Environmental PlanWhat is the environmental plan and why is it needed?
The environmental plan is a strategic document of a tourism establishment. It is based on integrated environment protection measures taken up by a tourism establishment and to be completed before the set deadline in order to improve the establishment's environmental indicators and to reduce or eliminate its impact on environment.
What is understood by Environment?
Theoretically, the environment is an aggregate of biotic and abiotic factors, namely, animate nature (animals, trees, plants, etc.) and inanimate nature, like geological objects and structures, waters and climatic conditions (temperature, wind, etc.). In natural, untouched environment, interaction of these factors produce stable and lasting systems that are self-sustaining.
Human interference destroys this balance as it brings along new factors, modifies natural links. Human activities leave impact on the nature. This impact manifests more than locally, it can bring more extensive consequences.
Thus, by 'environment' we understand not only the natural environs in which a particular tourism establishment functions and who's resources (for instance: waters, land, biological resources, like trees, plants) the establishment uses to ensure its operation. This understanding includes also circulation of substances and materials (i.e., incoming resources and products - like building materials, power resources - and outgoing resources and products - like waste, sewage, discharge that is produced during incineration). So 'environment' is a comprehensive concept comprising also raw materials and resources, waste products and power, which may not be taken from, or created in the given territory but may bring consequences or create impact far beyond the immediate environs of a tourism establishment.
What is the purpose of the environmental plan?
The purpose of the environmental plan is to assist a tourism provider in running the tourism establishment in such a way as to possibly maintain the natural balance in the given territory as well as in the global environment. The pollution, produced by the establishment, can be carried far beyond the establishment's operational boundaries by wind, water and circulation of substances. Also the resources, consumed in the given establishment, can create an impact on the global environment.
When writing an environmental plan for a tourism establishment, one should follow the principle 'Think globally, act locally!'. It means that a provider should be aware of the establishment's impact not only on what is in his own yard, but on the whole world.
Why develop the environmental plan?
A tourism establishment needs an environmental plan:
What should be the contents of the environmental plan?
For promotion purposes and to demonstrate responsible attitude towards sustainability not only of one's business, but also of the surrounding environment and the whole world, in such a way attracting tourists who value pristine and tidy environment.
To use resources (power, heating, water) in a reasonable and economical way, preventing negative impact on environment and saving own financial resources.
To reduce amount of waste and sewage polluting environment and to prevent possible penalties for illegal actions (waste burning, discharge of sewage into lakes, etc.).
To educate employees and guests and enhance their environmental awareness.
An environmental plan consists of several sections, describing in logical sequence the present environmental situation of the tourism establishment, the desirable future situation and activities and measures to achieve the desirable situation.
The environmental plan includes:
How to start writing the environmental plan?
Statement of the establishment's attitude towards environment and formulation of the establishment's environmental/nature protection goals or a vision to be attained through its operational activities in a longer period of time.
Description of the present situation of the establishment's operations and environmental impact, identifying opportunities for improvement.
Formulation of specific, realistic goals in order to improve the establishment's environmental performance.
A priority list of solutions to address environmental problems according to the establishment's possibilities. The list includes deadlines, names of persons in charge and resources required to complete these tasks.
Indicators and control mechanism for supervision of implementation of the environmental plan.
Should a tourism provider develop the environmental plan by himself / herself? The environmental plan is a voluntary initiative taken up by tourism establishments truly caring for their image and for environment.
A large tourism establishment (hotels, recreational complexes, hotel chains) can elaborate its environmental plan as a comprehensive document to form a part its development strategy. It can be one of the measures to improve the whole management system of the establishment and the final goal can be, e.g., an international quality certificate. If this is the case, most probably professionals should be involved in writing the environmental plan or at least their advice on methodology should be used.
For small and medium tourism establishments, including rural tourism establishments, the environmental plan serves as a basis for adjustment of management practices and as an evidence of quality management in order to apply for quality certificates and labels.
However, there is no need to exaggerate hiring specialists to elaborate an extensive, complicated and unrealistic plan, which a provider can not understand. A provider himself / herself can write a good enough and viable plan after careful evaluation of the establishment, consulting with the staff and asking for specialists' advice in areas that are unfamiliar.
In many cases, writing the environmental plan by himself/herself will make the provider to understand it better and he/she will feel bound to put more efforts in its implementation.
