Jacob Reiner is an Eco Architect and director of Earth Embassy and the Solar Café. For more information on sustainable life-styles and eco living, visit www.earthembassy.org.
Growing organic food means there are no toxic chemicals applied to the plants or soil. This is, of course, healthy for you and the environment, but how can you be sure the food you buy is organic? Various certification programs exist around the world. In the U.S., for example, a farm must be chemical-free for three years, allowing toxins to leave the soil, before being labeled organic.
The mark to look for in Japan is the “three circles and leaf” of the Japan Agricultural Standard (JAS). It’s increasingly available in supermarkets and convenience stores, so keep an eye out for the symbol and tell your friends.
Go Carbon Neutral
Your carbon footprint is how much carbon your daily activities put it into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. For those of us who fly often, this can be 50 times the global average due to the burning of jet fuel. A number of organizations now offer ways to offset your carbon production through tree planting, investment in wind and solar power and energy efficiency projects.
For a small donation (typically ¥1,000-¥3,000), you can take out of the atmosphere whatever carbon you put in. So, next time you book a ticket somewhere, go online and pay a bit extra to make your trip carbon neutral. You can also make your home, school or business carbon neutral. It doesn’t cost much, it may ease your guilt, and it separates you from the polluters.
You are probably aware batteries are not very eco. In fact, they are full of toxic heavy metals and are difficult to recycle. So what do you do if you need that camping light? Solar lanterns are the simple answer. They charge during the day and give you a warm glow to read and cook by after the sun goes down. Reliable and durable, they are easy to find online for about US$85. Check out the SL9000SW with a built-in, fold-out solar panel.
Another highly recommended model is the Glowstar. Developed by Practical Action Consulting to make solar power more accessible to rural African homes, the Glowstar is now on the market in the U.S. and U.K., and they are looking for global distributors as well. Whether you just need something to keep the bears away from your tent or are looking for the next big eco-business opportunity, check them out.
Green Resorts and Tours
Tourists around the world have a major impact on the cultures, economies and environments we encounter. This interaction can be both positive and negative. While pollution and easy money from camera toting backpackers can disrupt traditional communities, conscientious eco tourists can actually help protect and preserve local ways and wildlife.
Go online for tips on how to make yourself an eco and social justice warrior on your next trip. For a good listing of eco tour operators and destinations, including eco villages in Costa Rica, farm stays in Thailand, low impact eco tours in Vietnam and camel rides in Mongolia, check out Green Travel Market.
If you are interested in setting up your own eco tourism-related business, Sustainable Travel International offers comprehensive training, support and networking. And one of the most innovative is Tourism Gender which finds ways to empower women in underdeveloped countries through tourism. Improving the world through tourism – the only way to travel.