5 leaves for Bosque del Cabo in Costa Rica

Over many long years of dedicated and diligent hard work carried out by Phil and Kim Spier, Bosque has become internationally renowned as one of Costa Rica’s premier rain forest lodges. The meticulous attention to detail has ensured that the guests receive the ultimate in friendly service, delicious food and comfortable lodging. But that is only part of what makes Bosque so special. The lodge has now become a concentrated oasis of wildlife diversity that brings so many people who want to enjoy and experience the fauna and flora held within its 800 acres of diverse habitat. Many of those visitors return time and time again. A number one priority of Phil and Kim was that the lodge should be run in a sustainable way that caused both minimal impact on the environment and also benefited the local community.

This year all those years of painstaking and conscientious efforts have been recognized and have seen Bosque del Cabo honored by two major organizations. Earlier in 2012 Bosque was awarded the highest achievement possible with a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism of 5 LEAVES. This ultimate level of certification is reward for all the research, planning and implementation of a sustainability plan developed over a long period of time. Phil and Kim would like to thank Kalinga Rodriquez, Katiana Beccerra and Karen Rojas Cuadras for their hard work in helping to collate, process and present those plans to the C.S.T. board.

The second award was one given on behalf of all of those guests who have visited Bosque over the previous year and felt so moved as to write and submit a review of the lodge to the online Travel Forum TripAdvisor. Almost every one of those reviews gave the lodge a 5 star rating, one of the few hotels around the world to have achieved such stellar results. This in turn was recognized by TripAdvisor who award Bosque del Cabo with its ‘TRIPADVISOR CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE”.

Phil and Kim, as well as all of the staff, were so proud to have received such a high accolade as it speaks volumes about how the people who are so important to the lodge, you the guests, view everything that we do. We hope that situation continues well into the future. Many of our guests return so many times that they become almost like family. We hope you find the same level of welcome on your first visit and you may not be too surprised to find that once you do then you will become one of those regular returnees.

Philip Davison, Tropical Ecologist, Bosque del Cabo, 2012 Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica Website: Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Being Green in Africa – a bit different than in the Western World

People are asking us how we are eco and sometimes I don’t even know where to start or what to tell – there are many aspects to it, some a bit contradictory and others that go for me without saying.

Our main focus is our environment – the nature around us – and to leave it as untouched as possible.

This meant for us from the beginning the use of renewable energy with the aim to use less than 5% of the time fossil fuel and ONLY to retreat to it as an emergency backup (either for very bad weather or problems with the regular system). Wind and solar are a great combination for electricity right at the coast only 5 degrees south of the equator – 12 hours of sun each day and most of the year also some hours of good wind in the evenings – which also makes great weather for visiting by the way.

Responsible use of water and re-use of waste water is something deeply ingrained in our behavior, having lived in Israel for a long time. Our grey water goes for watering the bush on the plot, the black water is recycled in regular septic tanks and after that filtered through sand and going back to nature as well. Saving water goes for us without saying since the only source of water at Tembo Kijani is the rainwater that is trapped in the ground around 4m below ground level. Years without good rain are hard and responsible use of the water that we have is more important than ever.

The third big aspect of our ecolodge is the way we built it. The plot is a bit more than 6 acres big and most of it is thick bush, even though it is located right at the beach of the Indian Ocean. The first half year we were busy cleaning up dead trees and crawling through the woods to find spots without trees and big enough for our guest units – but they were not the same size, so we designed all of the bandas slightly different so that they would blend in with the nature around.

But how to build? Which materials to use? Where to get them from? These were the real challenges. Our two big guidelines were to use materials that are natural and easily available and secondly to use as little cement as possible. Besides this we had to take into consideration that the materials should fit into the environment of bush and beach, not rust or rot and being more or less immune against all the insects and termites around here – so for example we ruled out gypsum board in the beginning since first of all its production produces too much CO2, it is not water proof, not easily available and believe it or not, the local ants here are able to eat it.

The first order of wooden poles that we wanted to use for the restaurant was ordered just before the rainy season – a big mistake as we later figured out. The truck that was supposed to deliver them, got stuck where they were cut. They sent a heavy duty 4WD tractor in to pull it out, but then this one got stuck as well. So – no more heavy duty vehicles around the area and the only solution was to wait until the rain was over. After two months of waiting, the poles arrived at our plot and construction began.

What we figured out from living in Tanzania for 2 years by now and establishing something eco, is that being “green” is not as easy as in the Western world, where it is possible to recycle bottles, buy products that are “green”, just change your electricity provider to get renewable energy or buy a hybrid car. There are certain things that are almost impossible: living in the middle of the bush and driving a hybrid car – even the regular 4×4 cars are falling to pieces and spare parts are hard to get; using imported biodegradable soap (and being responsible for high CO2 emissions from the transport) or using local soap with lots of phosphates; what to do with garbage that you cannot recycle or compost, there is no other way than to burn it, because there are no trash collection services.

But being eco is not only how we do things here and what we use or even to choose between the lesser of two evils, but of course also what we convey to our guests.
So we installed a charge controller for the solar island system in each guest unit with smiley faces and a display so that our guests can see in their bandas and bungalows how much electricity is produced by the solar panel on their roof and how much they already used. Aluflasks are given to each guest to refill for free with filtered water and so to avoid the plastic from bottled water. The food, that we use in our lodge, is bought from the local markets and sometimes you are lucky to see the fishermen in the morning who bring the fish for the evening.

We don’t only want your stay as a guest at Tembo Kijani being “greener” than at other places, but we want to leave you with a different understanding of “being green” and a Green Africa.
For more information about this unique lodge in Tanzania:
Tembo Kijani – Pangani EcoLodge

Sustainable hand water pumps in the Usmabara Mountains, Tanzania A project of MamboSteunPunt in cooperation with FairWater

Water
Clear drinking water is still not obtainable to all citizens in many African countries. When MamboViewPoint opened in 2008, for the 22,000 inhabitants in the area, only one pump was available. Most people fetched water from open streams or holes which reached the ground water. Many negative problems occur for people using these as a source of drinking water.

Water Projects
Tanzania is a beloved country for donors, a peaceful society, but still within the top 10 of the poorest countries. Vast sums over the years have been spent on water projects. But still the situation is far from satisfactory. Presently only 62% of the population has access to clean drinking water.

What has been achieved?
Pumps have been installed by donors, but the result was they were not to be sustainable and the pumps broke soon after installation as no maintenance program had been put in place. According to a RWSN report, May 4th 2010 in Africa roughly 50% of the 350.000 donated pumps are abandoned; this is also true in Tanzania. In and around Mambo you can find many boreholes which are no longer covered or in use.

In all cases the pumps were supplied free to the user, who took no responsibility for the maintenance. After a while the pumps broke and the bore hole was abandoned. Often the inexpensive rope pumps were placed in areas of high demand, and expensive mechanical pumps installed in areas of low demand!

In the eighties the Afridev hand pump was developed in Kenya and Malawi. This should be an example of a VLOM pump (Village Level Operation and Maintenance) suitable for use in Africa. Unfortunately this pump appeared to have many shortcomings, especially the availability of spare parts. Many pumps broke down soon after being installed, the result was that these pumps were no different from the cheap pumps that are still favoured by governments and NGO’s alike.

The sustainable Fairwater X-factor
Fairwater has finally developed a durable pump that should be more sustainable compared to other pumps and should last for many years with a little maintenance.

A distinction should also be made and taken into account if the ground water is found near the surface or if it is deeper underground. This factor will determine the amount of use the pump will get during its life time and the amount of maintenance it will require.

If an organizational model is developed in which the stakeholders feel responsible for the maintenance of the pump, abandoned bore holes and pumps will hopefully become a thing of the past.

Fairwater projects are found in Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, DRC, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoir, Ethiopia, Niger, Malawi, Mozambique, The Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Swaziland

How it now works in Mambo

The prime consideration for locating a pump are 300 people who are together prepared to pay an equivalent of 30 US dollars monthly for access to clean drinking water available all year round.

Then a contract is agreed with the community, the MamboSteunPunt foundation and a local company. The company; Jamii water, drills the bore hole and installs the pump. The company also collects the money for the pump manager’s wages and the maintenance. In cases of financial hardship support is offered by MamboSteunPunt. The workers from Jamii water are trained and assisted by MamboSteunPunt to ensure that the project will succeed and meet the needs of the local community.

Next the Blue pump is delivered by Fairwater. This pump costs US $3,250 and can be funded by a company or private individual. The ownership of this pump stays with MamboSeunPunt and the pump is removed if the community does not take care or does not pay the manager as agreed. The donor is then encouraged to use the pictures for advertisement and visit the people who are benefitting. This can be combined with a nice holiday in the Usambara Mountains.

The borehole is then drilled and the pump is put in place by Jamii water. They are assisted by local volunteers in the local community who will have access to the clean drinking water. The hand drill was funded by a Dutch insurance company and is used each time a suitable site meets the set criteria.

Every pump has a manager who is paid from the revenues of the pump. He is responsible for the proper use of the pump and collection of the money from the users for the maintenance. The manager is also responsible to make sure that the pump is clean and serviceable. The manager employed is always somebody who lives close to the pump and is appointed by the community. After the manager’s wages have been paid the remaining money is used for maintenance and payment for the cement to build the platform.

As the project has a strong involvement among the users, the control of the money and responsibilities are now in place to ensure the pump is properly used and maintained. This should now result in a sustainable supply of clean drinking water made possible by BleuPumps being brought to Mambo.

Donate a water pump in Mambo

Around Mambo we still need 80 (eighty!) pumps to supply average 300 people of clean drinking water.

The sustainable concept is in place the community don’t have enough means to buy the pump. Your contribution would make the difference to find additional information and help directly please contact us via:

www.MamboSteunPunt.org
www.MamboViewPoint.org
www.FairWater.org

Ayurveda Retreat in Costa Rica at Finca Exotica

April 2-April 5: Basics of Ayurveda
April 7-11: In-depth intro into Ayurvedic living

Ayurveda or “The Science of Life” aims to avoid and treat illnesses by maintaining the balance in the body, mind and consciousness …
Learn basic practices to enhance well-being and energy for the mind and body through Ayurveda, an ancient approach to health care that originated in India. We will discuss the Ayurvedic daily routine and cleansing of the senses to promote physical, psychological, and spiritual thriving. Ayurvedic wisdom teaches us to connect with our deepest selves, the source of all healing. The fresh spices and herbs available on the farm like turmeric, lemongrass and ginger will also provide us the perfect resources to experiment with cooking and an Ayurvedic diet. Our guide through this experience will be Jonathan.

Jonathan Dahari-Lanciano
An Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, Jonathan leads experiential workshops on Ayurvedic principles and practices, at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. With additional training in Ayurvedic bodywork therapies and a background in Physical Therapy, Jonathan combines the science of Ayurveda with his knowledge of body mechanics to guide clients and students toward health and balance. He passionately spreads the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda in his signature style: down-to-earth, friendly, and thorough. This year, he also contributed to the book The Everything Guide to Ayurveda (2011).

PACKAGE DEAL: For those interested in an educational and experiential vacation, we are offering 4 days and 4 nights or 5 days and 5 nights stay with all meals included, an invigorating and enlightening schedule of activities including Ayurvedic theory and practice, tours of the Corcovado National Park and a 3 tiered waterfall (for the 5 day package), daily yoga classes and a tour of the farm and our sustainability.

RATES: 4 day package in a cabin – $700/ tiki tent – $520; 5 day package in a cabin – $885 / tiki tent – $660
If you are interested in more information please visit our website
Finca Exotica Ecolodge
or contact Jodi at jodi21@gmail.com.

New Monthly Green Living Workshops at 3 Rivers Dominica/Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge

FIRST SATURDAY EVERY MONTH

Next workshop – March 3rd 2012, 10 am to 4pm

Solar and Wind energy
• History of renewable energy.
• How does it work?
• How to calculate and size a system
• Where can I buy?
• How to do installation?
• Troubleshooting and maintenance

The workshops are held at 3 Rivers & Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge.

Local Lunch and juice included
EC$ 100 per person, in advance, or EC$ 120 per person at the gate.
Call or email, for ticket locations
Students get the discounted price of EC$ 50 per person – advanced bookings only
Group discounts also available on request

ATTEND THE WORKSHOP & STAY THAT NIGHT AT THE ECO LODGE 50% ROOM DISCOUNT

Newfoundland Estate, Rosalie,
PO Box 1292, Dominica,
West Indies

tel: 1 767 446 1886
cell: 1 767 275 1886
OR 1 767 616 1886
e-fax: 1 510 578 6578
3 Rivers Dominica
info@3riversdominica.com
Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge
info@rosalieforest.com

Updates from Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp in Tanzania

The latest updates from Hondo Hondo (Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp). Located in the little visited Kilombero Valley in Southern Tanzania, and bordering the biologically diverse Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Hondo Hondo provides a high standard of visitor accommodation and access to the hiking, primate-spotting and birdwatching in the rainforest, mountains and valley.

Key Facts:
• SIX ensuite tented rooms, each with a newly completed stone floored outdoor bathroom, solar heated showers and comfortable, locally sourced coconut wood furniture.
• FLIGHTS to Udzungwa available from Coastal Travels starting June 2012.
• The new Canopy Bar, situated in a beautiful clearing on the edge of the rainforest, looking out at the rainforest canopy and providing a wonderful place to have a sundowner and watch the colobus monkeys and hornbills in the trees.
• 5 comfortable thatched huts, each well equipped with comfortable beds and mosquito netting and with shared access to solar heated showers and western style bathrooms
• Campsite area, offering simple cooking and barbeque facilities and with western style bathrooms and solar heated showers.
• Hiking, waterfall swimming, cycling, village walks, school visits, rubber plantation tours, canoeing on Kilombero River, kayaking on Msolwa river, birdwatching, primate spotting, camping in the rainforest…..
• Eco-certified with The International Ecotourism Society; member of Stuff your Rucksack and Pack for a Purpose. Eco Rating of 4 out of 5 at Eco Tropical Resorts.
• See reviews from our guests on TripAdvisor
• Information for Tour Operators including sample itineraries available on our Tours-Ops page.

For more information on their website: Udzungwa Forest Camp

Waterfall Villas working to save Pristine Watersheds in Costa Rica

After the recent rains, an overturned rock at the edge of the Cascadas Farallas Waterfalls shows various fossils of an Emu-type prehistoric animal that once roamed the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica. Now part of the Baru rainforest, this waterfall and the fossils are protected by the Waterfall Villas Private Wildlife Reserve. Fortunately, here the source of the waterfall is very close – underground and inside of rock bed, and there are no polluting sources upstream – only the otters, tiger heron, and the occasional jaguar wade upstream of the waterfalls usually in the summer months.

The water in the Cascadas Farallas Waterfalls is crystal clear and clean enough to drink, but the Waterfall Villas has recently invested in an ultra-violet filter as a second step to the exsisting carbon filter system to make sure that this water can be used throughout our eco-hotel without any chlorine! This ultra-violet system is now inplace and not using any chemicals that enter into our water is a great benefit to save the waterfalls and all of the wildlife around the Waterfall Villas!

The Cascadas Farallas Waterfall makes its way to the Baru River at the bottom of the mountain gorge also visible from our property, and then it winds like a snake to the ocean, and Dominical Beach. When you wash your hair at the Waterfall Villas you will feel the difference this makes! Not only will you be using chlorine free spring water, but also all of our artesian soap and shampoo is made locally, with no chemicals – only pure local made coconut oils and essential oils. Our Lang y Lang comes from Sabina at Finca Ipe, who lovingly collects thousands of flowers each year from her farm and provides us with this amazing oil that we also use at our Spa.

In Costa Rica, many efforts are being made to save pristine watershed areas such as Cascadas Farallas – part of the Biological Corridor of the Tapir that stretches from the Osa Peninsula to the mountains. ASANA the main conservation group in the area, has now extended its efforts to the Sevegre River, a unique biological zone blessed with many rare birds, and is very close to having this area pronounced a biological protected area by UNESCO. To have an area recognized by UNESCO requires a huge effort in educating the local population, and working with them in grass-roots sustainability meetings.
Some of the 4,000 local inhabitants of the Sevegre River live at the source, where there has been an unprecedented rise in trout farming. Fish farming at the source is lively hood for many people, but trout farming, as cattle farming result in runoff of chemicals. At the source of the Sevegre, this type of farming has required the transplantation of the nests some of the world’s most rare birds – the Quetzals that are prevalent in the area, to make room for artificial pools for raising trout. Fish farming also pollutes at the source of the river. Education about filtration systems, and other alternatives is a huge and slow process.

On the way to the Waterfall Villas in Costa Rica’s South Pacific region, you can visit the source of the Sevegre River in San Gerardo de Dota in the highlands of the Sierra del Muerte mountains. We would like to remind are eco-minded travelers to please try to find places to stay that do not raise trout or at least, have put in the new methods to filter the water. It is important to support real eco-hotels (beyond what certifications they have) that are truly on board with saving both the fabulous Quetzals and not polluting the water systems.

Waterfall Villas is the first corporate sponsor of ASANA committed to the preservation of natural areas in the South Pacific of Costa Rica, in the most dense biological diverse area of our planet. Waterfall Villas offers White Water Rafting in the Sevegre River, a non-obtrusive activity as part of our Adventure Tour portfolio.

To visit their website: Cascadas Farallas Waterfall Villas

Hydroponic Gardening for Sustainable Community Development at Finca Rosa Blanca Plantation & Inn in Costa Rica

Buy a Bag, Grow a Garden
Hydroponic Gardening for Sustainable Community Development

Introduction
At Finca Rosa Blanca we have a long history of working towards the well being of our surrounding community. We have worked with the area schools, the local food bank, the environmental group “Patrullas Ecologicas”, and the senior citizens home. Through the years we have improved infrastructure for these groups and increased their environmental awareness; we have reforested and improved waste recycling; and we have provided skills training and opportunities for improving income generation. Our latest project of hydroponic gardening will augment interest in more sustainable living while at the same time implement an activity that in itself leads to more sustainable community development.

Requiring relatively small space and minimal materials hydroponic gardens are a source of fresh produce contributing to healthier diets and increasing local food production, which we know helps reduce the carbon footprint. These gardens are simple and fun to establish and maintain, and can even beautify a space.

Project Purpose
Buy a Bag, Grow a Garden involves community members and children in the production of fresh produce for local consumption, and in the improvement of waste recycling in order to increase awareness of more sustainable living and improve nutritional value of local diets. It responds directly to the needs of the Santa Barbara community to develop appropriate solid waste management processes as well as the impoverished community’s need to supplement diet at minimal costs.

How does it work? Produce will be grown by the local environmental group Patrullas Ecologicas. All produce grown by the Patrullas Ecologicas will be donated to the food bank, where many of the children and youth of this environmental group receive one free hot meal a day. In return for receiving fresh produce the food bank and its clients will commit to the improvement of their recycling center so that it may adequately receive the community’s recyclables. These recyclables are sold to the larger companies that process the material and the income earned is re-invested in the operation of the food bank.
Finca Rosa Blanca and its gardening and sustainability teams provide the space and know-how for creating the hydroponics garden and they also provide the guidance for improved management of the recycling center.

Why do this? Buy a Bag, Plant a Bag is a relevant undertaking for sustainable living in our community for the following reasons.

It encourages better solid waste management among the community.

The project will directly help increase the amount of recyclable waste collected in the community. Besides guiding improved management of the facility, Finca Rosa Blanca, with Patrullas Ecologicas will initiate a community wide campaign to teach and encourage Santa Barbara residents to separate wastes and bring them to the recycling center.

It increases social and financial sustainability by teaching the value of active participation in ones well being.

The project aims to increase the social cohesion among the aforementioned community groups by switching the mentality of “living from a handout” to actively participating in one’s well being. Some of the clients of the food bank will be growing part of their food and others will be helping generate funds for the maintenance of the food bank, by ensuring proper and responsible management of the recycling center.
The additional money generated from the sale of recyclables is re-invested in the operation and maintenance of the food bank. Further, the produce for the food bank will enhance the nutritional value of the food served for the community without incrementing costs for the food bank.

It creates the opportunity for others to improve access and consumption of fresh produce

Lastly, Buy a Bag, Grow a Garden also aims to generate interest in hydroponic gardening as a method to improve access and consumption of fresh produce among other community members. Once the gardens have been set up and are functioning, Finca Rosa Blanca will offer, to those that are interested, the technical lessons so as to help individuals of the community set-up their own gardens.

Submitted by Teri Osman Jampol, owner of Finca Rosa Blanca Plantation

Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort – Proves Luxury and Sustainability go Hand in Hand in Costa Rica

October 2011, San José, Costa Rica – Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort, a luxury boutique hotel located in Manuel Antonio, has set a new high this week after being named Costa Rica’s first hotel with a perfect score of five-star luxury and five-leaf sustainability.