Do not worry if your environmental plan does not comprise everything at once. It is not a static document to be written once and forever. After some time, when certain experience and knowledge is gained in performing the chosen environmental measures, the plan can be revised. Step by step development of the environmental plan
In the beginning, it is important that the management and the permanent staff come together and discuss - are we really interested, do we care for environment, are we aware of the environmental impact of our establishment?
And finally, ask a question - do we want to perform even better, are we ready for this work? If the environmental plan is perceived as a burden and the establishment does not see a benefit in it, most probably, the initiative should be cancelled.
Following positive discussions, it is important to take a clearly formulated management decision and inform all staff members.
E.g., 'Starting in June this year, our establishment begins to prepare for implementation of the environmental plan under management of ______ ; the responsibility/role of each staff member is to _________ ; the following activities will take place to prepare for implementation of the environmental plan _____ .'
A delegated person in charge organizes further activities. Often this person is the establishment's manager.
The next step is the environmental audit or the description of the environmental situation and establishment's operations.
Environmental audit is a complex of measures to evaluate:
a) Resources the establishment consumes.
b) Waste products and discharges the establishment produces, the burden it places on environment.
The first step is to check compliance of the establishment with environmental and other regulations. All the relevant and legally required documents should be present, e.g., a contract with a waste management company, permissions from authorities to canalize waste water, to perform building and construction works, in case such activities take place.
This compliance checking is not the same as checking financial documents (like taxes and other payments). Checking financial documents is not the task of the environmental audit.
For environmental auditing purposes, the operations of the establishment should be divided in possibly smaller, logical activity blocks and evaluated separately. It will turn the evaluation into a systematic process and will not allow important issues to escape form attention.
The establishment's operations can be divided in management stages. The following management stages are found in all tourism establishments:
- Maintenance, repair, preparations for tourist season
- Guest arrivals, transportation
- Food service and other services
- Room cleaning
- Tourist activities
- Other services depending on the provider's choice
In order to see the resources and environmental impacts in each stage, it can be divided into actions and/or examined in the context of a particular environmental area.
For each management stage, the following can be evaluated: what resources are required, what is their immediate and long-term impact on the environment, and, most important, what are the possibilities to use the resources in the most rational way: reduce / proportionate or replace by other, more environment-friendly options.
At this stage, possibly it will be necessary to consult with, e.g., Regional Environmental Authority or other available environmental specialists able to give a reliable estimation of the environmental impact.
The identified environmental problems should be prioritized following specific criteria. The criteria will be chosen by the provider himself / herself.
One of the key criteria for prioritization of the identified environmental problems should be how essential is their impact on the environment (including human health).
It is important to start with finding solutions and improvement options in those areas where activities are most harmful to environment. Usually in tourism establishments these areas are:
- Quality of sewage and its discharge into open waters.
- Waste deposit, especially hazardous waste (batteries, dyestuff, oils, quicksilver, accumulator batteries, medicines, etc).
Next important issues are those pertaining to:
- Consumption of power and heating, if produced on site.
- Nature exploitation and, e.g., risks and pollution created by transport (in soil, vegetation).
- Use of agricultural chemicals.
- Use of construction and finishing stuffs / materials that are harmful to health and environment.
- Other criteria, depending on the location, size and level of amenities of the tourism establishment.
A priority list of problems is set up as a result of the environmental audit.
Where to source the data and information?
Thinking about economical use of resources, it is important to be aware of the amount and efficiency of resources consumed and general dynamics, namely, how the amount and efficiency change by years/seasons.
A frequent problem is the lack of data. Tourism establishments usually do not use water meters, do not pay attention to consumption of electrical power, which is not itemized. Nobody measures the amount of waste or registers the consumption of cleaning aids, etc.
Usually tourism providers think that everything is done in the right and economical way and there is no room for further improvements. But it is not always like that. In practice, it is often possible to find opportunities for small, but significant improvements in order to make the operations of any establishment more economical.
The key task is to start register the resource consumption in the establishment, if it has not been practiced before.
Precise consumption of the following should be registered:
- Electrical power
- Household and chemical aids
- Paper and other resources
There are items that do not need to be measured regularly and there is no need to buy measuring devices. Resource consumption in tourist establishments is proportional to numbers of guests. Therefore, the simplest method is to take some control measurements per season at different groups of guests and / or different activities. Then the average figures can be used in calculations depending on the number of guests and their activities to.
The control measuring can be done by simple methods, even measuring by buckets. Electrical power consumption can be estimated taking into account the technical data of the electrical equipment as shown by a manufacturer. A provider should be aware of how frequently and how often particular power equipment is used.
