Ecotourism: sustainable summer destinations
Summer has come and it's time to choose a destination to visit. In couple, with the family, with friends or alone, traveling always shows us other cultures and leaves us a positive mark if we succeed in our choice.
We compile a selection of ten cities that are not necessarily traditional tourist destinations but in recent years have made a great effort to offer its residents and visitors a much more sustainable way of life.
The most responsible way to travel is to practice sustainable tourism.
The European Green Capital 2015 is a pioneer in sustainable development. This southwest England city has wide open spaces interspersed in the urban landscape (400 parks, four farms and eight natural reserves) and the largest number of cyclists from around the country (up to ten tourist cycle routes). It is at the forefront of innovation with its numerous ecological restaurants, the Bristol pound -a own currency to encourage local consumption- and the municipal energy plan based on renewable energies, which aims to generate one gigawatt of electricity with photovoltaic panels installed on housing, public buildings and industrial facilities.
It is not a destination unknown or unexpected, but the level of involvement of the Danish capital with sustainable development deserves encouragement. Always at the forefront of innovation and research for a greener future, Copenhagen aims to be a Carbon Neutral city by 2025. While they work on that ten-years goal, its inhabitants can boast about being the most sustainable and cleanest city in Europe, mostly thanks to the half of its population that uses the bicycle as the main means of transport, its high rate of recycling and the introduction of alternative energy generations systems.
One of the leaders in terms of sustainability in the United States is Portland. This city in the state of Oregon has over 400 kilometers of bicycle paths, investigates and innovates constantly in its maintenance and improvement, such as LED lights to illuminate cycle paths at night, or the bike-friendly airport. The airport management is encouraging the use of this means of transport among its 12,000 employees, and also has a bicycle storage, repair workshop, packing service for cycling travelers and their trains and shuttle buses are designed to allow the transport of many bikes.
In addition, other initiatives such as vertical gardens or green roofs for citizens to autosupply make Portland one of the capitals of ecotourism.
In Spain, the example of sustainable urban conversion is represented by Pontevedra. The capital of the Rías Baixas has turned in just twenty years from a small province capital into a urban model reference for other cities of similar or even larger size. The reforms are designed to restore the city to the people and take the traffic away from downtown. The investment in mobility has meant in recent months the United Nations-Habitat Urban Model award and the award for Excellence in Mobility, delivered in 2015 by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also included the Galician city in the exclusive Compact of Mayors program to combat climate change along with much larger cities such as Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Stockholm or Philadelphia.
These awards acknowledge the effort devoted to adapt the city to a more sustainable environment: 66% emissions reduction in the urban area within 14 years, the construction of 40 kilometers of pedestrian and bicycle paths near the estuary and rivers, inclusive adaption for disabled, zero casualties in car crashes in the last three years...
A town that received the Responsible Travel and Holidays Awards in 2011 and the Tourism of the Future Prize in 2012 has to be in a list like this. Røros is a small town in southern Norway with just over 5,000 inhabitants. It is an old mining settlement within the Nordic peninsula, declared a World Heritage Site, which has managed to maintain and protect their customs and identity over the years without neglecting its privileged location. Its architecture based on sustainable wood construction and their support to local trading and cuisine attract every year more than one million visitors.
Located in the Atlantic Ocean facing off the coast of Senegal, the archipelago of Cape Verde is a former Portuguese colony and a strategic stop for all the trade routes of the European powers in the centuries after the discovery of America. Its little and paradisiacal capital, Praia, has launched an ambitious plan to achieve a 100% power supply from renewable energies by 2050. It also has some admirable natural sceneries and a great variety of landscapes -volcanoes, valleys, natural parks, plains- which make Praia a unique sustainable destination.
The case of Vilnius stands out in Eastern Europe. The capital of Lithuania has only half a million inhabitants and a relatively new political scenario after the end of the Soviet Union, which Lithuania was a part of. However, The Economist makes a special mention in its ranking of sustainable cities to Vilnius, and emphasizes its huge effort to try to implement a more efficient energy system providing subsidies to its citizens and businesses. This momentum to achieve cleaner energy was further complemented with the implementation of a biofuel plant in 2006 that is capable of supplying by itself 10% of the necessary heat for the city.
The renewal efforts of this Brazilian city are addressed to urban mobility. Curitiba is a pioneer in green conscience, as it was the first Brazilian city to implement the public system of Rapid Transit Buses more than 40 years ago. Nowadays they are directing a great investment to pedestrianize large avenues and discourage traffic. It is also a pioneer in measuring rates of CO2 absorbed by green spaces and one of the most aware Brazilian cities in recycling.
From industrial capital to sustainable capital. The conversion that Frankfurt has done in just a decade is the best example of German efficiency at sustainable development's service. Considered the financial center of the German country, Frankfurt runs programs like "Trade and Business", "Culture of sustainable mobility", "Planning and Building in dense urban space" and "The climate and open spaces" to offset their CO2 emissions resulting from industrial production. They have also encouraged the use of bicycles as the main means of transportation and have boosted the promotion of hybrid or electric vehicles
The capital of South Korea was named the most sustainable city in the world in the Challenge of Earth Hour this year by WWF, and it is the best ending for this list. Seoul is the model for the fast-growing cities in Southeast Asia for its project to reduce emissions, which aspires to lower 10 million tonnes of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere and achieve 20% energy sufficiency by 2020