The following blog is written by guest writer Cliff Barre. Cliff has lots of great insights to offer on green tourism. Please check out his blog Peace, Love, and Travel with Cliff
As any ardent traveler will tell you, in America and abroad, green initiatives are all the rage. A number of popular tourist destinations have not only made themselves more attractive to environmentally conscientious travelers, they have reinvented themselves for the 21st Century. Moreover, by tackling the various eco-issues facing the world, a number of new locations have sprung to the forefront of many a must-see list. Between exploring these new sites and rediscovering the familiar ones, our little planet seems to be getting big again.
Known for its brilliant lake views, world-class museums, iconic skyline, and championship sports teams, Chicago is a tourist destination that draws millions of visitors every year. Less well known is that the city is at the forefront of energy conservation efforts. Confronted with growing energy needs, the city made the decision to invest in cogeneration- the simultaneous production of heat and electricity. Burning natural gas to produce electricity, the process of cogeneration gets going when that exhaust is used to boil water, create steam, and then power a second electrical generator. The net result of this bold action is the estimated production of 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 15 year period. More importantly, the energy output nearly doubles that of a traditional coal-fired power plant, while producing only a third of the carbon emissions.
While not as famous as Chicago or perhaps even its sister city across the bay, Oakland has proven that sometimes commitment to an ideal is more important than fame. In 2005, years before much of the nation even knew that hydrogen power was a legitimate alternative to traditional gas burning engines, Oakland debuted the first of its growing fleet of hydrogen-powered buses. Despite the initially prohibitive costs, the project has continued, slowly replacing the 130 tons of CO2 produced by each typical diesel bus to the 0 tons of the new models.
In Syracuse, New York, the super-mall Destiny USA is also breaking down past barriers to environmental conscientiousness through a combination of purpose-built energy saving/producing ideas and consumer incentives. One of the more ingenious uses of recycling undertaken by Destiny is in its storm water design. Retention ponds and a roof collection system have been designed to hold rainwater and use it to flush common areas, toilets, and irrigate the grounds. During storms, these collectors have also been designed to reduce the amount of strain on the city’s waste treatment facility, thereby reducing the possibility of wastewater spillage into nearby Onondaga Lake. Furthermore, in efforts to make Destiny USA as green a space as possible, the designers realized that the foot traffic generated by a successful mall meant needing to encourage alternative means of transportation to and from the structure. With that in mind, Destiny USA was designed to be easily accessed by public transportation, and also to reward electric car drivers with prime parking positions and EV charging stations. Other means of transportation, like walking and bike riding, are supported by 200 bicycle racks, shower/changing stations for employees who walk/ride.
As the examples above have shown, advances in technology and the courage to change the status quo have begun to reinvent our little world. As explorers, we must ask ourselves if we are up to the challenge of discovering these brave new innovations and supporting them.