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You've Been Greenwashed in the Eco World

You've Been Greenwashed in the Eco World

Idyllic ecotourism hut in Dominican jungles.

October 24, 2007 —

Picture Henry David Thoreau, writing On Walden Pond, down in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Emerald palm fronds stirring in immense tracts of subtropical ecology, diamond white beaches limned by tropical sun, a thatch hut woven against rain. Henry is writing contemplatively in his little eco-world that he is visiting. Then, a sound startles him. A diesel generator cranking up to power something very materialistic like air conditioning. His eco-tourist experience just went sour. He has just been “greenwashed.”

Eco-tourism has rapidly grown out of the 1990’s into a major slice of the tourism pie. And the word “eco” has evolved into the Darwinian equivalent of superhype. If you’re planning an eco-tourism getaway for a true ethical sense of getting away, then check your eco-tour operator and destination with some good research. While many eco-tours are powerful and fairly pure extensions of small ecological footprints and larger social footprints (making sure the outfit is hiring indigenous peoples for all appropriate jobs), many are using “eco” as a prefix for anti-ecological/sociological practices. Thus, the term “greenwashing.”

An example of the good guy eco outfit is CESiaK—stands for Centro Ecológico Sian Ka’an. They employ lots of locals and strive to be green (solar, wind power only), serve a larger purpose, and blend into the environment like a tree frog (well, close). Martha Honey of the International Ecotourism Society points out that small outfits and large hotels are guilty of the eco deception. So, check your eco tour operator with the same care as you would a contractor coming to your home to do green renovation or refitting.

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