Guinea by 2020.

But according to IUCN experts, the mining code currently under development lacks sufficient knowledge of the deep sea and a thorough assessment of environmental impacts of mining operations that are necessary to ensure effective protection of deep-sea life.

“We are operating in the dark,” says Lundin. “Our current understanding of the deep sea does not allow us to effectively protect marine life from mining operations. And yet, exploration contracts are being granted even for those areas that host highly unique species.”

“Exploitation of minerals using current technologies could potentially destroy the rich deep-sea life forever,” warned Lundin, “benefitting only a few, and disregarding future generations.”

For an idea of how valuable these minerals are, the IUCN reports that, “Ferromanganese crusts on seamounts in the central Pacific are estimated to contain about four times the cobalt, three and a half times more yttrium, and nine times more tellurium than the entire known land-based reserves of these metals.”

Cobalt is used in alloys for aircraft engine parts, in batteries and in electroplating as well as to color ceramics.

Yttrium is used in making red phosphors for color television picture tubes, to make superconductors and to increase the strength of aluminium and magnesium alloys. It is used in the making of microwave filters for radar and is added to the glass used to make camera lenses to make them heat and shock resistant.

Both have medical uses. A radioactive isotope of cobalt is used to trace cancers, and the radioactive isotope yttrium-90 can be used to treat some cancers, such as liver cancer.

Tellurium is alloyed with copper and stainless steel to improve their machinability. Tellurium has been used to vulcanize rubber, to tint glass and ceramics, in solar cells, in rewritable CDs and DVDs and as a catalyst in oil refining. It can be used with silver, gold, copper or tin in semiconductor applications.

Though there is little empirical evidence of the impacts of deep-sea mining, the potential impacts are worrying, says the IUCN report. Impacts include direct physical damage to marine habitats due to the scraping of the ocean floor by machines and the stirring up of fine sediments on the seafloor that can smother animals and cloud the water.

Also expected are the toxic pollution due to leaks and spills, noise, vibrations and light pollution from mining equipment and surface vessels.

“Potential adverse environmental effects include the actual removal of minerals, some of which have formed over millions of years and host a diverse array of species; physical disturbances that can alter or destroy deep-sea habitats; and the disturbance of seafloor sediment, which could create plumes of suspended particles that will take time to settle and affect the marine environment beyond the mining area,” the IUCN report states.

Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC)’s experimental ore collector is launched from the deck of the organization’s research vessel Hakurei. The equipment collected crushed polymetallic sulphides at a depth of 1,600 meters. These were lifted to a support vessel using submersible pumps and a riser pipe. Summer 2017 (Photo courtesy METI/JOGMEC via IUCN) Posted for media use.

Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC)’s experimental ore collector is launched from the deck of the organization’s research vessel Hakurei. The equipment collected crushed polymetallic sulphides at a depth of 1,600 meters. These were lifted to a support vessel using submersible pumps and a riser pipe. Summer 2017 (Photo courtesy METI/JOGMEC via IUCN) Posted for media use.

Deep seabed mineral extraction will take place with equipment operated remotely under extreme physical conditions, the report explains. Technical challenges include designing machinery to excavate, collect, grind and lift to the surface minerals from 1,000-6,000 meter depths, while withstanding considerable differences in pressure, temperature, density, salinity and acidity.

“With regulations for commercial deep-sea mining currently under development, we are facing a unique window of opportunity to ensure that potential impacts of these operations are properly assessed, understood and publically discussed,” says co-author Kristina Gjerde, IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme senior advisor on the high seas.

“Stringent precautionary measures to protect the marine environment should be a core part of any mining regulations, yet these remain missing in action,” said Gjerde.

“In addition to this,” she warned, “the ISA’s challenging and conflicting mandate will require improved oversight by the international community to ensure marine life is adequately protected.”

On July 26, the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority adopted:

  • The strategic plan (2019-2023) with some amendments;
  • A decision to prepare a high-level action plan with performance indicators and outputs; and the budget for 2019-2020.
  • The Assembly meeting of the 25th Session of the ISA will take place in Kingston, Jamaica, from July 21-26, 2019.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has been ratified by 168 parties, which includes 167 states (164 member states of the United Nations plus the UN Observer state Palestine, as well as the Cook Islands, Niue and the European Union). The United States has refused to ratify the Convention, arguing that the treaty is unfavorable to American economic and security interests.

Featured Image: Porcelain crabs, like the one pictured, possess a unique filter feeding mechanism. Scientists found this crab in a suction sample while in the deep-sea scientific research submersible Johnson-Sea-Link II. 2018 (Photo by Liz Baird / NOAA) public domain.