The following measurement / indicators can be useful: total consumption of electrical power / water / cleaning and other aids per season / year per guest.
From economy point of view it is important to know the relation of the resources consumed / invested (in measurement units or monetary value) against the products manufactured, in tourism - against 1,- LVL of revenue. Improving environmental and resource consumption indicators will soon be followed by improvement of this economical indicator.
The next step in developing the establishment's environmental plan is to find solution opportunities to the identified problems.In order to find a solution, the core of the problem should be identified. Where the problem roots? The simplest method is to repeatedly ask why?
At this stage, it is important to be aware of all the possible solutions and consider even those, which can not be used at the given time because of technical or financial reasons. Often by dismissing a particular solution, which initially seems too expensive, we lose opportunities that could prove to be economically most beneficial even in near future.
Opportunities to improve or change an establishment's environmental performance mostly occur in the following management areas.
1) Maintenance and repair, as this area is directly related to choice of materials, thermal insulation, installation of environment friendly equipment, etc.
Environmental audit starts with examining the buildings from outside and with analysis of building materials. Attention is paid mainly to the materials used - if they do not contain asbestos (slate, insulation panels, etc.), if synthetic materials (e.g., polymer plastics) are not exceedingly used, and if the most harmless available paints (water emulsion) are applied. Use of natural materials in construction and surroundings is stressed as a positive value.
Further, the interior is inspected - materials of curtains, furniture, bed linen, wall finishing. The presence of door-mats are at the entrance door to prevent dust / dirt from getting into the house. The flooring - if synthetic or allergenic carpets are not used.
In reality, the mentioned factors would impact environment in future, however, particular things are important for health protection at present.
2) Guest arrivals and transportation, establishment's vehicles.
In Latvia, there are no good opportunities to promote the use of public transport in order to facilitate environment friendly transportation. However, it is important to evaluate environmental impact of guest vehicles - providers should see that cars are not parked near wells, gutters or other facilities should be installed to collect from the parking place rainwater containing motor oils. Supplementing public transportation, the establishment should be able to offer transfer services for groups, making it possible to get to the nearest town.
It is also important to evaluate the establishment's vehicles - what fuel is used, how often each vehicle is used, what is efficiency of its use, where it is normally parked.
In any case, in establishment's advertising a provider can encourage guests to arrive by public transport to the nearest town/village where he/she can meet the group and take to the final destination in establishment's vehicle. Cars 'not being available' on site would encourage tourists to explore the environs walking or bicycling.
It is important that public transportation schedules to / from the biggest nearest towns are available to guests.
The establishment's scheme of using vehicles should be improved so that a maximum of needs could be attended to by the same run and unnecessary consumption of fuel should be avoided.
Guest accommodation presents the widest improvement opportunities as the resource consumption, pollution and burden to environment directly depend on the numbers of guests and the establishment's type / level of amenities.
A provider can control the processes here without restricting tourists' wishes to enjoy high-class amenities and service.
A good support in tourist education and forming their environmental attitudes is information about why a particular solution or behavior is required. It will for sure reduce an eventual dissatisfaction and turn it into a positive support. Both guests and providers should be aware that we are all sharing the same World and environment!
For example: In many countries in hotel bathrooms there is information suggesting that the guests do not change towels after every bath or shower because laundering causes water pollution. You can as well inform your guests that reduced consumption of water and cleaning aids is directly related to the quality of water in the lake where they enjoy swimming. You can inform your guests about how much coal is used and how much discharge is produced if they leave the lights on without any need for 10 minutes. Instead of 'no trashing' signs, you can expose information about how much time it takes before particular types of refuse disintegrate.
At this stage, it is important to evaluate all the effects pertaining to guest accommodation - heating, water and power consumption, practices of keeping the doors closed and airing rooms, the footwear guests use in rooms and possibilities to reduce dirt, evening pastimes available in guest living rooms. All of this leaves an impact on the use of resources, the finances and the environment.
4) Food service and other services
Both, the principles of healthy food and the environmental issues are important in providing food service and other services, namely: the products and packaging, the way of cooking and serving food, washing up and disposing of waste and refuse.
At cooking, power consumption and kitchen equipment for guests' use has to be considered. Often a coffee machine or a toaster would be on throughout the breakfast time without any need consuming too much power. Power consumption can be reduced using cooking equipment and food storage containers of appropriate volume and thermal capacity. In many countries national style kitchen textiles, like overlays or mittens, are commonly used to cover dishes / tee-pots before guests arrive to breakfast, if it has not been ordered at particular time.
