Astrid Jirka is a Firelight Camp Host and Yoga Instructor, and enthusiastic eco-tourist

In my last blog post, I wrote about the many positive things that Firelight Camps is doing to help lighten its ecological impact on the earth by re-purposing previously built upon land, encouraging native landscaping, providing local and organically sourced ingredients for breakfast and so much more!  (See below to give it a quick read.)  All of these aspects situate Firelight within the ‘eco-tourism’ category.  But to be truly ‘eco’ or ‘green’, one also has to consider the social and economic aspects of running a business.  A healthy environment is all well and good, but we also need a healthy society to help nurture nature and create a truly sustainable world.

2017 Firelight Team

2017 Firelight Team

In the world of tourism, many hotels have been criticized for the low wages they pay their staff while they tout their environmental policies, a marketing technique known as ‘green-washing’. Tourism establishments that are working within the realm of eco-tourism have the added responsibility of ensuring that their work not only protects the land and nature that their guests come to enjoy, but also that their business has social and economic benefits for the local community in which they operate.  

Here are a few more highlights that will make you proud to be an eco-tourist at Firelight:

Firelight Camps is located in the unique Finger Lakes region of upstate New York prized for its bucolic landscapes, agricultural lands, and rich watersheds. This ecosystem has created a region that is abundant in award-winning wineries, innovative small scale farms and culinary expertise and has become an important tourist destination.  When guests visit these establishments and enjoy our locally sourced foods and beverages they are directly supporting a vibrant local economy and with it local livelihoods.  (photo credit: fingerlakeswinecountry.com)

Similarly, the Camp’s food, beverage and retail programs are designed to give guests a taste of the region by featuring local products. In addition to local food, the camp store includes items made by local artists, such as handmade mugs by Julia E. Dean, printed with leaves collected from local forests, and Balance Aromatherapy’s bug-off spray using herbs grown on the grounds. Local artisans and carpenters were employed to create unique fixtures, such as Jake Hallagan’s beautiful reception bar and family-style dining tables and the innovative lobby sign which was created by talented local artist Ryan B. Curtis.

The points mentioned above define the  multiplier effect.  It’s kind of like the ‘trickle down’ effect, but we like to think of it as ‘trickling out’ as we partner with local businesses to support each other in our work.   Firelight Camps relies heavily on many local services to keep the Camp running and produce events.  Examples include Cornell Laundry (the never-ending cleaning of towels and linens!), The Liberation Supper Club which caters many of our special events, local interior decorators, florists, etc.  Together, everyone helps each other stay in business!

And where would Firelight be without it’s staff?  Firelight loves its employees and is doing its best to pay above average wages.  The City of Ithaca has been actively working towards enacting a minimum required Living Wage which Firelight will happily embrace once all systems are in place. 

Like many businesses these days, Firelight is also interested in supporting important local and global causes.  In mid-October, co-owner and culinary director of Firelight Camps, Emma Frisch, hosted a campfire dinner in honor of Sustainable Seafood Week.  A surprising number of Wild Salmon-inspired dishes (including Salmon Vodka!) were served alongside a screening of the documentary The Breach. Other local events help raise awareness about the importance of knowing where our food comes from.  Donations have also been made to places such as the SPCA and No Kid Hungry Events.  

One last thing to mention is the emphasis on personal health and well-being.  Along with the emphasis on time spent in nature (nature therapy!) and eating healthy, local food, Firelight Camps provides space for guests to practice yoga by offering daily morning classes, weekly yoga eco-hikes and occasional yoga retreats.  While practicing yoga poses in the fresh air, we hope that guests will leave with a refreshed mind, body and spirit!

From the hiking and yoga that can be done at Firelight, to the organic breakfast items we source from our farmer friends to the biologically friendly cleaning products we use, Firelight Camps is doing its best to keep its staff, guests (that's you!), and business partners healthy, fit, and financially secure.

Photo by Kaylyn Leighton

Photo by Kaylyn Leighton

What you can do to help us:

- Dine on local food by choosing from a wide selection of local restaurants and eateries.
- Visit the wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries that define the region, and purchase a bottle or two to enjoy back at home.
- Shop til you drop!  There are many retailers in the iconic and nearby local towns of Ithaca, Trumansburg and Watkins Glen, which feature products made by locals or with eco-friendly practices and which will beautify your home or better your life in some way.
- Join us for a yoga class or retreat, or book a yoga or wild foraging hike with one of our local teachers and guides.
- Choose your destinations wisely in the future.  Before you choose where to stay, consider all of the points in this blog and research to see how your hotel or glampground fits into the ecotourism category!

Travel the world proudly as an eco-tourist and spread the word!

Thank you for helping us to make Firelight as Green and Sustainable as can be.  All the choices we make in life matter.   We’d like to think that together we can save the world!

ABOUT ASTRID JIRKA:  Astrid is a long time resident of the Finger Lakes, a Camp Host at Firelight Camps and the owner of Vahana Yoga & Eco-Tours.  She teaches yoga at the Camp, leads Yoga Eco-Hikes and will be hosting a GLAMPFIRE YOGA RETREAT at Firelight Camps this September 29th-October 1st.  Please check the Vahana website for more information.  She started her career in eco-tourism as a  guide in the VIrgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John and is an accomplished yoga instructor who coordinates a project called Yoga for the Earth to showcase the links between yoga, activism and environmentalism.   Join her if you can!  www.govahana.com

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