Conflict-Free Diamonds May Still Be Flawed

Artisinal miners in Zimbabwe endure punishing conditions in search of the precious stones. (Photo courtesy Zimbabweland) Posted for media use

Artisinal miners in Zimbabwe endure punishing conditions in search of the precious stones. (Photo courtesy Zimbabweland) Posted for media use

NEW YORK, New York, September 12, 2017 ( News) – When it comes to gifts, it is said that the best things come in small packages, often in small turquoise packages from Tiffany & Co., the world-famous 180-year-old New York luxury jeweler.

In its seventh annual Sustainability Report, released late last month, Tiffany & Co. is detailing its progress in 2016 towards realizing its commitments to environmental and social responsibility, even as evidence surfaces that in Africa the conflict diamond trade still exists.

“Responsible behavior is an implicit part of the Tiffany brand promise. Along with artful design, great craftsmanship and gracious service, it is a critical dimension of our competitive advantage and defines the relationship with our customer,” writes Michael Kowalski, Tiffany’s chairman of the Board and interim chief executive officer in the 2016 Sustainability Report.

“We design and craft our jewelry and objects to stand the test of time. Clearly we owe the same commitment to the natural world that inspires our work and provides the precious materials we use,” writes Kowalski. “That is why we are absolutely committed to operating a rigorously controlled, transparent and ethical supply chain that can assure that promise of responsibility.”

The three big issues that define Tiffany’s move toward sustainability are:

  • ethical sourcing of diamonds, other precious stones and precious metals
  • protecting the planet from global warming
  • protecting public lands from destructive mining activities

Kowalski vigorously takes issue with President Donald Trump’s policies, declaring, “Even though the political landscape has changed, our approach to running a socially and environmentally responsible business has not.”

Containing Tiffany’s greenhouse gas emissions is a point of pride for the company, Kowalski writes, and Tiffany joined with many other companies in an appeal to the U.S. president not to abandon the Paris Agreement on climate, a policy Trump announced in June.

“We are backing this advocacy with a renewed focus on reducing impacts on climate change in our business and value chain,” Kowalski writes.

The iconic Tiffany blue gift box surrounded by jewels in the window of the Tiffany & Co. New York City store, Dec. 26, 2016 (Photo by Robert Fitzpatrick) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The iconic Tiffany blue gift box surrounded by jewels in the window of the Tiffany & Co. New York City store, Dec. 26, 2016 (Photo by Robert Fitzpatrick) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Tiffany also opposes the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of national monuments, announced in August, which Kowalski says will financially benefit the few “to the detriment of the many who value the extraordinary natural and cultural treasures these lands contain.”

Kowalski writes that Tiffany believes “the mining industry should embrace a new, thoughtful approach to public lands,” and supports “legislative reform that holds mines accountable for responsible closure and ensures the cleanup of abandoned mines.”

Tiffany also opposes mining in special places like Bristol Bay, Alaska, where the proposed giant Pebble Mine would extract copper, gold and molybdenum, threatening one of the world’s greatest remaining wild salmon fisheries.

All these are important issues, but the most crucial standard, the one that would cause the greatest harm if it is not met, is that of the ethical sourcing of diamonds to avoid trade in conflict diamonds, sometimes called blood diamonds.

These are defined as stones illegally traded to fund violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments, particularly in central and western Africa. Now the definition could be expanded to include human rights abuses.

In 2016, Tiffany counts among its achievements that the company sourced 100 percent of its rough diamonds either directly from a known mine or from a supplier with known mines.

Most Tiffany diamonds are dug from known mines in Botswana, Canada, Namibia, Russia, Sierra Leone and South Africa, according to the 2016 Sustainability Report.

Kowalski says Tiffany goes above and beyond the Kimberley Process to source its diamonds with even greater respect for the environment and human rights.

The Kimberley Process, by which diamonds are certified as ethically produced, began when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa in May 2000 to discuss ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

Later that year, the UN General Assembly adopted an international certification scheme for rough diamonds; the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme entered into force in 2003.

The Kimberley Process (KP) now has 54 participants, representing 81 countries, with the European Union and its Member States counting as a single participant. KP members account for roughly 99.8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds.

The World Diamond Council, representing the international diamond industry, and civil society organizations, such as Partnership-Africa Canada, also participate in the Kimberley Process.

Yet even as responsible companies like Tiffany try to polish their sparkling diamonds with ethical clarity, corruption and conflict in the diamond industry persists, according to a new report from Global Witness, a nonprofit organization based in London and Washington, DC.

