Spain, the political and cultural face of the Iberian Peninsula, is a country that is strongly characterised by outdoor life. Because tourism was decreed as the driving force of the Spanish economy by Franco in the 1950s, the country has now become the second most visited country in the world after France.
Spain is divided into 17 territorial entities called “comunidades autònomas “ each defined by its own cultural identity and culinary diversity. Many of these comunidades even have their own language (Andalusian, Catalan, Basque), which is sometimes very different from Castilian.
For the ecotourist in search of authenticity, the best thing to do is to leave the coastline, often covered in concrete (especially in the Costa del Sol) and to go inland instead. Here and there, “The Spanish way of life” can be experienced differently: by taking the road to Santiago de Compostela, by walking alongside the Taje river, or by visiting the numerous sites inherited from the Moors, without forgetting colourful cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona or Seville. With a very developped high-speed train network of 3,000 km, the second largest in the world after China, travelling through Spain is a real pleasure and will allow you to discover exciting new ways of life without any trouble…
The Balearic Islands and the seven Canary Islands are very different from each other. But apart from beach holidays and places to party, all of them offer wonderful marine, mountain and volcanic landscapes with fincas, small villages and harbours, in a natural environment that has remained untouched thanks to the many national parks and nature reserves.
The rich legacy of the Arabs, originating from North Africa and who occupied Spain during more than 700 years, is still visible today. Architecturally, agriculturally, culturally and culinarily, the Moors have strongly influenced the Spanish way of life and culture. Some of the terraced fields and irrigation canals that many tourists still admire today date back to the Moorish period. The Arabs' incredible ability to control water is particularly reflected in the art of the Hispano-Moorish garden. As early as the 13th century, the Sultans of Granada created a lush Eden in the middle of the arid Sierra Nevada: the gardens of the Alhambra.
With this Moorish heritage, Spain entered the modern era; the reconquest of the peninsula and colonisation of America were particularly important events for the country from the 15th century onwards. Thanks to the gold of the New World, magnificent churches and palaces were built, allowing Spain to present its wealth to the other European countries, and to be both feared and admired. Many of these examples of Spain´s fromer glory are still visible today.
Although the Moors brought in revolutionary techniques and knowledge for their time, modern Spain is still plagued by droughts and insufficient water on a regular basis. A “war” for water is now taking place in the driest country of Europe, between the communities that have water and those that do not, showing once again that water scarcity can have ecological as well as demographic consequences.
- Population : 47,3 millions
- Organic Agricultural Land : 9,3 % of the country's surface
- Languages spoken : Spanish (Castellano) and other regional dialects
- Total length of cycling paths : xx km | of hiking trails: : 60.000 km
- Of which 3,100 km are dedicated trans-regional cycling trails
- Greenways: 11
- Number of natural lakes : 15
- Number of national parks : 15 | Terrestrial protected area : 28,12 %
- Number of natural and cultural properties listed as UNESCO heritage : 47
- Number of intangible cultural assets & good safeguarding practices (UNESCO): : 17
- Number of PDO´s (1) : 41
- Number of Eurovelo routes : 3 : Eurovelo 1,3,8
(1) Protected Designation of Origin
Here are some examples of projects, initiatives and events that illustrate the Spanish sustainable way of life and which are very close to our hearts.
The projects presented here have been chosen because they seem particularly relevant and because they partly reflect the commitment of actors and/or the sustainability goals of Spanish society.
- Spain is one of the countries which is making the most progress in terms of renewable energy: 35% of the country's energy comes from wind and solar power. One striking example is the Gemasolar power plant: in Fuentes de Andalucía, Sevilla, which, thanks to the solar energy stored in 2,650 mirrors over 195 hectares, supplies almost 30,000 homes with green electricity.
- Som Energia is another interesting example of how a civic group created in 2010 in Girona, can become an independent energy supplier, committed to promoting a 100% renewable energy model. The cooperative serves its members in an efficient, transparent and responsible way.
- Las Mariscadoras Galicia are a group of women who collect shellfish in a respectful manner of great social, cultural and economic importance. The Mariscadoras' catch is mostly used for domestic consumption, although some is sold locally and helps to supplement the income of their families. They play an important role as producers in the artisanal fishing industry, while at the same time contributing to the food security of their families.
- Piñatex, a plant-based, vegan alternative to leather, is a very interesting example of circular and sustainable economy. Dr Carmen Hijosa, a former consultant in the leather industry, was shocked by the damage caused to workers and to the environment. She came up with this alternative to leather, made from pineapple leaves. Considered agricultural waste, recycling them helps to support local farming communities in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
- Created in 2010, NatureWatch Illes Balears, is a private initiative that collaborates with local Spanish organisations to promote ecotourism by encouraging the construction of solid bases for its regulation, entrepreneurship and the development of the Balearic Islands´natural areas. In line with its principles, natureWatch actively contributes to nature conservation and the fight against climate change by financially supporting local conservation projects, developing environmental education activities and organising carbon neutral meetings.