Shopping bags and souvenirs

With New Zealand, and many other countries, reducing or banning the use of single use plastic bags I thought I’d photograph some of my shopping bags.

I often get them as souvenirs when travelling so now when I shop I have good memories of the place they came from. Nothing quite like reliving past travels while getting the groceries.

Here are just some of mine . . . Today whike getting some fruit and veg I was able to remember KL Malaysia, Amsterdam with the large cotton net bag, and Wellington where I bought the small net bags for the fruit and veg section of the supermarket.

Where have you bought them as souvenirs?

Greening the Rainforest World Music Festival

My RWMF cloth bags are often commented on at my veg market

When in Malaysia (Kuching, Sarawak) I have planted trees as part of their ‘greening the festival’ programme: and helping cut my carbon footprint too. This tree-planting ceremony – at all local festivals -“helps make Kuching a livable city” I’d been told.

Once again at the Rainforest World Music Festival (20th) #RWMF I find they have found another way to green the festivals by making great bags out of the previous year’s banners! Excellent recycling.

reusing old banners to produce bags help reduce rubbish

Malaysia often receives bad press for destruction of native forests and planting oil palm plantations, so it cannot be easy to convince the often cynical foreigners they want to “take care of our environment”. It’s heartening to note that the Sarawak Tourism Board has taken the government’s eco campaigns seriously. After all Sarawak is proud of having the world’s’ oldest rainforest so they need to care for it on behalf of the world.

Here’s another story I wrote about me planting mangroves at another RWMF festival.

I got to the 20th music festival a day too late to plant trees this time – if I get to the 21st RWMF I will make sure to be there in plenty of time to dig a hole or two for a tree 🙂 🙂

Wellington, NZ, sent a green house to the White House .. and came 3rd!

Meridian teamed up with Victoria University (Wellington NZ) to help send a solar-powered house to Washington, DC to compete in the  US 2011 Solar Decathlon and won third place – congrats to all involved. (See more here)

New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) took first place today in the Engineering Contest during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. (read more here)

As the only entry (ever!) from the Southern Hemisphere,  this invitation  to Victoria to be one of  the 20 universities invited to compete was e a nod to the quality of the eco work they, and New Zealand generally, are involved in.

The idea for their entry comes from the classic holiday home in NZ – called a bach … pronounced batch. This name is used all over NZ except in the deep south (Otago and Southland) where they use the old Scottish term ‘crib’.

The temporary solar village was near the White House in Washington, DC. See more details here

These photos were taken in Frank Kitts Park, Wellington, when the house was erected for us kiwis to see their work: well done everyone!

what is eco travel? green or greenwash sometimes?

I dont cycle from place to place but often hire one in the city or village I'm staying in - a great way to get around ... and leave some money locally.

Not everyone can travel. Living in New Zealand means we have a better chance than many. We have a far higher rate of people with passports than Americans for example. Also, countries that are poorer are much more likely to be visited than to produce travellers.

I’m a travelophile. Like Asians need rice, Italians pasta, British curry, Kiwi’s fish and chips: I need to travel. When I travel I feel good and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to and not need to go the flavour of the month.

This also means I often arrive in places that are not on the tourist trail. I get to be a cultural tourist in that I stay longer in places and get to know people; absorb the local flavour.

This means that although I don’t often sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism?

My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are, very briefly, that’s it an activity that has least impact while providing greatest benefits.

Independent travellers are the ones most likely be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country– those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home- giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.

Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.

Life on a marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes the natural sights ( and sites!) and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave, taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags abound.

We think of New Zealand  – and market the country – as a clean green destination but pollution is not just rubbish on the ground. Have we (or travel agents) have sold the visitor a too narrow view of places to visit; given them a list of sites they’ must see’, activities they should take part in? This produces problems such as Milford Sound could have – buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors (and fumes from the buses) to see wonderful pristine sights. An oxymoron? This of course is not only a New Zealand problem.

It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However I know that beside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.

The problems of being poured into the tourist funnel will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.

This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told  “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”

However help maybe at hand. An organisation called Green Globe 21 is on the rise in New Zealand. Some 200 companies have embraced its ten different indicators for sustainable environmental codes. What is even better is that many local authorities have signed up too.

What can I do? Shop at locally owned places wherever I am; support companies that practice high standards; (e.g. Kiwi Host, Green Globe) are a good start.

Combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’ll be able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.

how green is my internet? not very it seems!

Reading the full article of this was an OMG moment!  It seems the internet is not at all green! if you are in NZ and don’t get the Listener, search out this copy and read it! Or subscribe online of course

(for example – the daily google searches – about 235 million  of them – produce 47 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere)

Perhaps I wont feel so guilty about air travel now.

by Sarah Barnett

Reading the news online v reading it printed on dead trees.

The full text of this column appeared in the NZ Listener (June 6-12 2009).

If all the world’s a stage, the internet raised the curtain – and then jammed the playbill with hard-core peep-shows, but never mind. In the more civilised parts of cyberspace, the services that have connected teens the world over – so they can type, like, “OMG LOL” at each other – have also proved a godsend (or should that be Gore-send?) for environmentalists.

No need to fly to a conference when you can video-conference or catch it on YouTube. Entire rallies are organised, paper-free, through social networking sites. Given up flying? The kids can chat to their grandparents on Skype.

A future world in which communities are self-sufficient and perhaps more isolated is made more palatable if we know that connecting internationally is still possible. It’s just easier – physically and emotionally – to be green on the internet. Or is it?

The full text will be available online on 27/06/2009.
Subscribe online to the NZ Listener.

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