The Global Witness report, “An Inside Job,” released September 11, states, “Powerful military and political elites and security forces have controlled and secretly exploited Zimbabwe’s once promising diamond sector, while concealing the scale of the loss to its people.”

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, bordered by other diamond-producing countries – South Africa to the south and Botswana to the west. The Global Witness report examines five of the major mining companies that recently operated in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond region.

Since 2010 Zimbabwe has officially exported over US$2.5 billion in diamonds, according to official figures from the Kimberley Process. But government reports show only around US$300 million of this as identified in public accounts.

“A find that offered such promise to the people of Zimbabwe has delivered only disappointment, primarily serving a secretive cabal of vested political and economic interests. There are clear indications of state complicity in the expropriation of these critical resources,” said Michael Gibb of Global Witness.

Mismanagement of the diamond sector has devastating consequences for Zimbabwe’s development and democracy. Not only have diamonds failed to benefit the Zimbabwean people, but evidence suggests that they have funded the state machinery consistently implicated in oppression. This casts serious doubt on President Robert Mugabe’s claim that private investors are solely to blame for billions of dollars of missing diamond revenues.

Global Witness’ key findings set forth in the report include:

  • Secret documents indicating that Zimbabwe’s feared spying agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), is believed to have a stake in a Marange diamond mining company, Kusena Diamonds. This company’s diamonds have been traded in Antwerp and Dubai, circulating freely on international markets, despite the risk they may have funded human rights violations. This may continue, as the company is now merged into the new Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.
  • Zimbabwe’s military entered a partnership with a Chinese investor, to establish the diamond mining company called Anjin Mining. Evidence indicates Anjin’s diamonds were likely sold in Antwerp in violation of European Union sanctions against another of the company’s owners, linked to the Zimbabwean military.
  • Mbada Diamonds held the largest concession in Marange, yet the owner of a 25 percent stake in the company has remained a secret. Global Witness has found evidence to suggest that Robert Mhlanga, a retired member of Zimbabwe’s security forces, and an ally of the ruling party and the President, stands behind the hidden share.
  • The Diamond Mining Corporation was formed as joint venture by the Government of Zimbabwe with a private investor, despite evidence that the individuals behind the company were involved in extensive smuggling of Zimbabwean diamonds for years before obtaining a license.

The revelations come as Zimbabwe gears up for contentious presidential elections in 2018 to replace 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.

Global Witness says that institutions and agencies named in the new report “have played significant roles in subverting Zimbabwe’s democracy and perpetrating serious human rights abuses at key points the in country’s tumultuous political history.”

“Undisclosed stakes in the country’s diamond industry have provided an off-the-books source of funding for their activities, undermining essential public oversight and scrutiny. The diamonds at risk of funding these harms continue to be traded relatively freely” on international markets Global Witness claims.

“Zimbabwe’s diamonds perfectly illustrate the limitations of current efforts to disrupt the sale of diamonds funding human rights abuses and conflict,” said Gibb.

“Zimbabwe’s diamond sector needs root and branch reform, and diamond companies the world over must take responsibility for the hidden history of the resources they profit from,” he said.

“The Zimbabwean people deserve better. With nearly three quarters of the population living beneath the poverty line and an estimated four million people in need of food aid, the need has never been greater,” said Gibb.

Another nonprofit organization, The Diamond Development Initiative International (DDI), based in the United States and Canada, is lobbying for changes to the Kimberley Process.

The Diamond Development Initiative works to support the artisanal and small-scale mining sector by convening interested parties in processes and projects that help turn precious stones and minerals into a source of sustainable community development.

Every three years, the Kimberley Process undertakes to update its policies and procedures, and 2017 is a reform year. In response to a call for recommendations from the KP Chair, DDI submitted a proposal to include human rights in the certification requirements.

The definition of conflict diamonds at the time of the original negotiations in the early aughts centered on the use of diamonds by rebel armies for the purchase of weapons.

“Since then,” says DDI, “other forms of violence and human rights abuse have appeared in connection with diamond mining and production.

But attempts to add to the definition of conflict diamonds, says DDI, “have been frustrated within the Kimberley Process, leading to major internal divisions and to a serious devaluation of our reputation and credibility among consumers and in the world’s media.”

DDI strongly believes that “a clear application of core human rights standards throughout the rough diamond pipeline must become an essential part of the Kimberley Process mandate and identity.”

Ethical jewelers are trying to eliminate the conflict diamond trade by serving as role models for responsible behavior.

