Sustainable tourism, ecotourism, green-friendly… it’s undeniable that the hottest travel buzzwords these days are sustainability related. Popular opinion has finally caught up with what environmentalists have been promoting for years, and business owners too are starting to see just how sustainability measures are profitable in the short and long term, particularly when it comes to tourism.
At the foot of Mont Blanc, the residents of Chamonix know all too well that its famous pistes are at risk as global climate change threatens the cold climes across the world and that greening efforts pose not just a smart business idea but the key to their future survival. Though the Arctic and Antarctic regions can seem to dominate the news, alpine regions and glaciers, including the nearby and famous Mer de Glace, France’s longest glacier, are equally vulnerable to climate change.
Additionally, as one of the most popular adventure destinations in both winter and summer, Chamonix sees more than its share of human impact from its millions of visitors every year.
Fortunately, Chamonix is leading the way in greening efforts of local and global import. Starting in 2008, the Chamonix Mont Blanc Tourist Office officially announced its plans to encourage local greening and promote ecotourism. The tourist office and the Compagnie du Mont Blanc (which runs the mountain’s lifts) have achieved ISO 14001 status, a certification of international environmental management standards, and encourage other businesses in town to do the same by running workshops and certifying local efforts.
Already several hotels, tour operators, and independent groups have followed suit. Two groups doing such work include the Club des Amis Respectueux des Vallées Alpines (ARVA) and the Association pour le Respect du Site du Mont Blanc (ARSMB) who plant trees near the motorway and encourage eco-friendly transportation, respectively.
With the townspeople leading the way, many visitors will want to know what eco-friendly actions they can take. Booking with eco-conscious tour operators or hotels is a start, but also consider taking a coach or train rather than flying to Chamonix. When it comes to winter activities, snowshoeing has a lower impact than downhill skiing, as the softer tread of the activity is less damaging to brittle, snow-covered flora. Also, it should go without saying not to leave any trash on the mountain; bring it back into town and dispose of it properly. Don’t forget to sort out the recyclables to put in one of the plentiful recycling bins!
In town, follow the advice of the ARSMB and travel in a low impact fashion: use public transportation, walk or cycle, or find a rideshare. And lastly, shop local at the Saturday morning market, held in the car park on Place du Mont Blanc. Local producers come to sell homemade delicacies like alpine honey, sausages, and cheese. This can be a great place to pick up souvenirs!
It’s the perfect time to start planning your eco-conscious winter getaway, so pull on your green boots and click here for Chamonix holidays at Inghams.
Visitors staying in accommodation in Chamonix are given a Carte d’hote which entitles them to free bus and train transport in the valley between Servoz and Vallorcine. To keep your carbon footprint down you can travel to Chamonix on a sleeper train from Paris to St Gervais and catch the valley train to the town. Chamonix is also served by Eurolines buses. It is on the Amsterdam – Milan route.
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