Vatican Urges Eco-Friendly Vacations

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

(June 26, 2008) When planning your summer vacation this year, think green, says the Vatican. Pack less luggage, eat eco-friendly meals, and choose locations that are close to nature.

Tourists have to choose whether they are “for or against the planet,” said the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers in a message for World Tourism Day, which will be celebrated this year on September 27.

We can choose to either “contribute toward the preservation of life on our planet and slow down the process of climate change” or we can pursue “a kind of insane narcissism” that selfishly ignores recognizing the earth “is at risk of destruction,” said the council in the message signed by council president, Cardinal Renato Martino, and secretary, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto.

The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day, which is sponsored by the U.N. World Tourism Organization, is “Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change.”

“It is extremely important to return to a sense of limits, against mad progress at any costs, and escape the obsession to own and consume,” the council said.

They suggested ways in which tourists can be more environmentally friendly this summer: “travel on foot, opt for hotels and hospitality facilities that are closer to nature, and carry less luggage.”

Tourists should make sure their “rubbish is adequately disposed (of)” and try to “eat more eco-friendly meals, plant trees to neutralize the polluting effects of our journeys, choose local handicrafts rather than more costly and poisonous items, and make use of recyclable and biodegradable materials.”

This statement is only part of several Vatican initiatives to become more “green” in recent years.  Others include installing photovoltaic cells on the top of Paul VI audience hall to produce electricity for a considerable part of the Vatican’s total energy consumption.

Last year, the Vatican hosted a scientific conference on climate change  to underscore the role that religious leaders around the world could play in reminding people that damaging the environment is sinful.

Vatican City has also become the first sovereign state to have zero carbon dioxide emissions thanks to the creation the Vatican Climate Forest in Hungary. Two companies donated the forest to the Vatican in 2007 as a way to offset all of the Vatican’s emissions of carbon dioxide.
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