The Brilliant Earth chain of jewelry stores says jewelers offering conflict free diamonds “are limiting themselves to the Kimberley Process’s definition, which narrowly defines conflict diamonds as diamonds that finance rebel movements against recognized governments.”

“What this definition leaves out is large numbers of diamonds that are tainted by violence, human rights abuses, poverty, and environmental degradation,” says Brilliant Earth.

This chain claims to go above and beyond the current industry standards to offer diamonds that originate from pure, ethical sources as well as lab created and recycled diamonds, both eco-friendly alternatives.

Ethically sourced natural diamonds originate from mines that follow strict labor, trade, and environmental standards, says Brilliant Earth.

Tiffany executives say the company already goes above and beyond the human rights requirements of the Kimberley Process to source its diamonds and precious metals.

“Tiffany believes we have both a moral and a business imperative to do our part to sustain the natural environment and contribute to the communities where we operate,” said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Tiffany’s chief sustainability officer.

“From speaking out about climate change to advocating for precious landscapes, seascapes and wildlife,” said Costa, “we’ll continue to use Tiffany’s brand influence to have a positive impact and help set the standard for the luxury jewelry industry.”


Sustainable Tourism in an Unstable Political World


Pima Point along Hermit Road on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places on the rim to see and hear the Colorado River. The paved Greenway Trail continues from here towards Hermits Rest, allowing bicyclists and visitors in wheelchairs to share the path with pedestrians. (Photo by Michael Quinn / National Park Service) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, December 22, 2016 ( News) – 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the UN General Assembly has declared, but as Donald Trump takes over the helm of the United States with his natural resources extraction agenda, and the European Union gets used to the idea of life without Great Britain, can sustainable tourism thrive?

Luxury doesn’t have to cost the Earth, yet development often means altering beyond recognition the very sites to which visitors are attracted.

UNESCO maintains a list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. It lists many sites throughout the troubled Middle East. And, the United States, which environmentalists fear is soon to be plundered by President-elect Trump and his rapacious Cabinet, already has two World Heritage Sites on the list

Florida’s 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park has suffered damage due to Hurricane Andrew, and deterioration of water flow and quality due to agricultural and urban development has placed the Everglades in danger, and there has been continued degradation of the site resulting in a loss of marine habitat and decline in marine species, UNESCO warns.

Also on the list of World Heritage in Danger is Yellowstone National Park in Montana. Established in 1872, it is the first national park in the United States and is believed to be the first national park in the world.

But now Yellowstone is endangered by sewage leakage and waste contamination in parts of the park; potential threats to water quantity and quality, past and proposed mining activities, and a proposed control program to eradicate brucellosis in the bison herds.

As President Barack Obama, the president who has designated 23 national monuments, more than any other president to date, prepares to leave the Oval Office on January 20, he is considering at least one more.

Obama could designate a national monument around Grand Canyon National Park, a hot button issue in the Southwest.

One of the world’s great wonders, the Grand Canyon is protected from new uranium mining claims under an Obama-era withdrawal only through 2032.

In the event that Obama does not create a monument to further protect the Grand Canyon, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, hopes to do so through Congress.

Grijalva was joined by tribal leaders from across Northern Arizona in October 2015 to introduce the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act.

Grijalva’s bill permanently protects the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims; protects tribal sacred cultural sites; promotes a collaborative approach between tribal nations and federal land managers; protects commercial and recreational hunting; preserves grazing and water rights; and conserves the Grand Canyon watershed.

Arizona Wildlife Federation president Brad Powell said there could be movement on the legislation before Trump’s Inauguration Day.

Trump has said that as president he will sell off U.S. federal assets to pay down the national debt, and his administration, backed by the Republican Congress, is likely to remove protections from some of the public lands precious to visitors.

But in the United States, as well as in many other countries, the movement towards sustainable tourism has gone too far to be undone.

To help visitors find sustainable destinations in the United States, the Earth Day Network has partnered with Google for the launch of the new Google Maps Summer of Green, an environment-focused video and map guide to eco-tourism spots, including spas, hotels and restaurants. Google Maps Summer of Green enables users to discover green travel options by featuring guided virtual video tours of environmentally friendly destinations such as nature museums and horseback riding outposts.

Just to the south, Mexico Tourism Board used the UN’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity , held December 2-18 in Cancun, as the launching pad for a new campaign focused on the country’s biodiversity and its wealth of nature, culture and gastronomy.

Biodiversity is part of Mexico’s identity and is recognized abroad as one of its most emblematic characteristics, as well as one of the primary reasons why tourists visit the country. Visitors to Mexico can encounter 564 species of mammals, more than 1,000 species of birds, 864 reptile species and 376 amphibians, as well as over 23,000 types of plants.

