Getting a buzz out of going green
Published 7 Jul 2017
The Travel Foundation is supporting sustainable tourism projects such as a beekeeping community in Mexico, with help from Co-op Travel and Co-op Energy customers. Sarah Gibbons reports.
The Travel Foundation works with businesses and governments so tourism brings greater benefits for people and the environment
Araceli Costillo beams as she carries a tray laden with her latest batch of honey soap, destined for the hotels of some of the tens of thousands of tourists in the Mexican hotspots of Cancún and the Mayan Riviera.
Now she can turn her attention to helping her young daughters with their homework, safe in the knowledge that money from the honey soap sales will pay for their ongoing education.
Araceli is just one of a female beekeeping community buzzing about the sustainability drive in the region where she lives supported by the Travel Foundation (thetravelfoundation.org.uk). The charity has partnered with The Midcounties Co-operative Travel for the last seven years and is now further funded by Co-op Energy. It works to protect the environment and support communities in global holiday destinations to make tourism more sustainable.
Rapid growth in tourism over the past 20 years has generated mass employment opportunities in Mexico but, for women in rural areas, this often means leaving their families to work in hotels on the coast. The cost of tourism has been the destruction of family and community life.
‘This project has given me an income to help educate my daughters’
The Travel Foundation has helped two rural Mayan enterprises access the tourism market while remaining in their community: Pithahí Jungle jams, a group making jam from local fruit, and Much Kaab, the Los Juárez beekeepers’ co-operative 60km from Cancún, making honey-based products such as shampoo, soap, creams and lip balm.
The Travel Foundation provided the two groups with training to run eco-friendly businesses and forged links with large hotels, encouraging them to change their policies and buy local products to showcase authentic culture.
Beekeepers were also taught about conserving the Melipona beecheii bee, a unique stingless bee that is in danger of becoming extinct because of pesticides and the destruction of their rainforest habitat. Fortunately, bee numbers have doubled since the project launch three years ago.
Araceli says: ‘This project is very important to me. It has given me the opportunity to develop, as a woman and within my community, and provided me with an income to help educate my daughters.’ The project – and others like it in communities near and far – is partly fuelled by Co-op Energy customers on the Green Pioneer tariff. Midcounties will be donating more than £20,000 to the foundation this year, based on the number of Green Pioneer customers. As well as helping people like Araceli and her beekeeping colleagues, the Green Pioneer tariff decreases the reliance on fossil fuels, reducing the impact on the environment, and provides 100 per cent green electricity to power homes.
Co-op Energy no longer buys electricity from coal-fired powered stations, and customers can choose where the company sources some of its solar-, wind- and hydro-produced electricity. Switching is easy and takes just a few minutes, and a simple online tick-box form allows customers to see how much they could save. Each year a report is sent to all customers on the tariff showing exactly how it contributes to the wider Co-op Energy activity, plus other green community grants such as solar panels on schools.
The Midcounties Co-operative, which Co-op Energy is part of, is also participating in a Carbon Offset scheme to reduce the carbon emissions produced by the travel industry. Graeme Jackson, Head of Partnerships at the Travel Foundation, says: ‘This is a very exciting partnership with Midcounties. We will use funds to help understand the impact of tourism and how it can be better for people and the planet.’