Sustainable Tourism
In this latest blog, we take a look at what it means to travel sustainably, providing some top tips and leading sustainable destinations!
International tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950, to 278 million in 1980, 527 million in 1995, 1.32 billion in 2017 and are expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. At the same time:
Thousands of people may arrive in a tourist destination every day, and this destination may lack any proper recycling facilities.
Although there are hotels that are recycling water, they still have to use millions of litres of potable water per year being, at the same time, often located in water scarce regions.
Beef consumption is the most water-consumptive practice by travelers.
This is compounded by the fact that, every year, 40 million tons of carbon pollution is dumped into the atmosphere, and, although 70% of the earth’s surface is water, only 3% is potable. Even though the above may not be solely related to tourist activities, tourist activities do contribute to all of them. The way regions and countries develop their tourism industry does produce significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. This has led to a growing interest in sustainable (or responsible) tourism, defined as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”. It seeks to provide people with an exciting and educational holiday that is also of benefit to the people of the host country. Sustainable tourism is all about small things prospective tourists can do to make their holiday more eco-friendly. Here are some of our top tips:
Plastics: carry and use your own cloth bag each time you go shopping or select a plastic re-usable bag and use it until worn out; avoid buying plastic bottles of water, in particular in countries where there is no way of disposing of them, by bringing your own bottle with you after having removed all packaging and have left it back home (but always consider purifying water before you consume it); avoid using disposable utensils, etc.
Packaging: give preference to products with minimal or no packaging at all.
Waste: This goes without saying: do not litter and try to avoid excessive waste, and recycle where possible.
Water Conservation: Take quick showers using as little water as possible, use kettles and pans of the right size to avoid excessive cooking water, and avoid using hotel laundry (they typically wash clothes per guest separately), etc. 
Local Economy: It is really important to support the local economy wherever possible by buying local produce or souvenirs, eating at local restaurants and, if possible, selecting organic food 
Responsible Travel: Travelling can be made much more sustainable via a number of small changes. Whilst flying is often unavoidable, it is easy to prioritise airlines which offer carbon offsetting. When you arrive at your destination, try to use public transport whenever possible and ideally cycle or walk. After all, one of the main reasons for visiting exotic holiday destinations is to soak up the incredible landscapes available! If you have to use a car, try to cluster activities into only one trip by car instead of multiple errands. Avoid using congested routes and if possible rent a hybrid or electric car. 
Sustainability Credentials: support travel providers and organizations who support sustainable tourism; ask about accommodation providers’ sustainable practices (do they: compost? have low-flow toilets? have a recycling program? harvest any rainwater? consume any renewable energy? support fair trade? have a well-defined environmental policy? etc. In particular in the UK, look for hotels approved by the Green Tourism Business Scheme (,
Sustainable tourism got your attention? If so why not check out our favorite top 5 UK sustainable holiday destinations!
Loveland Farm, Devon: their own vegetables, their own organic meat, award-winning compost loos and the campsite’s energy is being sourced from a recycled woodchip 110 kW biomass boiler and 5 kW solar panels. 
St Cuthbert’s House, Northumberland: support of the local industry to help and sustain local economy (e.g. food, art). 
Bangor’s Organic, Cornwall: an 11 kW wind turbine to generate electricity to the house, organic produce and breakfasts, a free hook-up for electric cars, all in a Soil Association certified bed and breakfast. 
Argyll Hotel, Island of Iona: ethical business with limited impact on the Iona environment ensuring at the same time that the latter will remain intact for the next generations. 
Calgary Self Catering, Calgary Bay: a Green Tourism Gold Award holder that recycles its waste, sources sustainable energy, and keeps their impact on nature to a minimum. 
