Friday, March 27, 2009

Launch of Ireland's First Ecotourism Handbook

Fáilte Ireland and leading ecotourism organisation, Greenbox, today published Ireland’s first Ecotourism Handbook with support funding from Border Action. Launched today, the ‘Ecotourism Handbook for Ireland’ is aimed at people working in tourism and is a concise guide to help tourism businesses operate in a green environment.

The Ecotourism Handbook for Ireland will be distributed to over 3,000 tourism businesses by Fáilte Ireland over the next few months and at ecotourism awareness seminars, as a sign of its commitment to helping change the face of Irish tourism.

Speaking at the launch, Paul Keeley, Director of Business Development and Investment at Fáilte Ireland said -

“An environmental approach to tourism is not only an ethical choice but also a business necessity. As a nation, we sell ourselves as a “green” country. Visitor expectations of unspoilt landscapes and a green environment are part of the attraction that lures many to our shores. However, it is not just a matter of image. An environmental approach has the potential to yield cost-savings for tourism businesses – an important consideration given the challenges we face in the year ahead.”

The ‘Ecotourism Handbook for Ireland’ provides a wealth of detail including information on the ecotourism market, how to certify a green business, how to find ‘green’ funding, and how to market your ecotourism business.

Mary Mulvey, CEO of Greenbox said -

“I truly believe to create a strong ecotourism product will only come about through education and training at all levels of the industry from government, trade and industry partners in tourism to host communities, media and the consumers of tourism .Ireland has the potential to develop a quality ecotourism experience and this book will be a big help for any business where to get started.”

The need for an Ecotourism Handbook for Ireland arose out of the success of the Greenbox, Ireland’s first ecotourism destination. Martina Bromley, General Manager Fáilte Ireland North West, said -

“The success of the Greenbox Ecotourism Destination in the North-West has demonstrated to other tourism destinations of the potential that exists in the ecotourism market for Ireland.

The handbook draws heavily on the experience of ecotourism providers in the North-West and will provide practical assistance to tourism businesses throughout Ireland in making the transition to ecotourism so that they too can tap into this emerging and growing market”.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, the ecotourism market has been growing since the 1990’s at rate of between 20-34% every year. Although this varies from destination to destination, the average figure is still three times the growth rate of the industry as a whole.

Green Travel Writer and author of the handbook, Catherine Mack said –

“Sometimes I think that people working in tourism are afraid of the ‘eco’ word. There is a lot of confusion out there about what it means to be ethical, green, sustainable, eco, or responsible, call it what you will. People think it’s going to cost more, alienate their clientele, or put them in some sort of ‘green’ box. In writing this book, I hope to take away some of this fear, and show that it is the only way to move forward in tourism.”

The Ecotourism Handbook for Ireland will be available online at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Low Impact Living Article

This is a good article that was posted on the website It contains a write up on the Greenbox and some of its members: The Gyreum ecolodge, Necarne Manor and Ireland Ecotours.

See article below:

These days, Ireland is becoming known for more than simply verdant hills, green beer and leprechauns. In fact, the country has recently grown quite serious about becoming an eco-friendly destination for tourists. Renowned for its emerald-hued natural beauty which attracts flocks of tourists, Ireland is transforming itself into a country that is quickly becoming as environmentally green as its renowned, lush countryside.

The Irish government is aware that approximately 80% of tourists to Ireland feel that the country’s pristine environment and scenic landscapes are a “ very important ” factor in their choice of Ireland as a holiday destination, making its efforts to offer greener tourism options all the more important.

For those tempted to pursue a green visit to the Emerald Isle, the country’s tourism organizations make it easy.

When most tourists think of Ireland, thoughts turn to quaint inns and hotels. The good news is that there are a growing number of green options in this very fetching category. To encourage hotels to go green, the country offers Green Hospitality Awards. In 2008, 81 out of the island nation’s 960 hotels were honored with one of the new, but already coveted awards.
Many of these are featured on Greenbox, Ireland’s eco-tourism website. The country also participates in the European Union’s green hotel certification program, the EU Flower Eco-Label. Though the initiative is new, Ireland already boasts eighteen accommodations that have earned the label.

For a stay in a classic Georgian manor home, travelers can book a room at the Necarne Manor. With rolling lawns, woods and gardens and an equestrian center, the Gothic Revival estate is as beautiful as it is green. Guests can bike along a nearby trail to a nearby nature reserve and the inn uses organic, fair trade and locally-produced food, even sourcing compost from the on-site stables.

