Cittaslow Sebastopol (USA) - Promotes Eco-Tourism
Sebastopol World Friends (SWF) maintains Sebastopol’s relationship with its sister cities, including Takeo City in Japan.
In August 2011, the Leading Asia program of Sister Cities International awarded SWF a grant to bring a delegation to Japan to share best practices in sustainable development.
In September 2012, the exchange was expanded to include a delegation of Japanese business students coming to Sebastopol to learn about eco-tourism. Cittaslow Sebastopol collaborated with SWF and the Sustainable Living Institute to make a presentation to the students about the advantages of Sebastopol’s designation as a “Slow City.”
Angel Rodriguez of the Sustainable Living Institute shared a possible curriculum with an eco-tour based on Sebastopol’s “early adopter” status as a green technology city. Spots to visit include Sebastopol’s extensive array of solar panels on public buildings (for example, the police station, the fire station, the city swimming pool), all a result of effective advocacy on the part of Solar Sebastopol. Eco-tourists could also hike in the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetlands of the Russian River watershed, and visit several ground-breaking recycling programs, for instance the restaurant food scrap program to reduce volume in the landfill, and local vendors who specialize in producing zero-waste events, such as Green Mary and Wastebusters. Last, but not least, is the Florence Ave Sculpture Walk where neighbors proudly exhibit the whimsical, “upcycled” work of local folk artist Patrick Amiot.
The visiting students from the Japanese delegation asked very insightful questions, including the cogent observation that bringing tourists to Sebastopol could well threaten the fragile wetlands and involve more traffic and pollution. Clearly plans to make Sebastopol an eco-tourist destination will need to also include strategies to reduce the negative environmental impact.
by Tasha Beauchamp