Block Island, Rhode Island begins Tourism Environmental & Social Sustainability Study
The Block Island Tourism Council is working with the Burlington, Vermont based sustainable tourism consultancy, EplerWood International to measure the impacts of tourism on Block Island. After giving a Keynote Speech on Block Island in October 2021, Megan Epler Wood offered to bring together an initiative that would review social and environmental impacts of tourism on the island, using a framework that was formulated and tested in the field by the Harvard School of Public Health under the direction of Principal Investigator, Dr. Jack Spengler together with EplerWood International. The resulting framework called the Holistic Environmental Accounting Tool for Destinations (HEAT-D) was created to measure the use of energy, water, waste-water, solid waste, transportation, biodiversity and coastal impacts of tourism. The results are designed to allow local destination managers to understand how much tourists consume local resources and services, to what extent is this placing pressure on existing resources on the island, and how does that affect infrastructure?
The new research on Block Island is being expanded to include and test social indicators. The team is composed of Nicole Wargo, a graduate student in Sustainability at Harvard Extension, O’Shannon Burns, Program Manager for EplerWood International and graduate of the Sustainability program at Harvard Extension, and Megan Epler Wood Principal of EplerWood International, who was the Lead Researcher for the development of the HEAT-D tool at Harvard.
The Block Island Tourism Council will work with the Town of New Shoreham on outcomes of the study. The new research program will run until August 2022 and has been designed to help the Tourism Council and the Town Council of New Shoreham to design management approaches to growing tourism pressures.
Jessica Willi, Executive Director of the Block Island Tourism Council, states, “the time has come for our residents and businesspeople to look at what pressures are being placed on our island, using science-based data.”
Megan Epler Wood, Principal of EplerWood International, states, “my team will meet with stakeholders to fully understand where the pressures lie and develop indicators that can be measured using surveys and data that is presently available. We look forward to working with residents, the Town Council and Block Island Tourism Council.”