Lourdes Berho, Mexico Tourism Board’s CEO, said at the launch, “As global travel trends suggest, travelers are seeking destinations that are rich in biodiversity and sustainability. As the fourth most mega biodiverse country in the world, Mexico is the perfect place for those looking to immerse themselves in authentic cultural, culinary and nature-filled experiences. We believe that what travelers are looking for lives in Mexico, and this is the basis of our campaign.

Sustainable travel is more than just going green,” says’s Todd Dunlap, managing director for the Americas.

It’s also about helping to support and retain local cultures, economies and environments while traveling. Most people don’t know how easy it is to weave sustainability into the types of trips they already want to take,” said Dunlap.

Available in 42 languages, offers over 670,000 hotels and accommodations at more than 79,000 destinations in 212 countries and territories worldwide. It features over 49,000,000+ reviews written by guests after their stay, and attracts online visitors from both leisure and business markets around the globe.

There are many ways to be a conscientious traveler … without having to sacrifice comfort levels or relaxation,” Dunlap said. “Guests may not realize that as they sleep on organic cotton sheets, washed with water heated by energy generated from the hotel itself, they are staying sustainably. Or that when eating a meal made from ingredients sourced within 20 miles of their accommodation, they are a sustainable traveler supporting local business.

Many of the world’s best accommodations already provide these stealthily sustainable amenities to make sure their guests can enjoy all the luxuries of a vacation guilt-free,” he said. “In fact, you might already be a sustainable traveler and not even know it, that’s how seamless sustainable choices in accommodation can be! points to luxury hotels around the world that glory in their sustainability, such as The Savoy Hotel in London, which has become a pioneer of going green, winning numerous sustainability awards over the past nine years for its innovation in eco-friendly amenities and facilities.

The Rubens at the Palace hotel in London has the largest living wall, erected in an effort to combat the chronic stormwater run-off problem they have been experiencing due to vanishing green spaces.


Hotel Milano Scala, a boutique hotel in the heart of Milan, is the first totally eco-sustainable hotel in Milan. Its 62 rooms and suites are dedicated to music, culture and sustainability. (Photo by Bruno Cordioli) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Visitors increasingly appreciate such efforts. A 2015 study by found that 52 percent of travellers are likely to choose a destination based on its environmental impact, and that travellers are three times as likely to plan to stay in more green accommodations in 2015 than they did in 2014.

Rachel Dodds of the Canada-based website Sustaining Tourism points to a 2015 study by Expedia finding that almost a third of consumers (29 percent) would be likely to choose one company over another based on their environmental record, up from one in five (19 percent) in 2011.

There is growing sentiment amongst consumers that it is the travel company’s responsibility to be environmentally responsible,” she said.

Dodds gives the green nod to Hotel Milano Scala, Italy’s first zero emission hotel. “With their own rooftop garden growing herbs, room magnetic cards to optimize consumption and LEED certified, this hotel is green and groovy,” she says.

Civil society organizations throughout the world are engaging tourists to help protect the environment. For instance, the

Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Challenge has, to date, designated 50 new marine/coastal protected areas. The aim is to conserve at least 20 percent of their nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas by 2020, and to get the 40 million tourists who visit the Caribbean each year to help fund the cause with their donations.

Industry organizations are doing their part in Antalya, Turkey. There, for the first time in Turkey, the Belek Tourism Investors Association, Betuyab, founded in 1988 by investor companies with the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism, are ensuring sustainable tourism in the region.

For sustainability, all existing tourism establishments are connected to three wastewater purification plants. Some of the wastewater is used for irrigation, while the remaining water is completely cleaned and released back into nature.

Worldwide, the appetite for sustainable tourism and the will to satisfy it is growing.

A 2015 study for the Province of Ontario in Canada found that 61 percent of respondents were very or extremely interested in businesses or destinations showcasing their sustainability initiatives, and 73 percent are somewhat or extremely likely to consider sustainability in their travel plans.

The World Travel and Tourism Council  declares that members of the industry have generally improved their carbon efficiency by 20 percent in the last 10 years.

WTTC head David Scowsill writes in the organization’s latest report, “WTTC promotes sustainable growth for the sector, working with governments and international institutions to create jobs, to drive exports and to generate prosperity.

WTTC reports that, “Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, supporting 285 million jobs and generating 9.8 percent of global GDP in 2015.

The organization reports that the tendency to buy holidays from socially responsible brands appears to be strongest in Asia-Pacific (64 percent), Latin America (63 percent) and Middle East/Africa (63 percent).

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