No one seems to be able to define it, so here goes–A system that operates in a way that greatly decreases environmental impacts while supporting the community and businesses that allow the system to exist. The savings from energy conservation and a decrease of other inputs into the system, along with spending money locally more than offset the additional costs associated with operating in a way that lessens the impact on the earth. The results of Sustainability are more profitable and efficient for businesses, households, governments and institutions within that system.
Eco-tourism – travel that preserves the environment and promotes the welfare of local people,” Michelle Higgins in “Buzzword of the Year: Eco-tourism” New York Times 1/22/06
Eco-tours are tours that highlight the local eco-system, culture, history and people while operating in a way that does not alter or harm them. All of Dreamcatcher Sailing’s trips are eco-tours: we observe the natural environment without interfering with Lake Superior’s ecosystem.
We fit Dreamcatcher with electric motors in 2006 as an experiment, using trolling motors for a fishing boat. They wore out during the season, so the immediate result was that we needed some more durable motors, which are currently quite expensive, but the other lessons learned were far more valuable. We often think that technology is the key to changing our future. Because battery power is limited and the speed of the boat greatly changes the efficiency, we had to figure out how to motor less and sail more to make it work. We used to think that the best site-seeing was many miles out into the Lake. This required either a perfect wind or a lot of motoring. We found that some of the inner islands, with their slightly smaller caves, were equally captivating to our guests as long as we quietly get in close and take our time. With less motoring, smell and noise, the overall experience greatly improved and guests were more satisfied. Also, some improvement in the sails and our light wind sailing skill let us sail when we may have motored before. Again, more satisfied guests. We did like the quiet electric drives and would like to invest in a re-powering of our fleet to electric with solar recharging capability when it becomes commercially viable. However, we have cut down our fuel use so much by using common sense and a change of perception, that we may just buy another boat and make her sail fast, instead! Sometimes, the simple solutions are the best ones.