Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pro-environment tourism businesses

Pro-environment tourism businesses
More than 150 hotels and other tourism-oriented businesses have earned special recognition for their work to conserve natural resources, thanks to a state program that demonstrates Governor Pat McCrory’s commitment to environmental protection and economic development.
This month, NC Green Travel recognized its 150th and 151st tourism businesses that use sustainable practices to save water, energy and money. The Pisgah Field School became the 150th business to earn recognition from NC Green Travel, a customer service-focused program in North Carolina’s environmental agency. The 151st business is the Holistic Health and Wellness Expo, a Fayetteville-based organization that raises money through an annual expo to pay for health and wellness workshops.
“The Pisgah Field School and Holistic Health and Wellness Expo represent the environmentally-savvy tourism businesses that are sprouting up across North Carolina,” said Donald R. van der Vaart, secretary of the state environmental agency. “We encourage businesses to look for ways to reduce their use of water and energy, whenever possible. We’ve found that by reducing their environmental footprint, tourism-oriented businesses are more attractive to customers and that has helped reduce the businesses’ bottom line.”
Research has shown that sustainable businesses protect the environment and reduce operating costs and are more profitable without sacrificing peoples’ comfort.
The Pisgah Field School is a business that uses skilled outdoors experts to provide people with tours of the forests, interpretative programs, educational hikes and other learning adventures in the mountains of western North Carolina.
NC Green Travel was established in October 2011 to promote sustainable travel. Tourism-focused businesses, including hotels and restaurants, apply and are selected for the program by the state environmental and commerce agencies as well as the Center for Sustainability at East Carolina University. Applicants are selected based on a grading system in which they earn points for environmentally-friendly practices they use to conserve energy and water, reduce waste and help protect the environment.
The Pisgah Field School and the Holistic Health and Wellness Expo earned points for minimizing their impacts on the environment. For instance, campsites at the Pisgah Field School are spread over a wide area to avoid erosion and sedimentation. The school also discourages clients from taking rocks, flowers or artifacts from places they visit, and adheres to a principle in which people leave no trash at campsites, and take everything from the campsite that was brought in.
The Holistic Health and Wellness Expo reduces its footprint by not operating in a building. Instead, the organization takes its health and wellness programs into police departments, senior centers and other places where its clients live or work, says Nicole Walcott, the expo’s executive director. The company also recycles many of its materials, uses electronic messaging rather than paper to communicate, and works exclusively with environmentally-friendly vendors.
“This is great for us for being a member of NC Green Travel,” Walcott says. “It gets our name out there on another website and gives us much more exposure.” 
Businesses recognized through the NC Green Travel Initiative receive a free listing on the initiative’s website, a door or window decal and a certificate of recognition showing their rating. Applying to the program is free. All applicants are also eligible for free, non-regulatory environmental assessments from the state.
To find NC Green Travel hotels, restaurants or others in the program, check out: http://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/environmental-assistance-customer-service/nc-green-travel-program (link is external).
Tourism-oriented businesses interested in applying to be a member of NC Green Travel should contact Tom Rhodes at (919) 707-8140 or Tom.Rhodes@ncdenr.gov. To apply for NC Green Travel online, go to: http://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/environmental-assistance-customer-service/nc-green-travel-program/how-to-apply-for-recognition (link is external).
                                            

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