Latest news and insights from various sources relating to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

WELCOMING VIROTECH TO THE ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Waste management is always a high priority for ecotourism operators and sewerage management, especially in remote and/or sensitive sites, can present special challenges. Grant Webster established VIROtech in 1987 to bring practical and environmentally sensible products into the mainstream with a focus on waterless toilet technology. He is now recognised as Australia’s foremost authority on waterless compost toilets.

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This amenity was installed for Communities NSW at their Berry Sport & Recreation ground. Clivus Multrum waterless compost toilet systems were the obvious choice for an amenity with no power or water available at a site close to a water course.

VIROtech have four brands and 19 models in their range, but Grant has a particular passion for their flagship product, the Clivus Multrum (CM) range of compost toilet systems. “The CM units are still built according to the original Swedish design – beautifully simple and inherently reliable. In 30 odd years, I’ve never had a single complaint about a CM unit. They’re bulletproof.” With clients ranging from householders to government departments and agencies including Communities NSW, NSW Roads and Maritime Services, the Australian Defence Force and local governments, Grant is well qualified to offer experienced and reliable advice. Clivus Multrum systems are fully accredited with environmental and health authorities in every state and territory in Australia.

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A free standing facility with a CM unit installed by the Outdoor Education Group at their Biloela Bush Camp near Bowral, NSW.

Maintenance involves adding carbon rich material (wood shavings) periodically and checking the fan and drain – a 10 minute job. There are no containers to move or store and running costs are estimated at $1.50/mth for the 12V fan. The fan is the only moving part and the chamber is all plastic and stainless steel, so these systems simply don’t break down. They utilise natural aerobic bacteria to reduce waste to around 5% of the original volume in an odour free process to produce a small amount of pathogen-free humus which is easily and safely disposed of on-site. The ventilation system evacuates all ‘human’ odours so the room smells like air, or the bush outside.

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Modern facilities require a modern, sustainable solution.

If accommodation is part of your business, these waterless compost toilets not only offer significant water savings, they eliminate discharge to the environment apart from a small amount of humus. Eliminating ‘black water’ from your on-site sewerage management system also makes life much simpler (and less expensive) with the remaining  greywater easily disposed of in a simple (inexpensive) sub-surface irrigation system*.  If you need toilet facilities for clients at remote and/or sensitive sites, CM units don’t require power or water and can be sited close to watercourses.

For more information on these incredibly simple and sensible systems visit virotech.com.au

*Council approval is required prior to installation of any on-site sewerage management system.

 

EVERYDAY ECOTOURISM HEROES EDITION 11: HELEN MASTERS

A group of driven people can make significant change, yet it is important to recognise and appreciate the efforts of the individuals that take strides every day to create lasting positive impacts on the environment and community around them. That is exactly what Helen Masters, Education and Interpretation Ranger at Phillip Island Nature Parks, is about. Described as an enthusiastic and passionate member of the visitor experience team, Helen is zealous about protecting the marine and beach environment and the important species that live in this precious part of the world.

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“Helen is driven, both professionally and personally, to protecting our beautiful island home and educating people about what they can do to be part of the solution to the global issue of marine debris,’” explains Kate Adams, a colleague of Helen.

With a background in teaching, Helen is a valued member of the Phillip Island Nature Parks’ education team. She has an excellent understanding of the Victorian curriculum, is a leader in developing education programs and is a great support to her team members, consistently sharing her knowledge to support their development.

As Kate explains, Helen has also played an integral role in the development and implementation of numerous programs on Phillip Island. For example, she was heavily involved in the Turn the Tide Program, a community volunteer program that tackles marine debris on local beaches. This program attracts a team of 30+ regular volunteers who collect rubbish from the beach, sort and analyse it and enter the statistics into the Tangaroa Blue database. Over the twelve months that this program has been running, it’s contributed significantly to removing debris off Phillip Island’s beaches and protecting the Short-Tailed Shearwaters, among other species.

