The high-profile COP21 climate talks in Paris has put a fresh focus on green energy, governments, businesses and individuals reflecting the consumption of finite resources. If you're Bill Gates, this means you can drop $2 billion on incentivizing the 1 Percent to invest in clean energy. But if you're a regular person, what can you do? It turns out, you can use this festive vacation season to play a part in caring for the environment.
First, though, don't panic. Eco-tourism doesn't mean enduring mosquito nets and cold showers in order to do your bit for the environment. High-end resorts and hotels have made big strides on sustainability. You can have your luxury and still feel good about your choices. Here's what to look for.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines eco-tourism as, "Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples."
Being "eco" boils down to three basic parts.
First, conservation: conserving the ecology of a hotel or resort's location is a key element in eco-tourism.
For example, the marine life is a big draw card at El Nido Resort on Pangulasian Island in the Philippines and seeing the area's green sea turtles is usually top of visitors' wish lists. To ensure the environment is not upset by motorized vehicles, only low-impact water activities like snorkeling and kayaking are available to guests. In another example, Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in China runs a Tesla Model S electric car as its airport shuttle.
Another key element is sustainability. The design of a hotel has to consider the full lifecycle of the venue, from the up-front building requirements to future maintenance.