Responsible tourism: Holistic family vacation in Greece
A family vacation presents many challenges and also opportunities to demonstrate our care for the environment in which we work and play. Because we are a full fledged working community in which all the guests (adults and children) join with the volunteer staff to run the Centres day-to-day, everyone finds a task appropriate to their skills and aptitude. So children help lay the table before meals, sweep up the dinner patio while adults create the team that cooks the evening meal. Children learn what to compost and what to recycle. Down on the beach we teach the children to bag up their rubbish leaving behind on the sand only memories and snapshots of our stay.
At the Centres themselves, our vegetable gardens and fruit orchards are 100% organic. We buy as much organic produce as possible, and buy in bulk from the weekly Friday organic market in Larissa city through a local organic farmer. We compost all kitchen waste and recycle glass, paper-cardboard, metal and plastic. We endeavor to avoid needless waste. We eschew the use of plastic bags when shopping, instead carrying and re-using our own cotton cloth bags. Hot water for showering and washing up is heated by solar panels at Kissos and with a passive solar system at Anilio campus. We only use biologically friendly detergents and soaps. More and more of our gardens at both Centres are being converted to permaculture.
These family weeks are based in the pristine beauty of the lush green mountain ecosystem of Mt Pelion. Jealously guarded by the mountain community, the area remains off the beaten tourist track and has thereby retained its authentic Greek character. Mt Pelion is fully protected and families on a day trip will inevitably encounter local shepherds tending their goats and sheep or small scale farmers growing vegetables and fruits on a patch of cultivated land. In the course of every day guests will meet and chat with local people in shops, on the beach and in cafés.
Even if you don't speak a word of Greek before you come, it's worth learning how to make a friendly greeting. To a child you would say "Yassou" (Hallo); to an adult you say "Yassas" (Hello). You may well be offered a few plums, cherries or figs (depending on the season), so best to know how to say "Thank you!" (Efaristo!) Perhaps you would like to ask a passing farmer on his donkey or a shepherd herding his goats "What time is it?" = T Ora Eenay? During the family fortnight we eat out on Tuesday evenings at a local taverna (restaurant). Local cafés and mini-markets benefit from our patronage as do the farms and local veg vans which supply most of our organic ingredients. And children on this trip are natural emissaries: without words they are soon playing with Greek kids on the beach and in the evenings in the village squares which in August are a hubbub of local activity with music festivals, book stalls, Greek dancing and jewelry artisans.