Helen also had the idea of hosting an event in partnership with Parley (a company dedicated to cleaning up islands around the world) and took on the role of project manager for the first ever ‘Island Wide, Along the Tide’ beach clean event in January this year. The event was a huge success, collecting marine debris from 18 beaches on the island, equating to over 11,149 individual items (including 408m of fishing line, with a total weight of just under 150kg). The event engaged 137 volunteers and featured in print media and TV.

 Phillip Island Nature Parks Marine Debris 1

 “Helen is highly passionate about making a difference and the level of enthusiasm in her delivery is infectious to say the least,” says Kate. “She has the ability to get groups (of all ages) enthusiastic and engaged about the environment. You can’t help but get excited when you’re working with her.”

It’s her bubbly and passionate approach to every aspect of her work and her commitment to an environmentally conscious lifestyle that makes Helen and Everyday Ecotourism Hero. Her energy gets the team around her excited and motivated to foster long lasting change in the community, and the brightness and eagerness she brings to her work gets customers and guests excited about learning, fostering positive change on the island through education.

Thank you, Helen, for all that you do, and thank you to Kate for nominating her!

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Is there someone in your business who you think is an Everyday Ecotourism Hero? Tell us about them!

Have we piqued your interest in travelling sustainably? Make sure you check out our Green Travel Guide and News page for some eco travel inspiration!

For more information on Phillip Island Nature Parks, visit their website or Facebook page.

For more information on our other Everyday Ecotourism Heroes, check out the other articles in this series:

ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO WHALE WATCHING HOT SPOTS

The World Whale Conference is taking place in October this year, toward the tail end of the whale watching season, and aims to bring together researchers, conservation groups, artists and tourism operators to create a united community around whales. With this year’s theme being “Journeys That Inspire Change,now is a great time to go whale watching with an Ecotourism Australia certified operator to make sure your next journey is making a positive change with sustainable whale watching.

Whale watching season kicks off between May and November depending on what part of the country you are in. This guide to whale watching will outline the best times and areas to go whale watching around Australia, and with over 20 ECO certified companies to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding a sustainable operator for your next whale watching experience.

Queensland

June-July | Cairns & Port Douglas

Cairns and Port Douglas may be known for their Great Barrier Reef tourism and rain forest activities, but did you know that it’s also a great place to view Humpback wales and is one of the only places in Australia to swim with Dwarf Minke whales? Both of our Advanced Ecotourism Certified operators Eye to Eye Marine Encounters and Divers Den offer unique snorkelling and diving opportunities with Dwarf Minke whales.

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ECO Certified operators:

Divers Den – Advanced Ecotourism certification, Green Travel Leader (Scuba)

Eye to Eye Marine Encounters – Advanced Ecotourism certification (Snorkelling)

June-September | Townsville

If Cairns is too far north and Hervey Bay too far south, then Townsville might just be perfect for your whale watching needs. Ecotourism certified Townsville Whale Watching runs Humpback whale watching tours from June to September.

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Townsville Whale Watching – ECO Humpback whale watching 

July – October | Brisbane & Sunshine Coast

Whether you are taking a well-deserved break in a holiday house on the Sunshine Coast, or only have a weekend off in inner city Brisbane, there is an ecotourism operator for you. The greater Brisbane area is host to Humpback whales for four months of the year between July – October.

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ECO Certified operators:

Brisbane Whale Watching – Ecotourism certified

Sunreef Mooloolaba – Ecotourism certified

Whale one – Ecotourism certified

July-November | Hervey Bay

If you’re looking to see Humpback whales, Hervey Bay is spoilt for choice with a total of seven certified ecotourism operators running tours between July and November. Fun fact: Hervey Bay also celebrates the migration of the Humpback whales each year with the Paddle out for Whales Festival which aims to raise awareness and recognise the importance of whale watching tourism in the city.

