I’m honored to share something with you at the Annual Conference of International Mountain Tourism Alliance. In this morning, many guests talked about current problems on sustainable development. How shall we solve those problems at some levels? My topic today is: Enviromnmental Measures in Destination-Toward Sustainable Tourism.
Let me introduce myself first. I’m from the first zero carbon emission campus in Germany—the College of the Environment under the University of Applied Sciences Trier. We apply a number of available renewable energy resources, such as biomass energy, solar energy, wind energy and rainwater that we’ve collected, to achieve the effect of zero carbon emission.
Our campus is not isolated. Some surrounding factories, our campus and a nearby energy manufacturing company all form a small circular economy park, where we share heat and electricity and then they use domestic wastes from our school as energy sources to produce and provide heat and electricity for us. So I’ll start discussion from this small circular economy park in an attempt to give some enlightenment to our tourism peer.
For sustainable tourism, all of us may be familiar with a triangle mark covering a relation with environment, a relation with human beings and a relation with economy. If the three relations are balanced, it is the so-called sustainable development.
Well, first of all, how shall we solve the environment problems involved in sustainable tourism development?
In 2019, a very busy year, there are many new topics on environmental protection. In China, Shanghai became the first city to implement compulsory waste sorting. Among civilians, there are jokes in favor of this initiative of the government, including how to sort wastes, even through using pigs. Internationally, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl from Europe, initiated a campaign “Fridays for Future” this year, in order to protect the climate and environment and fight against the reality for our next generation, including fight against politicians. These two hot topics act in cooperation with each other.
We see a promotion process from government to civilian in China. And in Europe, it may be a promotion process from civilian to government, from bottom to up. But both reflect one thing — all of us are paying attention to this topic of environmental protection. It can be seen that we’ve basically reached a consensus this year.
In fact, in case of tourism, the government and civilian are both acting. So what could our practitioners in this industry do?
In this morning, the guests, including Mr. Dominique de Villepin and Mr.Serge Koenig, discussed the impacts from climate change on mountains and mountain tourism, which obviously are really very serious.
This picture basically shows all possible consequences resulting from climate warming. But such a range of consequences are almost adverse.
In turn, tourism will influence climate change. According to the data from IPCC, in the past 50 years, 95% of global warming was caused by human beings. Wherein, about 2-5% was contributed by tourism or, in fact, by greenhouse gas emission. In terms of absolute value, such a percentage is high.
In tourism industry, carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases emissions are from several major sources, including transport. Now that tourism just makes such a small contribution to global climate warming, shall we attach importance to it? My answer is definitely “Yes”. Because climate warming has very significant impacts on natural environment, much more than impacts on urban environment. Because our natural environment is much more vulnerable than urban environment. Once destroyed, it’s very difficult to restore.
Let’s see what inputs and outputs those tourist activities have in the whole process.
Inputs are water use, energy use, material use, land use and landscaping, as well as tourist behavior.
Outputs are air emissions, effluent discharge, waste generation, odour and noise generation, and biodiversity implications. Every practitioner in tourism industry shall consider its impacts on environment in light of this picture, when making any of such inputs. This is also the first question that we shall consider in destination planning.
With regard to destination planning, we have positive or negative impacts on the environment in each link of tourism industry chain, from destination to transportation, accommodation, catering and activities. Unfortunately, most of such impacts are negative. Besides, the destination itself may result in water pressure, biodiversity damage, and air and water pollution. For transportation, obviously, just air transportation results in a large quantity of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Accommodation, catering and activities (often desert autocross or auto rally) appear quite less influential, but in fact, destroy biodiversity as well.
How shall we address those? Today, let’s first discuss how to enable tourists’ environment-related behaviors or tourism service providers to form certain relations with and have some impacts on each other to have fewer impacts on environment, through destination management.
The above graph is very complicated. As a mater of fact, all links in the tourism industry chain involve various stakeholders (including local government and supplier) and a variety of tourism services involve wastes, water, energy, transport and land use. Tourists choose destinations by using third-party tourism service providers, that is, travel agencies. In turn, travel agencies indirectly influence tourist behaviors, whether positively or negatively, in many aspects.
