Buildings, Energy, & Transportation Choices in Tourism: A Key to protecting coastal habitat and marine environments

Buildings, Energy, & Transportation Choices in Tourism: A Key to protecting coastal habitat and marine environments
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The Blue Community initiative has developed 12 strategies for coastal habitat and marine environment protection for the tourism industry. Three of the strategies focus on buildings, energy, and transportation. These strategies can go a long way in protecting coastal habitat and marine environments as well as reducing carbon emissions and mitigating impacts from climate change and ocean acidification.


According to the Rocky Mountain Institute Reinventing Fire initiative, buildings in the U.S. are energy hogs consuming 42% of the energy and 72% of the electricity.

In the Blue Community initiative, building design is key to saving energy, water, and reducing the risks of disaster. A paradigm shift in building for the tourist industry can be found in the Monolithic Dome construction process. This process allows tourism resorts to reduce risks through buildings that are 100% fire proof, tornado proof, insect proof, earthquake proof, and can withstand hurricane force winds up to 300 mph. One example of a tourist resort using the Monolithic construction is the Xanadu Resort in Belize, which has achieved the Green Globe certification for its environmental programs. The resort took a direct hit by Hurricane Keith in September 2000, yet sustained no damage.

Monolithic domes buildings use only 1/4 the energy of conventional construction while costing no more and often less than conventional construction depending on the size of the building. The larger the Monolithic building, the more likely cost savings.


The promotion of mass transportation in the tourism industry is critical to reducing carbon emissions. Currently 75% of CO2 emissions in the tourism industry are transportation related. With international tourism visits expected to increase as much as 60% in the next decade, new transportation initiatives are needed.

The Rocky Mountain Institute Reinventing Fire transportation plan provides a good blue print for solutions to this challenge that will also provide a significant return on investment.

Many resorts are already recognizing the benefits of pedestrian and mass transportation systems. Not only does the promotion of this this type of transportation reduce carbon emissions, it also keeps more people in the resort area that translates into increased revenue. It also reduces the need to use valuable land for parking lots, reduces traffic congestion, and improves the aesthetics and quality of the tourist experience.

Bicycle programs, renting only electric or solar powered cars, using hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles for the resort vehicles also can contribute.

Walt Disney Resort in Florida moves about 90 million guests per year through a combination of monorail, boats, buses, and pedestrian walk ways. They have provide free roundtrip transportation from the Orlando airport including having your luggage picked up for you through their Magical Express transportation.

Other key mitigating transportation strategies for the tourism industry to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to both climate change and ocean acidification include:

• Reducing and/or eliminating vehicles run on fossil fuels at the resort or destination.
• Providing pedestrian and bicycle trails to travel around the resort area.
• Providing for free transportation from airports.
• Purchasing carbon offsets for the travel of guests to the resort or destination
• Providing incentives to use mass transportation at the resort and for excursions from the resort.
• Increased use of more energy efficient buses such as the Avanti Bus


The development of a sound energy plan is one of the easiest ways to save operating costs and has one of the quickest pay backs for the tourism industry.

According to Reinventing Fire electricity accounts for about 40% of all carbon emissions in the U.S.

The opportunities for reduction of energy especially electricity in the tourism industry are tremendous.

The Portugal industry now gets 43% of its electricity from renewables. This comes from a number of sources including Portugal being the home of the world's largest potovoltaic solar energy plant, home of Europe's largest wind farm, and home of the World's first commercial wave energy farm.

Common energy strategies used in the tourism industry include:

•Automatic load shedding control systems,
•Controls for heating and hot water
Energy Star or equivalent appliances
•Insulated windows
•Controlled ventilation
•Low energy lighting
•Covering and coating of roofs and painting them white.
•Cogeneration or combined heat and power.
•Wall, roof, and floor insulation
•Renewable energy options.

Choosing from combinations of the above options, a tourist resort or destination can easily reduce its energy use by over 50% with little cost. For example just painting roofs white has been found to reduce energy costs an average of 20% in California.

Beyond the simple low cost strategies, some tourism resorts are beginning to implement renewable energy sources. For example:

•Paradise Bay Villas & Spa in Grenada installed an 80 KW windmill that provides 150% of the resorts current energy needs. It also uses energy efficient appliances including air conditioners with heat recovery units which convert heat to hot water. To get the community involved it offered free lobster lunch with champagne for anyone who purchased four energy efficient light bulbs.

•Tiamo Resort in South Andros, Bahamas has a solar PV system that provides 100% of its energy needs. All water is heated with thermal hot water heaters that use no gas or electricity. Buildings use passive cooling design and white roofs for cooling.

•In 2008 the Walt Disney Company set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions 50% from its 2006 baseline by the end of 2012 and achieved that goal. The switch to all Energy Star appliances in Florida has saved enough energy each year to power the entire Animal Kingdom theme park, and using 176,325 LED light bulbs in the holiday display at Cinderella's Castle allows the display to run on the equivalent of only 12 microwave ovens.

The Walt Disney Company is also working to educate its guest on buildings, transportation, and energy through such attractions as Vision House in EPCOT. In Vision House guests learn how buildings can protect natural areas, save energy, add durability, protect indoor quality, and save water.

All of the 25 Walt Disney World Resorts are certified by the Florida Green Lodging program that requires continued reporting for improvements in water conservation, education and awareness programs for guests, waste management, energy conservation and efficiency, and indoor air quality.

View the video Coastal Habitat Protection Part 2 to learn more

As the largest industry in the world and employing over 11% of the world's workforce, tourism has the ability to significantly reduce carbon emissions through their building, transportation, and energy policies and programs. In doing so major strides can be made to addressing the serious issues of ocean acidification and climate change. In addition, good building practices will reduce energy costs, better protect surrounding ecosystems, and reduce disaster risks. This in turn will both mitigate climate change impacts and protect coastal habitat and marine environments.

Dr David W. Randle - Director USF Patel College of Global Sustainability Sustainable Tourism, Managing Director International Ocean Institute Waves of Change Blue Community Initiative, and President & CEO WHALE Center

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist and author of The Insatiable Bark Beetle

Popular in the Community