If possible, the food should be cooked and served right before the meal to avoid heating up, etc.
More important is not to reduce the size of meals but the amount of waste food and untouched food. Providers could ask their guests in advance about what they would like to have next day.
In any case, the waste food should not be disposed of in the same waste-bin as other household waste. It can be used for feeding home pets and animals or else composted. It should not be a problem to arrange a place for composting in the garden of a country home or behind some outbuilding.
The amount of waste packaging should be reduced choosing large volume / weight packaging. A completely odd 'luxury' is disposable tableware or individually packed products. In practice they often remain untouched and are thrown out.
5) Room cleaning and laundering
For room cleaning and laundering we use water, power and chemical aids which leave an immediate impact on environment. The most important is to reduce unnecessary consumption of these stuffs by choosing the most appropriate and economical methods.
After rinsing, it is advisable to use the same water for other household purposes. It will reduce consumption of drinking water and, consequently, the costs of water supply and purification in centralized systems.
Additionally, reduced water consumption will result in reduced amount of sewage that is discharged into drains and has to be treated in the local purification plants.
6) Tourist activities
Many small but valuable improvements can be achieved by organizing tourist activities in such a way as to avoid harming environment. First, a provider should take care of how the activity facilities are organized: how the sports grounds are arranged, how a lakeside beach is equipped, how tourist trails are set up and how the visitors would move about.
Then a provider should consider how tourists would use these facilities - if the activities do not place any additional and unnecessary burdens and risks on the environment, e.g., whether water skidoos do not endanger inhabitants of the lake, whether the rights of other holiday makers are not violated.
Noise pollution is often ignored. However, too loud and continuous noise leaves objectionable impact on wildlife and people.
An important organizational aspect is to take care that the visitors do not leave 'evidences' in nature - providers should place waste bins and provide for toilets in the sites and tourist facilities that are not close enough to the main building of the tourism establishment.
Setting environmental goals
Activities to improve the environment (implementation of the environmental plan) can be performed in different ways, but the time and resources will be most purposeful if, after defining and prioritizing the environmental problems, the management and team would evaluate to what extent environmental improvements are required in particular management areas. It means setting specific environmental goals.
The goals may be large-scale, namely, long-term or general goals which could take years. Or else, the goals can be more focused or even highly specific. Their attainment can be a matter of some months or 1-1,5 years.
When a goal is achieved, it can be revised and redefined so as to meet more rigorous, higher level requirements
The goals are defined, based on the establishment's general attitude towards the environment. Namely, the goals represent the establishment's environmental vision, describing in 1-2 sentences how the establishment sees the environment and the use of resources in its future operations and what will be the relationships with the surrounding entrepreneurs, service providers and guests.
Example: Environmental vision of a rural tourism establishment: 'Within 5-8 years we see our establishment as a growing and environment friendly enterprise which functions and develops in tidy and landscaped environment with a clean lake, surrounding meadows and forests rich in natural diversity. Our guests are environmentally aware and protect nature, they enjoy staying with us and respect our choice to live and work in environment friendly way.'
Once there is a clear environmental vision, it is possible to define goals that would help to materialize it.
Generally, environmental goals can be grouped in the following way:
- goals that are focused on reduction of a particular problem / burden / resource consumption.
- goals that are focused on achieving specified quality.
A manager can chose the goals that are more appropriate and suitable for implementation. The goals can be mixed but they should be reasonable. Relevant goals will be characterized by the following.
The goals should be:
- Area specific and precise
- Achievable by the establishment
- Achievable within a specified time
Goal definition should result from the analysis of environmental problems.
Examples: defining goals in a tourism establishment
The environmental audit detected that waste waters from the establishment get in the nearby ditch which is connected to a lake and the lakeshore near the tourism establishment is overgrown by water-weeds
General goal (focusing on the cause of the problem and environmental quality): to prevent pollution of the lake by the establishment's sewage and to achieve improvement of water quality in the lake.
1.Specific goal: to eliminate completely sewage leaking from the local septic tank by the summer of 2003.
2.Specific goal: to achieve improvement of water quality in the lake according to the official standards by the summer of 2003.
3. Specific goal: to gradually prevent harmful chemicals getting into household sewage.
(P.S. At this stage the methods for achieving the goals are not described. It is the task of the section describing activities of the environmental plan.)