Waste management is another hot topic in China. In this aspect, there is a famous inverted triangle LOGO.
Environmental workers all know this inverted triangle. First, prevent from waste; if any, think how to deal with the waste. Before dealing with the waste, think how to recycle. If recycling is impossible, think how to recover. If recovery is impossible, take the last step, such as incineration and landfill. The so-called disposal is a very small part, because almost all allegedly consumed materials have been brought back to the whole link by recycling in the previous few stages.
The recycling and recovery of waste both involve management and technology. We often emphasize technology. But I think it’s not all-purpose. In fact, many matters, including waste disposal, are addressed by management. Waste disposal is achieved by management to a large extent, unless you have no choice but technology.
When it comes to technology, we have a lot to say, like aerobiotic and anaerobic disposal of organic wastes. Before that, I’d like to give an example of waste sorting management. Some tourists have outdoor camping in a natural scenic area. One or two days later, these tourists leave some wastes there. However, it’s exactly difficult to deal with such wastes in such a natural scenic area. Perhaps, many of you also have such problems.
This is a camping ground in Spain. Obviously, they have done a lot in detail and those clear instructions are satisfactory. That is management.
Disposal is a technical processing link. There are several methods. I’d like to explain a very complicated flow diagram. I think it’s an anaerobic digestion process of organic waste. Anaerobic digestion means fermentation that generates biogas. In the right of the diagram, the brown jar is used for biogas fermentation and thus contains the largest quantity of biogas available for power generation. It is a process of combined heat and power generation as a whole, in which organic waste returns to the so-called industry chain in the form of energy and resource throughout the whole chain from entrance to exit. Its product is actually fertilizer. Organic waste becomes organic fertilizer through anaerobic fermentation and then may return to the soil. For some small tourist attractions, such a complicated process is not used in reality. It may be partly implemented or only used for biogas generation. Or if the biogas is more than sufficient to generate power, the remaining biogas residue and slurry may be composted and used to produce organic fertilizer again.
Another technology is about common domestic wastewater that contains many nutrient substances. It is possible to recycle such nutrient substances through a series of processes. After the recycling, the treated wastewater can return to the natural environment in a clean form. This is a very complete and comprehensive domestic wastewater treatment process. In practice, many processes may not work, depending on actual circumstances. For example, anaerobic fermentation tank generates domestic sludge in the treatment process of domestic wastewater, resulting in heavy pollution. However, domestic sludge contains many organic matters that can be recycled through the above mentioned fermentation process to, for instance, reproduce biogas. It’s not so complex in small scenic areas. Upon digestion, domestic wastewater will directly become purified water to discharge into nature. In many cases, a smaller quantity of sludge (if any) can be directly brought back to the soil through, for instance, backfilling.
There is also a technology from Luxembourg. It should be the latest technology and has been applied to many projects in Luxembourg. That is, mix domestic wastewater and organic waste and then recycle organic matters from domestic wastewater, such as the three kinds of matters shown in the right of the picture. Recycle the burned wood pellets, and most importantly, the phosphorus from domestic wastewater. NPK is a very important nutrition source in soil. It can be seen that many technologies are used in recycling phosphorus from domestic wastewater. You can talk about them later if you’re interested.
Next, let’s discuss photovoltaic application. In fact, it’s very simple. For example, in our campus, there is a photovoltaic carport which generates power and recharges electric vehicles. It can be used in scenic areas. The headquarters of the newly-established National Park of Germany is located in our university, so the photovoltaic carport is also available to tourists.
All the above are technologies. At last, let’s discuss one of tourist behaviors — tourist’s education, which is very important. Before going to a destination, a tourist should be educated a lot. It is useless to tell a tourist the do’s and don’ts after he arrives at the destination. It requires many stakeholders, including intermediary, that is, travel agency. They help a lot. Other platforms are also required.
However, there may be some considerations included in the process of education. Don’t educate them too much. Don’t frighten tourists by negative examples. Instead, persuade them with positive views. The objective of education is to change their mind, not to threaten them.
That’s all. Thank you.