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Galapagos Islands Carbon Offset Initiative Helps Protect Environment

EcoVentura, a travel company that became the first carbon neutral boat operation in the Galapagos Islands in 2006, believes it is safeguarding the environment both regionally and globally by offering environmentally friendly holidays that minimize the environmental impact of its operations.

Galapagos IslandEcoVentura purchased carbon offsets for its fleet from NativeEnergy Travel Offsets (NETO). This company then applies these offsets to renewable energy projects such as wind turbines that help lower global carbon emissions.

Megan Epler Wood, a NETO partner, comments: ur firm specializes in the development of new renewable energy sources, a model for carbon offsets which has been recommended by a wide variety of authorities worldwide.

According the Tufts University Climate Initiative, oving away form fossil fuel-based electricity production to renewable energies is crucial for the long-term protection of the global climate.The Initiative recommends offset projects that lead to the production of renewable energy over carbon offsets by the growth of vegetation, such as plankton, because of the experimental nature of measuring how vegetation growth offsets carbon.

Wood notes that by leading EcoVentura to become one of the most environmentally conscious travel companies in Ecuador, its owner Santiago Dunn has also created a company admired by its passengers and travel companies globally.

e is helping to bring critical funding at the time of project investments in, for example, wind turbines and other renewable energy sources,she says.

Dunn says his goals for EcoVentura were to inspire others as well as to be part of the solution for the issues facing tourism in Galapagos. With The Rainforest Alliance he developed the SmartVoyager program and his company was one of the first to certify their tour boats after such costly improvements as installing desalinating units, less-polluting four stroke outboard engines on their dinghies and the installation of advanced TRABOLD oil filter systems that reduce consumption of fuel and oil lubricants resulting in a 10-20% reduction in gas emissions. In 2007, EcoVentura partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to create the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund which targets environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communitiesability to manage natural resources.

EcoVentura, and its US-based sales and reservation office, Galapagos Network, offer trips on board their three identical, first-class 20-passenger motor-yachts the Eric, Flamingo, Letty and 16-passenger dive live-aboard, the Sky Dancer.

"We want to give our passengers the assurance that EcoVentura has taken every measure to ensure that passengers enjoy a safe, thrilling adventure without harming the unique wildlife or the fragile environment. We all live in this world and breath the same air, the least we can do is try to preserve it for our children and the generations to come,says Dunn.

NETO team of industry veterans is committed to reducing the environmental impacts of the travel industry, while making these companies work more efficiently as businesses. It is a young company (established on October 18, 2006) that is charged by its parent firm, NativeEnergy (founded by Tom Boucher and Tom Stoddard in 2000), to target travel companies willing to make their operations and tours carbon neutral. (The Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, a non-profit organization of Great Plains Tribes, holds a majority equity interest in NativeEnergy.)

Ecoventura became one of the first recipients in 2000 of an environmental certification program called SmartVoyager. Smart Voyager is a voluntary program developed by The Rainforest Alliance and Convervacion y Desarollo from Ecuador. The program minimalizes the impact of tour boats in the Galapagos Islands by improving social and environmental conditions of boat operations. This reen seal of approvalgives travelers the assurance that they are supporting a tour company that cares about the environment, wildlife conservation, and the well-being of workers and local communities.

In order to comply with SmartVoyager, tour boats had to meet a strict set of conservation and social standards that were designed by scientists, conservation experts and tour operators. They protect against potential sources of pollution; set rules for the good management of docks, tour boats and dinghies; specify criteria for the procurement and management of supplies; and defend against opportunities for introducing alien species.

Tour boats must produce their own fresh water through reverse osmosis desalinization units, a method that purifies water with ozone and eliminate chlorine discharge into the ocean. Treatment of black and gray wastewater is done through purified ozone. Bacteria based liquids are used for wastewater treatment and are poured on the holding tanks of black waters to accelerate the biodegradable process before being released into the ocean 12 miles from the coast as required by International regulations such as MARPOL and the Galapagos National Park. Gray water is also disposed 12 miles from the coast, although the actual requirement is two miles. Water from the bilge is discharged 12 miles from the coast after it first goes through an eduction system that mixes bilge water 50 times to one.

All yachts must only use four stroke outboard engines on dinghies. Four stroke engines are more ecological because they are 70% quieter than two-stroke engines, emit virtually no fumes and use 50% less fuel consumption. Tour boats must use only lead-free or TBT-free paint. The cooling elements used in the refrigeration and air conditioning systems on board are free of R-12 gas that could potentially escape and add to the green-house effect. Only biodegradable soaps and detergents are used. No varnish is applied to the exterior walkways. Only yellow exterior lights can be used that do not attract insects. The standards also require sanitary living conditions and a good quality of life including medical insurance and advanced training for all crew members.

There is a waste management system and garbage-recycling program onboard all Ecoventura yachts with garbage receptacles placed on all decks with separate containers for plastics, paper, glass and organic waste. Organic waste is compacted and discharged according to International regulations and National Park requirements. Inorganic sold waste is classified into paper, glass and plastic and turned into the local municipal waste service and recycling center. Amounts are registered into the log books on board each yacht.

Passengers are encouraged to reduce, recycle and conserve energy during their cruise. Our policy is to change towels daily. However, in order to conserve energy, we only change towels that are placed on the floor. Signs are posted in each cabin to remind our guests to recycle. Passengers refill water bottles from a container of purified drinking water. All marketing materials including brochures are printed on MOHAWK Options 100% post-consumer paper that is manufactured with wind power and certified by Green Seal and SmartWood for FSC standards.

In 2005, Santiago Dunn, President of Ecoventura, was presented with the prestigious Individual Sustainable Standard-Setter for making a significant contribution to environmental conservation and sustainability. Santiago Dunn says his goal was to inspire others as well as to be part of the solution for the issues facing tourism in Galapagos. It was a big investment and commitment to agree to participate initially in the SmartVoyager program because it added considerable costs to the operation as well as an initial investment.


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