How Bonito, an ecotourism paradise, helps stop global warming

How Bonito, an ecotourism paradise, helps stop global warming
How Bonito, an ecotourism paradise, helps stop global warming

With just over 22 thousand inhabitants and almost 300 kilometers from the capital Campo Grande, the municipality of Beautiful became at the end of 2022 the first ecotourism destination in Mato Grosso do Sul and Brazil to receive the carbon neutral seal, a certificate from the company Green Initiative, accredited by the United Nations (UN). With paradisiacal destinations between the Cerrado and the Central-West Atlantic Forest, the city has now made an effort to maintain certification and transmit this knowledge to tourists, which have almost doubled since sustainable initiatives became more present.

The initial step for Bonito to reach carbon neutral was officially taken by Mato Grosso do Sul itself when, still in 2014, the government published a law that foresees the same objective for the entire State until 2030, bringing forward by two decades the terms signed in the Paris Agreement. Still, the city’s merit is also due to work built much earlier.

Total tourists visiting Bonito jumped in 2023 from an average of 210 thousand per year to 330 thousand, a historic record Photograph: SECTUR BONITO-MS

“Bonito has already been working on sustainable tourism in natural areas for over 30 years. Year after year, we have been implementing the work of organizing tourism according to the capacity and load of attractions, such as the single voucher”, says Juliane Salvadori, secretary of Tourism in Bonito.

It was in 2021 that the search for the certificate officially began. The following year, the municipal administration hired Green Initiative consultancy to carry out an assessment of the weaknesses, strengths and opportunities for improvement in Bonito. “We sent letters to all gas stations, requesting data regarding fuel sales, and to gas distributors; We carried out a survey of the entire amount of waste generated by the municipality, of electricity…”, details Juliane.

At the end of 2022, the city of Bonito compensated for the negative balance by purchasing carbon credits, thus neutralizing emissions from the previous year. “That was the first stage. Now we are continuing the project, preparing the mitigation plan for the entire city”, explains Juliane. “We already have a reference for emissions, so we want to make a projection until 2030 to reduce our emissions.”

One of the tangible advances in sustainability in the State is that, in this first stage, the carbon credits purchased by Bonito came from a protected area in India. Today, it is possible to put the same process into practice through other municipalities in Mato Grosso do Sul that are already accredited.

“It was a cool job, but very challenging. It’s a new subject for everyone and we are also learning a lot from it”, says Juliane. “We still need to have a lot of persistence to be able to collect the data. In my opinion, the most important thing is to continue the effort and see that some companies have carried out their own zero carbon certification.”

Bonito enchants by bringing together natural beauty between the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest of the Central-West Photograph: SECTUR BONITO-MS

In addition to recognition from the municipality itself, Bonito received a second certificate from Estância Mimosa, considered the first “Climate Positive” tourist destination in the world, when the system used absorbs more than the carbon emitted by the activities carried out. Located in a private natural heritage reserve with more than 420 hectares, of which only 35 are explored for tourism, the place contains trails, waterfalls and paradisiacal forests that have transformed it into one of the most sought-after destinations in the region.

Opened for tourism in 1999, the Estância is today a carbon positive place, but it has still implemented new ways of increasing sustainable practices throughout its territory. In addition to composting, reducing solid waste and using solar energy as a primary source, it is now trying to increase the forest area to produce organic food.

Ant work began 25 years ago, but has yielded positive results that have spread throughout the region. The espresso machine was retired and now Estância only has freshly ground beans; processed foods gave way to organic foods from local producers; soft drinks in cans or plastic bottles were replaced by returnable versions or natural juices; Even the toilet paper thrown in the bathroom trash is used for composting, according to Eduardo Coelho, owner of Estância.

But one of Coelho’s greatest prides is the way he helped to recover the Mimoso River and the Prata River, rescuing the riparian forest in the last two years so that the watercourse would not die in times of drought and trying to expand the same awareness to the neighbors.

“There is no point in taking very good care of the farm and having several others with inadequate practices. It’s a difficult job, the owner has to allow you to come in and show you how to do it differently,” she says. “We work hard to be an example and inspire better practices in people.”

This is the same objective as Silvia Schmidt, co-owner of the Hotel Paraíso das Águas, in the center of Bonito and the first in the State to receive the zero waste certificate. “We started our process together with the city. By managing waste correctly, carbon emissions are greatly reduced. It’s not just having it, it’s keeping the certificate. It requires work from everyone over time, a certain constancy.”

“For us it was important and for the city it helps, showing other companies that it is possible to be together in this”, continues Silvia, who debunks the idea that being sustainable is expensive and hurts the pocket. “Our work does not increase in cost, you reduce a lot when you organize your activity and you start to discover that there is waste and you throw a lot of things away.”

In addition to her fellow entrepreneurs and traders, she tries to pass on this same idea of ​​environmental awareness to tourists. “We are doing the environmental education part. The tourist is an actor, part of history.”

Last year, the total number of tourists visiting the city jumped from an average of 200-210 thousand to 330 thousand, a historic record for the municipality. But, Bonito doesn’t plan on stopping there and is already making plans for the future, such as transforming the entire car fleet into electric cars, according to Juliane. “It is a reflection of the essence of what is Beautiful. It is another step that Bonito takes in this direction of caring for nature.”

The article is in Portuguese

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