Ecoclub Member Blogs

Antonis is the Founder of Ecoclub - International Ecotourism Club.

Leaving no footprints is no longer enough

In an era of climate crisis and mass migration, leaving no footprints is no longer enough - Responsible tourists should leave solidarity footprints behind, we need a positive, progressive, green impact tourism! Two inspiring examples from Greece: 1. Welcommon Hostel, Athens (Web:  https://welcommonhostel.gr ): A seven-floor building in the centre of Athens, a former public clinic, converted into a hostel and run by the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis (Wind of Renewal), led by former Green MEP (Member of European Parliament) Mr Nikos Chrysogelos. Since 2018 it offers inexpensive, eco-accommodation and is also a center for social and green innovation and the arts, making bridges between locals, migrants and refugees. It is disabled-friendly and bicyle-friendly. Two floors function as an open centre for social empowerment and inclusion, creating new employment opportunities in areas such as upcycling, ethnic cuisines, culture, green / cyclic economy, energy efficiency and others. Classes are offered (languages, painting,...
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Ikaria: Blue, Red and Green

The Greek island of Ikaria, (or Icaria, after Icarus) is famously one of the planet's 5 blue zones, with one of the world’s greatest life expectancy, and the lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Less known outside Greece is the fact that it combines its healthy and leisurely lifestyle with being a red fortress (or vestige) where the communists are the dominant force, although the communist candidate unexpectedly lost with "just" 42% in the May 2019 municipal elections. And it is now turning Green and able to cover 50% of its energy needs with renewable energy through an innovative Euros 50m development, inaugurated by the Greek Public Power Corporation (DEH) on World Environment Day 2019: a pumped storage clean energy plant that combines wind and hydraulic energy, named "Naeras" from "Nero-Water" and "Aeras-Wind". Essentially wind energy from a wind park, is "stored" by pumping water from a lower reservoir to an...
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Making Ecolabels Affordable, User-friendly and Transparent.

190522-solar-bank-ulcumano Photo of Solar Bank provided by Ulcumano Ecolodge of Peru, during their Ecoclub Desktop Audit, March 2019
One of the main impediments for the expansion of ecolabels to small accommodations. The undeniable, rarely uttered truth, is that all the best-known, credible, labels charge far more than a small hotelier can afford or is willing/used to pay, for services that they do not consider as absolutely necessary or legally required. Worse, the process is time-consuming for small owners that have to multi-task every day. Part of the solution is making ecolabels required by law, at least for accommodations of a certain size. Quality Tour Operators may also make accommodation ecolabels necessary, if they give preference to certified accommodation. But the real solution is making ecolabels affordable and user-friendly. A quick way of doing both is to introduce remote, online, real-time audits using Skype, or similar free conferencing software. At the one end the Auditor can request the auditee (usually the owner in small properties) to show her/him in real...
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Sharing Economy Uplifts Downtown Athens

Sharing Economy Uplifts Downtown Athens
Much-maligned by a small but vocal anti(over)tourism fringe and misguided hoteliers, Airbnb (and copycat platforms, imitation being the most sincere form of flattery) have single-handedly changed Tourism for ever. They have democratised it, spreading benefits widely and deeply into local communities and neighbourhoods. This is very much so in our home city, Athens, where Airbnb and the subway have transformed formerly run-down, down-town areas and offered a lifeline to lower-middle class owners, during the protracted Greek financial crisis which saw unemployment rates soar to 25% (currently at around 18%). The beneficial effects of the tourism sharing economy in Athens, a classic city break and an ancient tourism destination, were recognised in a one-day conference focusing on the future of Tourism Rentals held yesterday, 9 May 2019, in Athens. The event, attended by mayoral and regional candidates with local elections taking place in two weeks, was co-organised by the Athens Merchants Association (ESA)...
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The era of the so-called

The era of the so-called
When we describe something as 'so-called' we do not really take a neutral position but imply that it should not be called this: note the expression "your so-called friends". Personally, I always use the words 'so-called' in front of 'Overtourism', as, although I recognise that the term is in popular use, I dispute that it is a new phenomenon, which merits the invention of fancy new tools. It is simply, a result of 'Undermanagement', a result of the lack or inappropriate use of tried and tested tools backed by tens of thousands of academic research papers and best case studies. Even in our famously disorganised (famous) city, we do not get any Overtourism in the extremely confined and slippery place that is the Acropolis despite millions visiting every year. The term 'Overtourism' also has population alarmist (cf. 'Overpopulation') and racist, xenophobic undertones and does not go well with green, pro-tourism, open...
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A Green Dream for All