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ECO Certified operators:

Tasman Venture – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Blue Dolphin Marine Tours – Ecotourism certified

Boat Club Adventure Cruises – Ecotourism certified

Freedom Whale Watch and Charters – Ecotourism certified 

Pacific Whale Foundation Australia – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Spirit of Hervey bay – Ecotourism certified

Whalesong cruises – Advanced Ecotourism certified 

With so much choice of ECO certified operators it is no wonder that Hervey Bay has been chosen to host this year’s World Whale Conference.

New South Wales

Byron Bay

Sitting just south of the state border between QLD and NSW, Byron Bay is an easy drive from the Gold Coast and is a great place to watch whales with a unique twist. Go Sea Kayak Bryon Bay offers close kayaking encounters with Humpback whales off the coast throughout the whale watching season.

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Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay – Advanced Ecotourism & Respecting our Culture certified

May-November | Newcastle

Situated in Newcastle, NSW just a short drive north of Sydney, two of our Green Travel Leaders certified with Advanced Ecotourism certification run whale watching tours to see the Humpback whales from May to November.

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Moonshhadow TQC Cruises – Advanced Ecotourism, Green Travel Leader

Imagine Cruises – Port Stephens – Advanced Ecotourism Green Travel Leader

Victoria

June – November | Wilsons Promontory & Phillip Island

Whale watching cruises in this part of Australia give you the opportunity to see both Humpback and Southern Right Whales, plus maybe even Orca whales!

Wildlife Coast Cruises

ECO Certified operator:

Wildlife Coast Cruises – Advanced Ecotourism Certified

Western Australia

April-November | Perth

While most of the locations in this guide feature Humpback whales, Perth is one of the only places in Australia to see Orca whales (aka killer whales). A little earlier in the whale watching season, two of our Ecotourism Certified operators offer Orca whale tours from December to April and Humpback whale tours later on in the season from April to November.  

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Naturaliste Charters – Ecotourism certified

Whale Watching Western Australia – Ecotourism certified

June-November | Exmouth

Exmouth is known not only for its Humpback whale watching season (June-November), but also for the unique whale shark season. Exmouth almost matches Hervey Bay for the amount of certified tour operators available to offer both Humpback whale tours throughout the whale watching season as well as several who offer whale shark tours between March to September.

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Live Ningaloo – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Ningaloo Coral Bay Boats – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Ningaloo Discovery – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Ningaloo Whaleshark N Dive – Ecotourism certified

Three Islands Whaleshark Dive – Ecotourism certified, Green Travel Leader

 

Have you been whale watching with any of these tourism operators? Tell us about it in the comments below!

BIG 4 WHITSUNDAYS TROPICAL ECO RESORT ACHIEVES CERTIFICATION!

Just minutes from the Port of Airlie, you will find the family-owned Big 4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort. Situated in the ideal location for travelers to explore the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, you are also just a 5-minute drive from Airlie’s tourist center, shops and restaurants; making this the ideal tropical family holiday location. The park also allows for that authentic tropical nature fix, being nestled among 7 acres of tropical foliage, adjacent to the stunning Conway National Park.

 Open Air Cinema Whitsubnday Eco Resort

With a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs, the park offers powered and un-powered camp sites, villas, studios, 2-bedroom apartments and their brand-new eco lodges, all with spectacular mountain views. The eco lodges feature furniture made from recycled timber from trees that fell in cyclone Debbie.

 Eco Lodge Whitsunday Eco Resort Photo

Big 4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort has achieved EA Ecotourism certification through their goals to reduce waste, regularly monitoring their carbon emissions, promoting nature based and low impact activities and supporting conservation projects and initiatives.

Well done on the certification Big 4 Whitsunday Tropical Eco Resort and keep up the good work.

Find out more here. 

BUCKET SHOWERS, TREE PLANTING AND SOLAR HOT WATER ON TAP: How A Run-Down Property in The Middle of Nowhere Became a Pioneer of Carbon Neutral Tourism

When I call Craig “Hassie” Haslam on Skype, I’m amazed how good his internet connection is. His office, shelves piled high with colourful folders and paperwork indicative of someone running a well-functioning and demanding business, is located at his Coodlie Park Farm Retreat, a 3000-acre remote farm stay on the coast of the Eyre Peninsula, miles away from the busyness of everyday life.