Posted on 02 May 2018 By George Skouteris
Food Waste: Cash in Trash
Sustainable fashion is increasingly popular among consumers, and companies are responding by focusing on technical innovation, improved efficiency and related mission orientation.  In 2017, 42 out of 100 brands revealed that their suppliers are shifting to a circular economy.  The fashion industry is looking for more sustainable sources in creating their designs, even adopting the use of biomaterials such as food waste. Let’s meet 4 companies that are into sustainable fashion.
1. Sport Clothing from coffee grounds:
4 years of research and development has led to a patented process that removes the phenol, ester and oil from coffee grounds and turns them into yarn. The yarn can be used in a variety of different products, from outdoor and sport performance apparel to household items. Thanks to the coffee grounds, the fabrics offers up to 200% faster drying time compared to cotton. Moreover, the micro pores on the yarn absorb odours and protect against UV rays.
Due to the increasing demand for this invention, a partnership with local coffee shops has developed to collect their used coffee grounds. These spent grounds provide a sustainable and efficient source of raw material. As their advertising says: ‘Drink it, Wear it!’ [1]
2. Coffee ink:
The only printing company in the world using ink made from used coffee grounds to produce dyes for screen printing can be found in California. Coffee is a natural pigment, and it turns out that used coffee does the same job as unbrewed grounds. The incredible technique, which involves mixing the used grounds with vinegar (as a fixative) followed by straining and cooking down the liquid until matching the thickness of the commercial ink, enables printing on a variety of fabrics, creating rich graphics that stand up to wash and wear. Slightly more than 2 litres can print 200 t-shirts.  They even offer a customized t-shirt with your own spent grounds.  This company is smart and sustainable, as there is no waste from chemical discharge and vinegar is by far cheaper than ink. [2]
3. Bags and shoes from discarded fish skin:
By 2030 we will be producing 185 million tons of fish globally. Of this 50% is considered food and 50% waste which will equate to 92.5 million tonnes of waste per year. As only 30% can be converted into fish meal for animal feed, 65 million tons will remain unaccounted for and the likely outcome is that it will be dumped into the sea. [3]
Fashion brands have found a stylishway to use this by-product of the fishing industry by converting it into furniture, bags and belts. Fish leather is an ideal use for such applications, as not only can it be visually striking, but it is also the second strongest leather known, thus providing an ideal end of life solution for otherwise discarded fish waste. [4] 
Fish leather manufacturers also promote the use of fish skin as a sustainable alternative to increasing cow leather production as well as creating jobs in areas of production such as Iceland.[6]. Yet there are a number of concerns about the eco-credentials of manufacturing accessories from fish leather and there is need for a detailed comparison with cow leather to fully validate this claim. Despite this, the fact remains that fish leather does add substantial value to what is otherwise a waste product, giving this area significant potential.
4. Shoes from Corn:
Corn is usually thought of as a food or food additive, but corn has uncountable uses and it can be found in many products that are part of our daily routines. The most valuable part of the corn plant is the grain, but what happens to the discarded part? A vegan shoe company based in Spain has developed shoes from organic vegetable matter using the inedible parts of corn. The shoe sole is made of recycled natural latex rubber from floors, which in addition to being sustainable and  comfortable due to its flexibility and shock absorbing capacity, is also supercool. [7]
Hopefully these fascinating examples have caught the attention of our more fashion loving readers who have an interest in sustainability. Want to keep up to date? Here are some great sources to follow:
 [1] S. Café Sustainable Performance. (2015). Brand Story [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
[2] Domestic Stencilworks. (2018). Coffee Printing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
[3] THE WORLD BANK. (2013). FISH TO 2030. Prospects for Fisheries and Aquaculture. [online] Available at:
ES003000Fish0to02030.pdf [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
[4] Braw,E. (2014). Prada, Dior and Nike are finding a fashionable new purpose for fish skins. [online] The guardian. Available at:  [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
[5] The Fish Leather Company (2015). Fish Leather A Non-Wastage Material. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
[6] Atlantic Leather (2016). PIONEERING FORCE IN THE MIDDLE OF ICELAND! [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
[7] Slowwalk (2018). Vegan shoes - Slowwalk creates the shoes of corn skin. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
Posted on 19 April 2018 By Lucia Azanedo
The Energy Efficiency Benefits of Shifting Intelligence Gradients Upwards
Gradients are temporary states of disequilibrium, and they are what makes the world go round.  Temperature, pressure and gravitational gradients drive climate, and these and other gradients such as electrical charge drive engineered systems; chemical gradients drive physiological functions and chemical reactions; supply-demand gradients drive economies and trade.  
