From: Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News
Published May 23, 2005 12:00 AM

Ecotourism Conference to Be a Carbon-Neutral Gathering

BAR HARBOR, Maine — When interested parties from across the country come to town this September for the first U.S.-focused national ecotourism conference, organizers of the event want to make sure they set an example.

As part of a growing trend practiced by environmentally minded organizations, the event is expected to be "carbon neutral," according to organizer Costas Christ.

Christ, executive director of Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and an internationally-recognized expert on ecotourism, said Thursday that this means the event will compensate for the calculated amount of energy it uses -- and how much carbon it generates -- over its three-day life span.

As far as he knows, he said, it will be the first such carbon-neutral conference ever held in Maine.

The way it works is relatively simple. Using a formula that includes local electricity rates, the distance traveled and mode of transportation used by conference speakers, and the square-footage of the host facility, the conference will determine how much energy it consumes and pay for the equivalent amount of power to be generated by an eco-friendly energy enterprise.

Anne Hambleton of NativeEnergy, the Charlotte, Vt.-based company that will facilitate the transaction, said Thursday the firm has functioned as a broker for such carbon-neutral swaps since it launched operations in 2001. College of the Atlantic, an ecology-oriented school in Bar Harbor, started buying credits for wind-powered energy from NativeEnergy last year to compensate for the environmental impacts of its energy consumption.

In the case of the ecotourism conference, the green compensation will go toward a wind farm built by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, Hambleton said.

While the conference organizers will cover the energy costs for the invited speakers and the three day event, conference attendees will be invited to buy credits for the energy used to get to and from the event.

"They will have an opportunity to purchase [credits for] their travel so it is carbon-neutral," he said.

NativeEnergy supplied clean energy credits for a climate risk summit held May 10 at the United Nations in New York. Other NativeEnergy customers include Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Coca-Cola, Aveda Corp., Timberland clothing company, and the rock band R.E.M., among others.

The concept is a good fit for the ecotourism conference because the purpose of ecotourism is to protect the environment and to help sustain the cultures supported by those environments, according to Christ.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Related Link:
ENN Special Report: Sustainable Travel

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