Celebrate April as Earth Month


April 19, 2019


sedonaaz-sunset-headerAs Earth Month began last week, we wrote that Sedona’s Sustainable Tourism Plan puts us ahead of the curve in addressing the impact of tourism. We contrasted Sedona with destinations around the world where slow or no response to overcrowding strains natural resources and infrastructure. Residents and visitors in those places pay the price through a diminished experience and a depleted environment – a condition known as ‘overtourism.’  The problems become more intractable with each passing day.

We have a long way to travel before economic and environmental balance define Sedona tourism, but with the Plan in place, we are heading toward sustainability, not overtourism. I was delighted to recently find that Sedona checks each of the ‘Ten Rs of Sustainability’ as defined by the founders of Earth Month.

RESPECT:  Our Plan is based on respect for our environment, ourselves, each other, our visitors and our economy.  Our balanced approach gave everyone a say and we worked together for the good of all.

REFUSE:  Earth Month defines this as refusing to do ‘what is wrong.’  In accepting the complex challenge of balancing our economy, environment, quality of life and visitor experience, Sedonans did not bury our heads in the sand – but instead chose the right path.

REDUCE:  The Plan enlists businesses and visitors to carry out specific tactics to conserve water, reduce energy use, preserve water quality and decrease waste.

RENEW:  Research shows visitors are eager to lessen their impact, and Sedona is all over it with more ‘voluntourism’ in the works. Already, a 2018 Chamber/Oak Creek Watershed Council partnership saw 300 visitor-volunteers clean up more than 2,300 pounds of trash.

RECYCLE:  The Plan challenges community groups to find ways to expand materials Sedona Recycles can handle, increase the number of recycling containers available to locals and visitors, and reinforce recycling as a Sedona value with resident and tourists.

REUSE:  Among the many ways the Plan empowers individual action, more water filling stations will encourage water container reuse.

RESPONSIBILITY:  The Plan holds us Sedonans responsible for making it work.  One or more community groups are taking responsibility for each tactic with measurable performance indicators and timelines.

RETHINK:  The Sustainable Tourism Plan saw Sedonans rethink tourism on a gigantic scale, turning the entire community into a collaboration of tourism managers.  The Chamber led the way when we added tourism management to our skill set in 2015, expanding our accreditation from a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization (DMMO).

REPLANT and RESTORE: With partnerships such as Sedona Trail Keepers, crowd dispersal strategies, trail usage monitoring, increased voluntourism and an emphasis on visitor education, Sedona is taking dramatic steps to prevent degradation and provide responsible environmental stewardship.

Earth Month is a good time to start getting peronally involved. One way is by pledging to eat only plant-based foods for a day, a week or the entire month.  Healthy World Sedona is aiming for 6,000 total plant-based meal days in April and they are already well past the halfway mark.  Find out more at  HealthyWorldSedona.com.

Read the Sustainable Tourism Plan at SedonaSustainable.com.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO