Earth Day is upon us and with it comes fascinating, critical conversations about the impact of travel on the environment. At Hawkins International, we love discussing how hotels and travel fit into the green movement, specifically when it comes to conservation efforts. But sustainability also goes beyond the protection of ecosystems. Addressing the social and economic components of tourism, and how to leverage travel for the betterment of local communities and cultures, is just as important as reducing waste or protecting endangered wildlife.
Read more to learn about how hotels, tour operators and hospitality brands are working to help make a difference. Then, on your next trip, you’ll be able to forget green guilt and embrace the positive impact your wanderlust can have on the world!
Big Five Tours & Expeditions
Dedicated to providing sustainable luxury travel tours, Big Five Tours & Expeditions was founded on the vision of exploring the planet in responsible and enjoyable ways. Today, Big Five has grown to offer unique trips of a lifetime to countries around the world and has developed tools to assist travel agents and travelers in deciding where to travel based on sustainable initiatives. Big Five is the first travel company to provide both travelers and travel advisors an invaluable and easy-to-use resource that explains sustainable tourism and basic rankings for each country to provide guidance on how they are doing on the sustainable front. The three websites, Galapagos.com, SafariTours.com and VisibleAsia.com do just that. Based on Big Five’s years of exploring Latin America, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, they wanted to provide a snapshot about what these countries are doing to embrace sustainable tourism in order to guide travelers to craft special trips to spectacular destinations while helping to protect them for future generations.
The Bushcamp Company – Zambia, Africa
A small collection of luxury camps in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, The Bushcamp Company is located in one of the last unspoiled regions of Africa. In recent years, the company has made their operation as ‘green’ as possible, introducing solar technology throughout all the six Bushcamps and also where possible at the award-winning, Mfuwe Lodge. Each chalet and tent has its own solar water heating system and uses solar panels for power, lighting, charging, fridge-freezers and to pump water. Additionally, for all recent renovations, the company used sustainably sourced timber and cement (rather than wood-fired) bricks. In addition, Mfuwe Lodge runs a ‘worm farm’ where kitchen and organic waste is composted down to produce an organic fertilizer, which they use for their tree planting programs in the villages. The Bushcamp Company guides are well-versed on conservation in the park and surrounding areas and are considered to be among the best in Africa.
The Bushcamp Company supports local schools including Chiwawatala Primary School in Mfuwe Village and Chilongozi Primary School by sponsoring students, paying teachers’ salaries, building classrooms and staff houses, and hosting game drives for students.
- The Bushcamp Company has also raised funds for the Mfuwe Day Secondary School, which has allowed the school to build six classrooms and offices, four dormitories, social areas and refurbished the existing girls’ dormitory.
- In 2013 the company implemented a school feeding program where they feed over 2,500 students per day at 2 schools in the area. During the holiday’s guests are encouraged to bring small gifts and school-goods to donate to the local children.
Another important initiative The Bushcamp Company has put in place is their “Commit to Clean Water” project which was introduced in 2014. In the Luangwa Valley, local communities are growing rapidly in size, and the majority of villagers still have no convenient access to safe, clean water. The company has built deep boreholes that provide safe, clean drinking water to villages in the local area. This was an ambitious, but extremely valuable project, benefitting thousands of people. 60 boreholes have been drilled to date with at least another 19 planned for 2018. The community has benefited greatly from this project. Rather than this water being a “hand-out” to the residents, Andy has provided the tools for the local people to succeed and become educated on responsibility. Residents pay a small fee of $1 dollar a month to have access to the borehole, teaching them responsibility and giving them ownership and accountability over this resource.
Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge – Rwanda, Africa
Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge, situated next to the renowned Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, welcomed its first guests on June 26, 2017. Comprised of just six spacious forest villas, Bisate offers a luxurious base from which to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla conservation experience and life-changing journey to this beautiful region. The location was selected as it is an important wildlife corridor for the preservation of Mountain Gorillas—Wilderness Safaris has reforested the 103-acre area to enhance the critically endangered animals’ habitat (they have planted over 20,000 indigenous trees thus far) and provide shelter for more species to call home. The lodge is situated within the amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, and offers sweeping views towards the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno volcanoes. The lodge features many activities for guests including Gorilla trekking, Golden Monkey trekking, a self-guided running trail, the opportunity to plant a tree on the land and visits to a local coffee farm and village. Within the lodge, there is a spectacular wine cellar that will host educational talks by the resident Gorilla expert, movie nights, Rwandan coffee tastings and wine tastings.
Wilderness Safaris Mombo Camp – Botswana, Africa
Mombo and Little Mombo Camp, Wilderness Safaris flagship camps recently re-opened in January 2018. Situated in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, the newly-rebuilt camps offer travelers the ‘original Mombo’ experience while embodying the most sustainable luxury. In keeping with the objective to reduce energy consumption and fuel at all camps, the newly renovated Mombo Camp is 100% solar powered, with electricity and hot water provided via solar panels and inverters. Wastewater (sewage and grey water) is treated in an Above Ground Sewage Plant, ensuring that the water is clean before being allowed to enter the natural environment. Each and every guest plays a vital role in ensuring the conservation success of Mombo, as it is a place of harmony: a balance between the camps, the environment and the people who stay there.
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz – Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
Europe’s leading wellness and medical health resort, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is world-renowned for the thermal water that flows in its pools, spa, and suites, and is even used to create the resort’s beer, bread and in-room amenities. The thermal water taken from Tamina Gorge in Bad Ragaz provides the resort with a maximum of 729.3 million liters (192,660,678 of gallons) of thermal water per year, which equates to 1,387 liters (267 gallons or 10 baths full) per minute. 316.15 million liters (83,517,994 gallons) of the thermal water is used at various swimming pools of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz (Tamina Therme, therapy pool, Helena pool, sports pool and garden pool). Once the thermal water has done its job in the swimming pool, it flows through pumps which extract its remaining warmth. This then covers 80% of what is needed to heat the resort, and by recycling the thermal water, 800,000 liters (211,338 gallons) of heating oil is saved annually. Additionally, with the 150th anniversary of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz taking place this year, a pump for heat extraction will be implemented with the renovations of its flagship property, Grand Hotel Quellenhof. With the addition of a third pump, the percentage of the areas heated through this system will rise to almost 100%. The goal is for Grand Resort Bad Ragaz to become CO2 neutral and to cut down the use of heating oil to almost 0 liters.
Nomadic Expeditions – Mongolia
Three Camel Lodge, a luxury Ger camp in the heart of the Gobi, was created to offer tranquility, education, and authentic adventure and remains the only luxury accommodation in the area. The lodge was built by Nomadic Expeditions according to environmentally and culturally sustainable guidelines, the canons of Mongolian Buddhist architecture, and without a single nail. A destination itself, the Three Camel Lodge assures a spectacular lodging experience at the crossroads of the Gobi’s diverse desert eco-systems. The lodge is home to 40 individual handmade felt and canvas gers each with a private bathroom, a king-size or double bed with custom furnishings and amenities such as Mongolian-style bathrobes, felt slippers, and camel milk moisturizing lotions. The nearest Wi-Fi location is more than 300 miles away in Ulaanbaatar which allows guests to fully disconnect, relax and re-connect with their loved ones and themselves. The remote location allows travelers to unplug and unwind. Not having access to Wi-Fi and telephone service is beneficial as it gives travelers the opportunity to unplug and unwind while taking in a wide range of cultural, sustainable and ecological practices.
Carillon Miami Wellness Resort – Miami, Florida
Treat yourself to an eco-friendly spa day this Earth Day at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort with new raw and organic treatments from leading partner and sustainable skincare brand, emerginC. From April 19-22, guests who book an emerginC treatment receive $25 off and a $25 donation to emerginC’s “Buy One, Plant One” tree planting program, in which the skincare brand will plant 2 trees for every product sold. Dedicated to protecting the environment while innovating the natural beauty industry, emergenC is also offering a complimentary gift for those who purchase any emerginC retail products at the resort. The raw and organic services offered at Carillon Miami include the Kombucha Radiance Facial ($170/$249), Ginger-Coconut-Argan Sugar Glow ($179), Raw Hydra-Boost Facial ($170) and more allowing guests to unwind, relax and feel good about their experience this Earth Day.
The Nines – Portland, Oregon
Located in the heart of trendy downtown Portland, OR., The Nines Hotel features luxurious amenities and offerings, all while maintaining LEED Silver Certified status and Virtuoso membership. The Nines actively seeks ways to decrease its footprint and bring sustainable practices to the forefront of operations. Portland is one of the greenest cities, and as an active member supporting the community, the Nines has implemented sustainability initiatives including Sustainable Purchasing Plan, 80% recycling rate, energy-saving thermostats and LEDS for all property lights, 7-story atrium with large skylight to bring in natural light, honey production from the rooftop beehives, a rooftop garden with water collection system, on-site mushroom growing, and much more. During the recently completed guestroom renovation, this Portland hotel donated all materials and furniture from this makeover to various charitable sources. The hotel also offers earth-friendly amenities for meetings, complete with customizable options including water stations instead of water bottles and leftover food donations to a local homeless shelter.
Sunrise Springs Spa Resort – Santa Fe, New Mexico
Located in a lush high desert oasis of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sunrise Springs Spa Resort teaches guests how to be more sustainable in their daily lives through complimentary interactive classes that promote wellness and an eco-friendly lifestyle. Highlights from the resort’s sustainability-driven classes include: Worm Composting 101 where guests will learn all about worm composting and how to create a DIY worm bin, keep your worms healthy, and utilize castings to fertilize at home; Herbal Salves, where guests will explore natural remedies to heal and soothe the body; to Seed to Harvest where guests will learn how to plan their own garden at home. Classes change seasonally; the full list of classes can be found here.
Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa – Grand Cayman
Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, occupying on the largest span of the famed Seven Mile Beach, has done away with all plastic straws throughout the resort from the beach bar to the new Catboat Lobby Bar. The resort chose to replace all plastic straws with biodegradable, environmentally-friendly corn syrup straws. The resort uses approximately 40,000 straws a month and happily took on this initiative as a direct investment in the health of the Cayman shores. As Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa recently completed a floor-to-ceiling renovation incorporating colors, textures, and materials inspired by the tropical paradise outside its windows, it’s no wonder the resort strives to do its part in preserving the azure ocean and white sand beach so deeply rooted in its aesthetic and identity.
The Tryall Club – Montego Bay, Jamaica
Deeply rooted in Jamaica’s history, The Tryall Club is committed to maintaining the island’s natural beauty and indigenous wildlife across its lush 2,200 acres. The Club’s sustainability efforts protect the 33+ species of exotic trees and 60 species of Caribbean birds through its commitment to managing energy use, waste, and water conversation. The Club has continuously earned the Green Globe Certification, which is an endorsement of their environmental practices. In addition, The Club supports the local community through The Tryall Fund which helps citizens through a variety of initiatives including Success By Six which focuses on improving the local literacy rate.
Lifeafar – Medellín, Colombia
Lifeafar, a Colombia-based real estate investment and hospitality firm that caters to digital nomads, millennials and luxury travelers is now offering the opportunity to invest in three sustainable coffee farms with Legacy Group in Salgar, Colombia. Colombia is the world’s top producer of Arabica coffee and as demand in the specialty coffee market has increased, the need for sustainable farming practices has risen along with it. Current farming practices in Colombia are incredibly destructive to local environments, but the proposed centralized infrastructure of Lifeafar’s farms create a system where sustainable agriculture can occur. Water use is carefully monitored, and waste products are cleared and disposed of in environmentally friendly ways. Salgar is located just outside of Medellín, providing easy access to infrastructure, as well as the chance for investors and Lifeafar renters to take day trips to the farms while visiting the city of eternal spring.
Mountain Lodges of Peru – Peru
Committed to social and environmental responsibility, Sustainable Peruvian operator, Mountain Lodges of Peru created Yanapana Peru in 2006, a non-profit civil association dedicated to improving quality of life through sustainable community development in the Andean Highlands. Yanapana’s purpose is to reduce the condition of extreme poverty in the Andean Highlands, improving the quality of life through sustainable community development. Yanapana helps train local communities in various income-generating initiatives such as producing textiles, jams, honey, and organic coffee. In addition, Mountain Lodges of Peru hires and trains local people as staff at every one of their lodges, allowing them to generate additional income, develop marketable skills and become knowledgeable on the travel and hospitality industry.