Sustainability. A veritable buzzword nowadays. Everything is sustainable, or should be. But what is sustainability? What is sustainable? Let’s consult the source. The Spanish Royal Academy defines sustainable as “that which, especially in ecology and economics, can be maintained over a long time without exhausting resources or causing serious damage to the environment”. The concept can be applied to almost everything: sustainable cities, sustainable transport, sustainable agriculture and also sustainable tourism. Gijón/Xixón is a city that is proud of having been awarded the Destination Biosphere certificate, issued by the Responsible Tourism Institute. But what does it mean to say that Gijón/Xixón is a sustainable tourism city? Many things all at once; though, basically, it all consists in providing the necessary means, not wasting resources or energy, respecting what exists, planning at a human scale, enjoying what you have and caring for it. Gijón has a Sustainability Code summarizing all the city’s commitments and those we ask visitors to the city so that they can “help take care of our little zesty paradise”, as stated in one of the points in the code.
The Responsible Tourism Charter signed by Gijón City Council in 2012 assumes the importance of tourism as an element of the city’s economic development and the need to take all the necessary measures to protect the resources that make this development possible. Sustainable tourism will always be one of quality, as it will be implemented in a clean, cared-for and respectful setting in which principles are not waived in the name of simple profit.
Gijón/Xixón makes constant efforts to preserve the sustainability of its tourist activities and fulfil its commitments. This effort emanates mainly from municipal government, but would be insufficient if it were not backed by society at large through professional, neighbourhood and cultural organizations, among others. Gijón boasts a list of tourist firms committed to sustainability which have signed the following two documents listing specific actions and commitments: the Responsible Tourist Services Code and the Responsible Events Code. A read of these two statements of principles makes it clear what the common denominators of sustainability are in the tourism industry and the need for to develop coordinated, joint strategies.
Not to forget, of course, the individual responsibility of each and every member of the public in his or her daily activities. Not only businesses and institutions have to take responsibility for their actions: we do, too. How to do so? First, by being aware of the impact our behaviour has on the environment. Measuring our carbon footprint is an innovative system to realize what our responsibilities are. The system has developed a calculator that allows us to make rough estimates of our emissions. There are several websites that enable us to make these measurements and, in the light of the results, start taking corrective measures.
As you can see, sustainability is more than just a word. It is an attitude and a commitment from the present to the future.