This coast is a place that Hassie calls his backyard, but one he shares with many other people. When he and wife Jo bought the property 20 years ago, it was “a run-down sh*$ hole,” in dire need of some TLC – today, it attracts travellers from near and far who come to the area to enjoy its tranquillity, excellent fishing and natural beauty (did someone say private beach, star-strewn sky and Instagram-worthy natural infinity pools?).

It’s a part of the country that in some ways is still untouched, and Hassie’s passion for not only sharing it but doing everything he can to protect it becomes immediately evident as we start talking.

Coodlie private beach

“Eight or ten years ago it became very fashionable to offset your carbon footprint,” he explains, “[but] we never did it for that reason – we did it because we wanted to. We wanted to set a benchmark.

“I’ve always had this philosophy that you should try to leave a place better than when you found it.”

Coodlie Park Farm Retreat is, as far as Hassie is aware, Australia’s only travel business to not only be 100% carbon neutral, but offsetting all its carbon internally, on its own property. It’s an accolade he wears with pride:

“I’ve always had a vision that Coodlie Park Farm Retreat could be showcased as a model [of what’s possible] that could stimulate fresh and new ideas,” he says. “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.”

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New ideas are something which Hassie has plenty of, and some of the property’s more quirky features are testament to this. The bucket showers, for example, are water-saving measures that involve twelve eight-litre buckets and a dual pulley system to release only a minimal amount of water for people to use for showering. It’s an idea that sprung out of necessity – as Hassie explains, the property used to run out of water every year and guests often had no understanding of what this really meant. 

“A lot of people do want to do the right thing but just don’t know how. It’s up to [tourism businesses] to show them what is the right thing is. One of my favourite moments was when one of our guests – a tall, young, blonde woman from the UK – excitedly joined the campfire one evening after successfully managing to wash her hair, shave her legs and have a complete shower all from one bucket of water.

“You know you’re having a positive impact when people get involved and gain a sense of pride from learning and realising how much they can actually do to help.” 

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So what challenges has Hassie faced in his quest to constantly improve his business to be better for the planet? Well time, for one thing:

“I’m as busy as a centipede skipping!” Hassie exclaims. He adds that whilst travellers – backpackers and WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), mainly – express a desire to help with tree planting and sponsoring trees and there are opportunities to create these experiences for his visitors,  the day-to-day work of running a tourism business (Hassie also runs the Nullabor Traveller and Xplore Eyre touring companies, which take guests throughout South and Western Australia) take up most of his time.

Another challenge is quantifying – one of Hassie’s dreams is for international visitors to be able to easily calculate and offset their entire trip to Australia from start to finish at his property – but he says he needs a matrix that can spit out these numbers.

“It’s not something we have, yet.”

Venus Bay near coodlie

So, with all of his touring and limited time, is there any brain space left for new ideas? Hassie says he’s glad he gets to work with reliable people who are always willing to help, and that he is definitely someone who keeps striving to learn more, try more and improve the way he runs his business.

“We already pay for green electricity and put some back into the grid. We have 50,000 gallons of tank storage on the property to collect rain, we have 10kw of solar on the property. My next plan is to create a hot water wall, using solar panels, that operates like a beer keg.”

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Apart from thinking outside the box, does Hassie have any suggestions for other operators looking to get more serious about climate action and carbon neutral tourism? You may be surprised to hear that he doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist at heart, and nor does he feel qualified to offer advice. Instead, he seems humbly reflective:

“We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way; we’ve tried different things. In retrospect, there are things I could have done differently. At the end of the day, I just think that we make choices, and if we want to make a place better than when we find it, and we make that our ethos, it’s pretty simple. The ideas will come.” He is hopeful that other businesses can be inspired by what Coodlie Park has achieved:

“Maybe they’ll ask: if they can do it out there in the middle of the sticks, why can’t we?”