The environmental audit detected that certain amount of waste from the tourism establishment escapes collection and deposition thus polluting the surrounding territory.
General goal (focusing on the cause of the problem and environmental quality): to prevent environment pollution caused by the establishment.
Specific goal: to provide, by the autumn of 2002, for collection and deposition of all the waste produced in the establishment, as prescribed by the law.
3. Economy of resources (e.g., heating power)
The environmental audit noticed high consumption of heating resources in the establishment, but the rooms are cool which means waste of heating.
General goal: to improve consumption of heating power in the establishment.
1. Specific goal: to prevent waste of heating power by the winter of 2002.
Once the goals are set, from all the possible solutions those should be chosen which are the most efficient and most directly lead to attainment of the set goals and, finally, to the solution of the problem.
Of course, the solutions should be chosen according to financial possibilities and other specific conditions.
Usually a provider would chose 1-2 options or improvements that are interrelated and constitute the most significant contribution to the solution of the problem.
By systematizing the chosen solutions - scheduling activities, delegating responsibilities, estimating costs and the necessary resources we have drawn up an action program which is a part of the environmental plan.
In order to improve the process of planning, it is possible to use table as in the following example.
Example: Schedule of the environmental action plan
Problem / Operational area
To be completed / First results produced by (date)
Person in charge
Materials, staff, measures
|I. Sewage pollution ||1. To eliminate completely sewage leaking from the local septic tank by the summer of 2003. ||1. To improve the construction of the septic tank. ||October 2002 ||Construction materials, contract with the local building company ||Loan LVL 200,00 ||I. Celmiņš, for the loan - D. Lapa|
|2. To dig filtering ponds behind the septic tank. || || || || |
|3.... || || || || |
| || || || || || |
Environmental indicators and monitoring
When the plan is ready and the necessary financing found or at least included in the budget, it is time to start implementation. Formally the environmental plan becomes into effect when the establishment's manager has approved (signed) it and the plan has been communicated to the staff and persons in charge for implementation activities.
There are various methods of supervision/control or monitoring the implementation. In case of environmental plan there is a number of indicators to enable the management to follow the efficiency of implementation from environmental point of view. Besides that, the usual general control mechanisms like quality control and required legal documents apply.
Implementation control should be well considered and done on regular basis. However, it does not mean that measurements should be taken daily. It is important that the establishment chooses the frequency of these supervision procedures, preferably 3-4 times a year if there are no large numbers of tourists.
Too infrequent control creates a risk to miss the presence of essential problems (e.g., unexpected large water consumption resulting from damaged pipes or taps, etc.).
Environmental indicators are indications that allow to detect changes that are related to:
The use of resources and energy.
Pollution and environmental burden, including sewage and waste.
Environmental quality which is the goal of all these activities.
Environmental indicators can be adjusted to any of the goals or environmental problems. The extent of persistence of the problem (e.g., the water still not clean or the same amount of waste produced or the same amount of chemical aids still consumed per visitor) shows whether the goals are attained.
From the extensive list of indicators, the most typical ones should be chosen to monitor the situation. It is recommendable to choose no more than 2-4 environmental indicators for a particular environmental area (e.g., water). The indicators should be understandable, measurable and showing changes in the situation.
Environmental indicators are indications that should be regularly found/measured/calculated and registered in separate files. This would allow to track environmental development in the establishment in long term.
On the other hand, not only the progress that is measured by environmental indicators, is an important evidence of the establishment's environmental performance. Although positive changes can not occur in short term, it is still possible to draw conclusions and see whether the establishment tries to protect environment or not.
Having the Register of environmental situation is an important argument to show the establishment's attitude. This can be taken into account by a certification commission.Establishment's environmental policy promotion strategy
One of the goals of the environmental policy and the environmental plan is to promote the establishment's image and to educate visitors. Therefore promotion of environmental policy is a significant task.
There is no doubt that a certificate, affirming high environmental achievements, places the establishment among the best, but it is not enough.
The establishment's advertising and all activities should show environmental awareness.
The establishment should consider unobtrusive ways to educate visitors. The simplest of them are:
- information materials;
- signposts in nature areas;
- periodicals on environmental issues;
- promotional booklets, books.
Rural tourism providers should disseminate environmental awareness among entrepreneurs in the neighborhood creating like-minded groups of people and contributing to environment friendly policy of the local businesses.
Environmental plan for rural tourism establishments (Template)