I’m always looking for more ways to help the environment. I do the basics like recycle, avoid leaving the water running when doing dishes, and say no to that plastic straw when I get my morning iced coffee to go. But sometimes I wonder: is all that really making a difference?
That’s why I try and find others to support that are also doing their part. That often involves going to businesses that support the environment, or visiting cities that care about the environment too. I recently learned that as someone who loves to travel, there is a lot to think about to be a more responsible traveler.
Tourism is typically very positive for a city because it helps economic development and employment, but it can also be really hard on ecosystems and conserving biodiversity. As a result, many cities are moving towards implementing sustainable tourism strategies. New Smyrna Beach is one of them.
New Smyrna Beach is the first city in Florida to join One Planet Living®, an initiative that provides a practical roadmap to governments and businesses for being more sustainable. Each of their 10 principles focuses on a different need, such as protecting nature for the benefit of both people and wildlife, or working towards zero carbon energy and making buildings more energy efficient.
New Smyrna Beach is home to parts of the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically diverse estuary in the US. It’s one of the main reasons people come to New Smyrna Beach, as it offers some beautiful wildlife areas to explore, and provides the restaurants with some of the best seafood around. The economic output in 2014 was $7.6 billion, so it is quite busy. But since this is a nursery and spawning ground for so many different species, the area is very delicate and needs to be protected.
The Marine Discovery Center is one of the city’s main sponsors in the sustainability movement. One of their most exciting programs is the Shuck and Share initiative, where they team up with local seafood restaurants to recycle oyster shells and turn them into reef-building materials. With the help of volunteers, these oyster shell mats create a foundation upon which oyster communities can rebuild and thrive. So no feeling bad about eating that extra oyster!
Another way New Smyrna Beach is ahead of the sustainability game is in their work helping the monarch butterfly populations thrive. They’ve made continuous efforts planting milkweed and other nectar plants that the butterflies love around the city. And as a result, locals and visitors love going to see them in local gardens. The city was named a Monarch City by the non-profit Monarch City USA for their work.
The city is also working hard to get local businesses on board to implement their own individual plans towards sustainability. One of the first local spots to do so was the Third Wave Café. Not only have they created their own sustainability plan for One Planet Living®, the chefs of this restaurant are also leaders of Smart Catch, the James Beard Foundation’s sustainable seafood program. Chef David Moscoso is very passionate about helping the environment and does everything he can to ensure the business only serves seafood that has been fished or farmed through environmentally responsible practices. And it shows – his dishes are exquisite.
If you’re looking to be a more responsible traveler, you can start by visiting the places that are doing the hard work. And New Smyrna Beach is definitely one of them.