About Green Travel in China

Green Travel Tips

Green travel, ecoutourism, sustainable travel, reducing our carbon footprint, we are hearing these terms more and more these days, but what does it all mean? How can we all become “responsible travelers”?

Green Travel China, Detian Waterfalls, China

We asked William Smith, from Whole Travel, a portal for discovering sustainable travel opportunities, to answer a few questions on these very topics, and I think you will find his answers helpful and interesting. Enjoy!

1) What is sustainable travel in the simplest terms?   How can we explain what green travel means to our children?

Sustainable travel is tourism that preserves the environment while respecting and benefiting local communities – both today and into the future.

It can include nature trips to ecologically sensitive areas, visits to cultural heritage sites and even stays in urban centers. Ecotourism is one part of sustainable travel.

To us, sustainable travel means visiting incredible places, meeting great people and creating memorable experiences and adventures.

2) What are some examples of practices in which hotels/travel suppliers engage in sustainable travel? 

Green Travel practices include:
  • training and hiring local people

  • serving fresh, local products with a purchasing plan that includes at least 25% certified organic foods, sustainable agriculture eco-labeled foods, and/or locally produced foods

  • undertaking water conservation measures including the use of recycled/grey water, rainwater, dual or low-flush toilets, low flow showerheads, and the reuse of towels and linens

  • keeping supplier's gross revenue in the local region in which the supplier operates

  • emphasizing local products with a purchasing plan that include commercial relationships with small, local providers as much as possible

  • undertaking energy conservation measures including the use of alternative energy (wind, solar, biofuel, etc)

  • participating in a solid waste reuse/recycle program (paper, glass, aluminum, plates, utensils, shampoo, etc)

  • using non-toxic, non-corrosive, and biodegradable supplies

  • protecting the local environment through the prevention of the extraction of native flora and fauna, captivity of wild animals on-site, and artificial feeding of wild animals

  • using recycled, sustainable or local building materials during renovations and construction

  • educating visitors about the culture, history, and ecology of the local region, including local environmental protection efforts and social / cultural activities

  • selling locally produced handicrafts and other local goods

3) What are some simple ways travelers and children in particular can get involved and learn about Green Travel?

Travelers can get involved in a number of ways, here are some Green Travel tips which can be applied to your travels in China or anywhere else:
  • choosing responsible resorts

  • visiting small, locally-operated businesses

  • buying locally produced crafts and produce

  • eating meals made with organic and locally-produced foods

  • asking that their linens and towels aren't changed daily

  • using one bar of soap in both the bathroom and shower (versus opening two bars of soap which only then get thrown away)

  • turning off lights, air conditioning, and appliances when they leave their rooms

  • unplugging lights, tvs, coffeemakers, hairdryers and other appliances that aren't in use

  • going to local cultural attractions and events

  • packing lighter. Here are some more tips on traveling light

  • using public transportation or walking whenever possible

  • bringing their own toiletries

  • taking shorter showers

4) Environmental consciousness is reputed to be low in China.  What is the status of green travel here?

China is working towards a more sustainable future. Right now, China is hugely dependent on coal for its power and therefore needs to and is developing ways to use renewable resources like solar, wind, bio-diesel, and hydroelectric power instead of coal.

China's goal is to increase reliance on these renewable resources to 16% by 2020.

Other goals include reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP as well as completing a plan called "Top-1,000 Program," to improve energy efficiency of the 1,000 largest enterprises.

These sustainable goals need to extend to and be adapted by China's travel sector as well through energy and water conservation and greener practices. 

Fortunately, the green travel trend is on the rise, and China is committed to increase the number of green, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly hotels.

The Yangshuo Mountain Retreat is a good example of a Chinese hotel dedicated to sustainability. It has drilled its own well to lessen its dependence on water resources in the area, has hired staff from neighboring villages, and plans to replace coal with alternative energy, to name a few of its sustainable practices.

Another example of a green hotel is the Songjiang Hotel, which incorporates sustainability through green roofing as well as geothermal energy extraction.

There's also the URBN Hotel in Shanghai, China's first carbon neutral hotel.

5) What are some ways that we as travelers can participate in supporting the local communities in China?

The biggest way travelers can support local communities is through ecotourism, meaning they can and should travel off the beaten path to cities and towns whose cultural diversity, animals, and people are at risk of disappearing due to rapid economic expansion, urbanization and mass-tourism.

Wenhai Ecolodge and Alou's Tibetan Lodge are two good examples of lodges based on ecotourism.

We want to thank William Smith again for taking the time to answer our questions on sustainable travel and his views on Green Travel in China.

We hope that he has given you some great ideas and opened your eyes to ways we can all become better travelers in the future.

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