Within economies, ownership is a critical determinant of gradients. Ownership of real estate corners part of a market; ownership of intellectual property creates exclusivity of supply.  The same also applies to data – except Big Data.  The big idea with Big Data is that it isn’t exclusive, but is a pre-competitive resource which competing actors can use to create their own gradients.  These are in the form of distinct and profitable contributions to marketplaces which are usually associated with the common good because most people need the goods and services involved.  The Bigness of the data is because there are so many generators or contributors to it, or it represents many events or entities.  Big Data is defined by the three Vs – volume, velocity and variety.
In SMART’s field of sustainable resource use in manufacturing, Big Data hasn’t really arrived.  In the UK, through the annual PRODCOM Survey, we know about the types and amounts of energy used by whole industry sectors, but this is not broken down into sub-sectors or stages of manufacturing in each sector; there is no common information below the economy level about materials, water and chemicals flows and conversions.  For manufacturing resource use, there is really only Small Data, kept by individual companies and in some cases their software providers, and No Data, where even a company does not know about some of its resource use. 
This problem of Small Data has been highlighted in reports such as the Made Smarter Review 2017, led by Siemens’ CEO Juergen Maier.  This endorsed the idea of data trusts – proven and trusted frameworks and agreements – “to overcome one of the biggest inhibitors in exploiting industrial data technologies in manufacturing: a reluctance to share data”.
One particular set of manufacturing data which could usefully become Big is the energy use profiles of machines for defined tasks or product outputs. This has been extensively researched for machine tools, mainly the working of metals, and the public data pool is in the form of many academic papers.  More recently at SMART, we have been researching energy use in food manufacturing.  An easy initial observation was that well-known improvements to the operation of existing machinery and management actions are gradually being implemented.  Beyond this, we also found that there is plenty of potential for reducing energy use through technical and process innovation, but that the use of that potential is being determined by the Small Data which currently represents it.  Comparable machine energy data is low in volume, velocity and variety, hardly being generated or gathered.  As a result, we reckon that the innovation activity is far lower than it could be.
A major conclusion from the research is therefore that comparable machine energy data needs the Big Data treatment.  Imagine a virtual resource holding scientifically valid and robust comparisons of energy use by different machine designs, embodied in brands, making the same product.  This would be a pre-competitive resource which actors in the food manufacturing ecosystem could use to add their particular value to the energy efficiency of production.  Visibility would be a key attribute, much as a mirror or a video is an effective instructional aid.  The machinery manufacturers would be able to see how their products perform against peers; software developers would have much bigger and richer datasets on which to perform useful analytics, compared to the datasets from their limited pool of clients; energy consultants could take their insights to a more sophisticated level; engineering consultants could innovate with the prospect of a much wider impact than single client contracts can offer; and food manufacturers would see the scope for improvement through their anonymised place in energy league tables for the products in question.  Peer psychology would operate to stimulate attention to improvement, as has happened in other sectors.  The availability of a richer pool of energy data would free resources for competitive aspects of the food business such as product performance and marketing.  
Other users of this Big Data for the common good would be academics, government departments and agencies and utilities producing power and fuels.
SMART is hoping to stimulate the creation of such a resource for food and other manufacturing; a large reservoir of Big Data from which gradients of intelligence at a higher level can be generated, in order to drive accelerated energy efficiency improvements and reduce the environmental and financial cost of all our food products.
Posted on 15 February 2018 By Phil Sheppard