When it comes to green travel, we could learn a lot from the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden. Our series “how ecotourism brings about positive community changes” continues with our interview with Anders Junler, who along with his wife IngMarie, manages Vildmark i Värmland, one of our certified ecotourism partners. What became obvious during the interview was that nature preservation is such an endemic part of the Swedish culture that expectations are high for sustainable tourism companies.
What led you to specifically support the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)?
We chose to support the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) because environment and nature always needs to be protected. Since the beginning of 1979, Vildmark i Värmland has worked on minimizing the burden on the environment. This has meant we have always restricted the number of guests for our activities, have repaired and maintained the equipment, used local suppliers, and provided information (in various languages) on how to move around in the countryside, among other things.
All this has been with the aim of giving our guests a pleasant experience with us, and creating long-term and sustainable operations in the countryside. With this background, it was natural for us to support an organization that wants to preserve the nature and work for sustainable development not only where we operate, but all over Sweden.
Since its inception, how much land (and wildlife habitats) has SSNC helped to save from development?
Since 1909, SSNC has played an active part in the preservation of, for example, the peregrine, (that was almost extinct on the basis of toxic emissions), specific species of eagles and woodpeckers and the eagle owl’s key habitats. Also, SSNC has played a large part in the modern environmental legislation.
Another project you are supporting is the development of a wind power plant? Why are private-sector funds needed for this project and why did you feel it was an important part of your tourism company’s efforts to invest?
First of all, sustainable energy (whether it is in the form of wind power or energy from the sun or water) is essential for our planet’s survival. We were interested in being a part of a sustainable energy project, even if it was on a small scale that would decrease the level of fossil fuel emissions.
Wind power plants in Sweden are owned by private companies, companies owned by the government/state but also in some cases by “economic associations”. The government/state/communities are responsible for the environmental impact review and for granting permission for whether the renewable energy plan can be built or not. In this specific case, it is a kind of economic association with over 1000 members who own the wind power plants situated in the rather large Lake Vänern (located about 100 km south of us). It is local and it is sustainable, which is why we found it interesting to be a part of and invest in.
How do you involve Vildmark customers with these efforts?
We could definitely do this better! First of all, and what we have felt is most important, we as a company live in nature, and want to participate and take responsibility for sustainable development. By informing our guests, we hope that they after their wonderful, nature experience they will start thinking more about the bigger picture. Hopefully, they will believe that nature is worth preserving and that everyone can do something to help.
How do people – and Vildmark – know they are making a difference?
The best proof is the way we work and think and run the business – as have done for many years. We get our guests to think about and see nature and all its values. The great majority of the locals think we are a professional company that cares for nature and tries to develop our business in a sustainable way in line with Swedish values.