Hearing the news about China’s newfound emphasis on ecological civilisation , and noting the growing movement for a Green New Deal in the US it dawned on me that political ecology can be the humanising influence on all the four distinct, and largely successful, political & socioeconomic models: the American, the European, the Chinese and, lest we forget, the Cuban model. Green principles can help all these models converge into one: rather than an American or a "Chinese Dream" let us have a Green Dream! This would contribute to a permanent Détente and international cooperation under the aegis of the United Nations (much maligned but still humanity’s greatest achievement) so as to eradicate poverty and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Political ecology, with its emphasis on human rights, social justice, sustainability and internationalism/anti-chauvinism/anti-racism can keep these models away from their extreme versions - all these models had or can have extreme, authoritarian...
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The future: either green or dystopic

The future: either green or dystopic
It can be argued beyond any doubt that Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism are today part and parcel of the green movement, a diverse and colourful current ranging from liberal environmentalism to ecosocialism which has a far wider audience than the Green parties, although they also steadily widen and deepen their electoral base around the world. The green movement is not a temporary phenomenon. Greens are trying to meet the real needs of the 21st century as far as addressing and avoiding catastrophic climate change is concerned. Equally importantly, they are also indirectly attempting to create, in a gradual, voluntary, non-totalitarian and intelligent way, and even if some greens do not realise it, what 20th century radical movements totally botched: happy, free, healthy, classless societies. The 20th century failure of totalitarian recipes was no accident: the idea that a clique or a strongman could or would serve as a dictator curtailing all...
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Microplastics or Veganism?

Plastic inside Plastic - not so fantastic.
The choice is yours. And it is an urgent one too: The World Health Organisation today announced  an urgent review  into microplastics in drinking water, following a new study by  Orb Media  and State University of New York - Fredonia, which found plastic contamination in 242 out of 259 bottles sampled from 11 brands in nine countries, at twice the level of the supposedly inferior, humble tap water. The multinational brands involved, some of whom are keen on privatisation of public water utilities (so that they can sell it back to us at bottled prices?), were, as expected, quick to dispute the accuracy of the results, but what even the most gullible consumers will start realising soon is that microplastics are potentially a threat as serious to human health and the environment as Climate Change, and related to it in various ways.    The micro-plastic mega-threat is one extra but very serious reason for...
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Tourism, Nationalism, Internationalism

Photo by Roberto Catarinicchia on Unsplash
Does tourism contribute to the rise of nationalism or quite the opposite? Over the years I have spoken with many tourism practitioners, academics and decision-makers and in the vast majority of cases have detected a strain of unadulterated nationalism in their views, even when these tend to be otherwise progressive and green. It could be that the daily preoccupation of these people with local culture, tradition, monuments and history contributes to the development of notions of national identity and particularity in their mind. It can hardly be disputed that National Tourism Ministries and National Tourism Boards, which exist in nearly every country (with the notable exception of the United States) have similarities with the propaganda offices of authoritarian regimes as they are always painting a rosy picture of the country/destination, inviting travel journalists and bloggers for hire, paying lobbyists and so on. On the other hand, community-based forms of tourism tend...
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Oil pollution, mega-projects and the Athens coastline

170915-athens-oil-spil_20170915-140321_1
An environmental disaster of yet unknown proportions is unfolding in the Gulf of Athens, known as the Saronic Gulf, following the peculiarly rapid sinking under calm seas, of an ageing, small oil tanker carrying 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 metric tons of marine gas oil , near the island of Salamis, on the early hours of October 11th, 2017. Decades of haphazard, boom and bust industrial development and lack of planning has turned a great part of the northern Saronic Gulf into a strange and conflicting mix of heavy industries, refineries shipyards, summer houses, restaurants, beaches, marinas, archaeological sites, and sea-farms. In the past decade, during a huge financial and social crisis, there is an effort supported by powerful private developers to relaunch the area as the Athens Riviera, a new destination with mega-projects including the construction of a coastal casino-leisure-business complex in the sprawling site of Athens Hellinikon,...
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