Monday, 28 November 2011

A Review of the "Green Rooms" book

I've seen this book a couple of times in bookshops and last Friday I thought I'd treat myself.  Not to mention that is was reduced.  So I felt obligated to pick it up, thumb through and then even buy it.  

Firstly before even checking starting into the worth of the book itself I took a cursory glance over it to check its own "green" credentials before looking more closely at it's contents, and yes it had a badge telling me that the CO2 emmissions had been offset by putting money into projects that work on reducing carbon emissions.  So if you believe in off-setting (and yes, I'll come back to that), it basically has a tick there and it also had a FSC mixed sources badge.  So hooray, a book that was about green rooms, which was quite green, in and of itself.   

So on to the book, it has a foreword by Richard Hammond one of the leading ecotourism writers within the UK who has his own column in The Guardian and as the papers eco travel correspondent. Then you get a sound overview and some basic background into the ideas and principles of ecotourism.  And Tourism Concern also offers you "Responsible Travel Tips" which gives you some basic pointers on how not to be exploitative when travelling.  All fine well and good so far.  

One thing I like about the guide, is that instead of talking about lodges or hotels or self-catering etc, rooms give it a great deal of flexibility and as a result there are rooms in eco-lodges like Guludo Beach Lodge but there are also "eco-hotels" like Fairmount Chicago, but also more eclectic fare like The Hoopoe Yurt Hotel, Whitepod and Damaraland Camp.  

The actual "Green Room" pages themselves, are nice and clear, each has a brief breakdown enabling the reader to do a quick scan.  It has the usual things like rates, best time to go etc.  On the eco side each listing has the amount of CO2 that would be generated for one person to travel from the various major cities around the world to that particular room, it helps give you a snap shot of what our travel actually costs the planet.  Beneath it are the amounts it will cost to offset the CO2 emissions generated by your trip.  Like you can just add that on to the cost of the trip, and it will take away all the carbon generated by the trip, which you can't.  Once it it has been released, it is out there and there's no putting it back.  Anyway, I think some good and bad there. 

Ultimately this is a "before you go guide" rather than "a guide for when you are there", it is 311 pages long excluding and being about the same width as a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide for a small country, it is not comprehensive enough for you to find places when you are actually within a country.  

As you go through the book there's various ideas for excursions and experiences and which have an ecotourism bent.  Like "Paddle Power" canoing around Isla Espiritu Santo (if you go, feel free to add to the minimal wikipedia entry) the trip is so eco-friendly that you "pack in", everything that you "pack out" which in the case of the trip taken by the contributors includes taking your own poo home with you, as there is no bacteria in the sand on the island.  There are other ideas like "The Grizzly Trail", "Spotting Jaguars" and "Karma Down" (shameless punning is apparently quite acceptable in some ecotourism circles).  These brief ideas and suggestions break up the listings nicely and also give you some unique travel ideas which I think really live up to the ethos of ecotourism.  

As well as the actual trip ideas there are other pages dotted through out the book which are more geared to educating readers on issues surrounding green travel, ecotourism and ethical tourism (one day these will all fit perfectly into a single, catch-all term). There are passages on "Should I hire a Car?" "Should I give to beggars?" and "Tribal Welfare", these help to add insight into the main point of the book and it is perfect for the dipping in and out reader, which is ultimately how the book is set out.  

What I really like about this book, is that it isn't overly preachy, it doesn't feel like it has been written by a group of revolutionaries who are going to make you feel like leaving your home is a crime against the planet, it deals with things in a balanced, intelligent way.  I think on balance I would give it a 7/10 and happily recommend it to anyone who was interested in planning an eco trip or who just wanted to learn more about the field itself.  

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