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For more information on Coodlie Park Farm Retreat, please visit their website or Facebook page.

For more eco-travel inspiration, check out our Green Travel Guide.

 

APEC: Recognising Sustainability in Tourism

APEC Addresses Greenwashing in Tourism and refers to the importance of GSTC in a new Policy Report Demand for sustainable tourism has been on the rise, and with it came exaggerated sustainability claims – also known as “greenwashing”. This policy brief addresses the issue by examining the use of environmental certifications to address greenwashing and […]

The post APEC: Recognising Sustainability in Tourism appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GLAMPING PIONEERS

Do a quick Google search of ‘glamping’ and an abundance of Instagram-worthy, boho-styled, canvas safari tent-like accommodation will flood your screen. Usually situated on a pristine beach or in a lush jungle, you’ll likely think to yourself ‘yeah as if, places like that don’t exist.’ Boy oh boy does it make you itch for a weekend away, though. Well, turns out, the weekend of your dreams does exist, and it has for 20 years.

Situated near the white sand beaches and pristine waters of Jervis Bay, NSW, you will find the pioneers of glamping, Paperbark Camp, which first opened its doors in April 1999. Nestled amongst native Australian bush, you will find the cosy canvas cabins that have now become synonymous with luxury camping: The perfect base for a nature filled weekend. Although, there’s absolutely no judgement here if you choose to stay in the bath all weekend, either… I mean, look at that view:

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Paperbark camp gives you the opportunity to enjoy a sunset bevvy from your private deck, just as the founders did when they conceived the idea in Africa in the early 90s. Irena and Jeremy Hutchings had fallen in love with the style of accommodation they frequented on safari in Africa. The idea of being amongst nature, without the hassle of packing and unpacking camping gear, but with the comfort of a few simple luxuries, all the while sticking to their camping-addicted roots, was appealing to say the least.  Why was this not happening in Australia, they wondered? After deciding to leave their jobs and buy a 100-acre site of untouched, creek front bushland in Jervis Bay, their dream became reality. Yet could the couple ever foresee the emergence of the now very hashtagable trend of ‘glamping’?

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“We have always embraced growth in the market,” says Camilla Hamilford, Paperbark’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “We believe the more that people experience this type of accommodation the more they seek it out when they travel elsewhere. When we started out, the word glamping hadn’t been invented, but twenty years on you can find glamping in all corners of the country and in many different styles, from much more basic to super luxurious!”

Twenty years on and Paperbark Camp welcomes guests from all over the globe who are looking for a genuine Australian bush experience, as well as city slickers simply just looking for a breather.

“In the earlier days we would have said that our guests were very much professional and well-travelled, an adventurer looking for something different for their quiet getaway, reflects Camilla.

“These days we feel that we appeal to a much broader market, people understand the concept of glamping and are looking for a more unique experience when travelling. So, these days we welcome all sorts of people [and] even if it’s a bit outside their comfort zone, they nearly always leave so glad they have had the experience.”

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Long before sustainability was ‘in’, the Hutchings were thinking green. When planning commenced on the project in the 90s, the concept of ecotourism was small and relatively unheard of*. It was the Hutching’s desire to maintain as much peace and beauty of the natural environment as possible that really drove Paperbark Camp’s sustainability mission to the forefront of their business operations.

With the emergence of climate change concerns and the growth in demand for travel that impacted the environment as little as possible, Paperbark Camp was quickly recognised as leader in the field and achieved Advanced Ecotourism Certification in its first year of operation. The owners and staff are dedicated to continuous improvement and leaving a lasting positive impact on their local environment. You can read more about their sustainability initiatives here.

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From all of us here at Ecotourism Australia: Happy birthday, Paperbark Camp, and all the best for the next 20 years!

 

Want to know about some of our other ecotourism pioneers? Check out our certification Hall of Fame.

For more information about Paperbark Camp, check out their website or follow them on social media.

For more green travel inspiration, visit our Green Travel Guide.

 

*Though we were talking about it too!

 

[Photos: Paperbark Camp]