Helping tourism providers identify and reduce their environmental footprint

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The new Green Kangaroo Starter Kit was launched today by the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association, and is a good example of an evolutionary step forward in community led sustainability initiatives. This particular programme has run for over four years and the new Starter Kit seeks to engage tourism providers who want to become more eco-friendly and use their actions to attract more customers by:

• explaining how to use the special online carbon calculator in 'easy steps' to encourage greater participation
• highlighting programme benefits to attract visitors to encourage sales
• providing a CO2 footprint per customer, to encourage them to make pro-environmental choices

Reducing environmental footprints alone are not sufficiently motivating for the majority of micro and small operators who have limited resources; they need to gain direct sales income. So the kit was developed to meet the growing interest in sustainability by non-members of the programme, to maintain momentum of those already signed up and promote good actions.

The kit's purpose is to guide tourism providers through clear steps to identify and reduce their environmental footprint. For many this is still very much a complex and unclear area with a multitude of information sources. However, this Starter Kit and the online tools provide a single source pertinent to the needs of rural communities in Australia. It also dove tails the action of calculation with a more marketing focused benefit.

The Green Kangaroo programme has successfully reduced current members CO2 footprint by over 20% since its launch (2009) and was a key element in helping Kangaroo Valley win a Highly Commended award at the World Responsible Tourism Awards for Best Destination in 2010.

Research conducted in Australia shows that over 70% of consumers expect tourist accommodation to take responsible action and reduce their environmental impacts. Findings also reveal that most tourists also want to know what those actions were. For this reason operators who become Green Kangaroo members also benefit from additional editorial space on the association's website which highlights social and environmental actions. Explaining responsible actions must be accurate and verified because the study also showed that over 1/3 of respondents did not trust the environmental claims made by accommodation providers, Warren, C. 2012 - Progress in Responsible Tourism Vol1 (2).

Consumer scepticism can lead to good actions being ignored. Therefore the Green Kangaroo programme not only provides an easy online method to calculate a tourism business' carbon footprint (using utility and fuel bills) it also independently verifies the results.

Measuring impacts can be done quarterly or annually presenting a statement with the CO2 amount per guest night or per customer. This is also a new improvement to the scheme. Input figures are processed together with customer numbers so that the output is provided not only in total CO2 but also as an individual customer amount. Providing a customer footprint lets tourism providers inform their consumers of their business' progress in overall CO2 pollution reduction and also for each person using the tourism service. This simple addition to the scheme enables members to focus on their customer behaviour to help them actively reduce their footprint. While it may appear obvious, no member had previously being doing this calculation. It appears their motivations were primarily concentrated on their own efforts to reduce.

The new calculation permits the Green Kangaroo member to highlight pro-environmental choices and allows everyone to connect with their personal behaviour. In this way the footprint is meaningful and it is expected to encourage a greater level of participation. Members of the Green Kangaroo programme receive promotional materials to draw public attention to their claim which is independently verified.

The positive steps tourism providers take to reduce their footprint often results in improved services and the quality of experience. It is hoped that new Green Kangaroo Starter Kit will stimulate better overall results (note my paper for the Tourism Excellence Conference in Melbourne in July 2013; ' The case for sustainability: promoting quality and a better experience'.

The development of the Green Kangaroo programme has been a voluntary (excluding the cost to Hatch for creating the carbon calculator and website hosting which was paid for fully by the association). There are no costs to join the programme or having figures verified. The formatting of the carbon calculator allows the association to make modifications themselves without incurring future costs; this is an example of sustainability in action.