Those yearning for something edgier can try the yurt-inspired Gyreum Eco-Lodge which might best be described as über-green in an Al Gore-on-steroids kind of way. Wind turbines power geothermal heating, solar panels provide hot water, traditional toilets connect to a reed bed, and there’s even an outside compost toilet. Rain from the enormous roof is collected and used for showers and toilets.

For a green tour of Ireland’s, well, greenery, book with Ireland Eco Tours which visits well and lesser-known sites, all from the comfort of a vegetable oil-powered bus.

Even Dublin’s charming lanes and streets are turning green. Completely novel and yet to hit the roads in the U.S., Ecocabs offer Dublin residents and tourists a green alternative to traditional taxis. A fleet of modern passenger tricycles operating a free shuttle service daily from April 1st-December 31st, Ecocabs promote fitness while reducing noise, congestion and carbon emissions.
Failte, the Irish tourism agency, is so committed to greening that it has added an environment section to its web site. The section includes an environmental action plan and carbon strategy. The agency is currently working on environmental standards for conference centers and golf courses and has already reviewed environmental practices in the tourism sector. Talk about your transparent government, a copy of the report with recommendations is on its website.
But it’s not just leprechauns and tourist agencies that are green in Ireland—the Irish are pursuing as many green initiatives for their own benefit. May 22-24 is the annual National Greener Ireland fair which includes information on carbon footprint reduction, energy preservation, and organic produce.

On a grander scale, Sustainable Energy Ireland is a one-stop source for information about grants, saving energy, education, and business approaches to adopting a sustainable energy approach.

According to the Irish tourist agency, “The future of Irish tourism is inextricably linked to the quality of the environment. [The] scenic landscapes, coastline, rivers and lakes and cultural heritage are the bedrock upon which Irish tourism has been built.”
The efforts of the Irish to ensure their environment and tourism thrive are more than mere blarney. While the existence of leprechauns might be debated, the efforts of the Irish to go green are as real as the green hills of Ireland itself.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Small Green Business GETS BIG Green Award


Greenbox, Local politicians and business leaders join Orchard Acre Farm in celebrating a prestigious NI Environment Award

Orchard Acre Farm is at the forefront of green business and sustainable development and today celebrates winning the RTPI/RSPB Sustainable Planning Award. The award recognises buildings and planning processes that have high environmental standards. Orchard Acre Barn more than fits the bill.

The Fermanagh-based small farm business recently added an Eco Barn to its portfolio. The Barn has a function room which is bathed in natural light, a kitchen classroom with a wood burning stove that heats the whole building, and a design that boasts high levels of insulation.

Proprietor Teresa O’Hare said, “We are totally thrilled to receive this NI Award. We are a small business with big green standards. When we developed the Barn our aim was to give our guests and visitors beautiful facilities without costing the earth! For instance, we use sunlight in the conference Room, hot water from the solar panels and rain water in the toilets.”

The Barn represents a significant capital investment of over £200,000 for the Irvinestown based farm. The project was a recipient of capital funding from the Greenbox to support the eco tourism aspects of the farm business. The total grant funded 50% of the cost of building the barn. The environmental features were designed to reduce the farm's environmental 'footprint' and help minimise running costs through energy savings.
Teresa continued, “In the world of small businesses like mine, it’s about reducing costs. For Orchard Acre Farm our objectives to reduce environmental costs also helps us to save on running costs through energy efficiency, renewable energy and insulation. The people here present today at this celebration have helped me to put a business idea into reality. For the most part, this was done without compromise to our farm business’ high environmental standards. They should be just as proud as I am."

The awards panel noted the building won because of its sensitive use of vernacular architecture, hyper local building supplies which were recycled, use of renewable energy, as well as having insulation that incorporated solar panels.

Claire Ferry, Planning Officer of the RSPB, said, “This is a wonderful inspiration to us as Ms O’Hare saw the opportunity to convert an unused building and did so in an environmentally-friendly way. It goes to show that individuals do and can make a difference. The RSPB warmly congratulates her.”

Garvan Rafferty from the RTPI was equally effusive. “The Eco Barn demonstrates that environmental planning does not have to be done on a grand scale. Single buildings also make a difference – their cumulative effect is just as powerful as a ‘prestige’ project. We were impressed with the thought that was put into the redevelopment of the building,” he said. “I am really pleased that we have won the award. It means so much to us that we are able to say that the work that we have done has been recognised by organisations such as the RTPI and RSPB. We hope that this will encourage others to do the same – it benefits the local economy and the environment!” said Ms O’Hare