“It is an honor to received this new, five-star designation,” said Hans Pfister, CEO and principle of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, a company that manages a number of luxury ecolodges in Central America, including Arenas Del Mar. “If you pair this luxury rating with our perfect, five-leaf score under the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism, we are demonstrating that luxury and Earth consciousness can go hand-in-hand – and that it doesn’t have to be one at the expense of the other.”

In determining Arenas Del Mar’s five-star rating, inspectors noted that they were impressed at how the hotel blends seamlessly into the rainforest and beachfront setting, not disturbing the nature and wildlife – something that’s been an objective for the hotel since the planning and construction phase.

“Since the start, we imagined Arenas Del Mar to be the perfect blend of sustainability and luxury. Today, I’m pleased to say that we’ve finally turned that dream into a reality,” said Pfister. “and because Costa Rica is already a country that leads the way in terms of sustainable and eco-tourism, earning this top distinction was no easy feat – and, ultimately, is made all the more sweet.”

As Manuel Antonio’s only luxury beachfront property, some benefits of Arenas Del Mar include spacious, air-conditioned guestrooms with private decks, hot tubs and sweeping ocean views; two gourmet restaurants that combine fresh Costa Rican cuisine with a wild rainforest and ocean backdrop; a full-service spa that specializes in massages, facials, wraps and more; and a range of available guided wilderness activities, ranging from early-morning bird watching tours and late-night rainforest treks to sunset catamaran voyages and adventurous whitewater rafting. Arenas Del Mar also offers direct access and tours of the lush and animal-rich Manuel Antonio National Park.

Sustainable highlights for Arenas Del Mar include limiting building mass to just 25 per cent of the total property, using solar panels to heat hot water, tiling roofs with recycled bags once used in banana plantations, using sustainable and Earth-friendly products in the hotel’s Las Brisas Spa, growing thousands of native trees and endemic plants and offering sustainability tours that, amongst other things, allow guests to try their hands at tortilla-making.

Of Costa Rica’s five-leaf rated hotels, four of the total 15 fall under the Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality umbrella: Arenas Del Mar, Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Harmony Hotel and Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn.

Learn more here: Arenas Del Mar Beach and Nature Resort. For more information please contact Hans Pfister at hans@cayugaonline.com.

Golden Buddha Beach Resort in Thailand’s view of Responsible Tourism

At Golden Buddha Beach Resort we have lived and breathed ecological and community sensitive hospitality for the last 18 years. Initially this was as much by necessity as by design. Located on a remote island with no electrical mains, no scheduled boat service and the only village one hour away has ensured that Golden Buddha has become acutely aware of its environment and its importance. At Golden Buddha we pride ourselves on our approach to responsible tourism. Put simply we define this as: To maximize the positive impacts and minimise the negative impacts of tourism on the local community and environment. Importantly we do not view responsible tourism with the mindset that once we have achieved the badge, stamp or accreditation that we are there. Instead we believe it is an ongoing process of improvement and development whilst finely balancing the objectives of business and responsibility.

The definition of an Eco Resort is generally left up to marketing geniuses. For instance, Blue Bamboo Eco Lodge might say, “Only organic soaps and shampoos are used in our facilities.” All the while consuming huge amounts of energy on air conditioning, water features and paying staff below the minimum legal wages and firing them with a day’s notice. At Golden Buddha we have a period of 6 months with little rain and a lot of sunshine that brings strong interest from international visitors followed by 6 months of the southwest monsoon with lots of rain and storms. These characteristics lead Golden Buddha Beach to use simple, low impact construction for its 25 individual houses and all communal buildings. The luxury must to be provided by nature, not man. Buildings are spaced apart and permitted to comprise no more than 12.5% of any one-rai plot. Building heights are restricted to maintain the spacious feel and emphasise the surrounding rain forests. All buildings are constructed predominantly with plantation sourced tropical hardwoods using local Thai craftsmen. As all power has to be generated on site, it was obvious that big generators and daily transport of large quantities of fuel were going to be both wasteful and expensive. Thus, the decision was made to rule out the use of air conditioning and hot water showers and excessive electricity. This policy continues to this day.

Golden Buddha hires locally wherever possible. This policy is both practical and necessary. Who else knows how the island’s community life works? What is acceptable and what is not? Who else knows the local environment and wildlife better? Furthermore, most people on the mainland think it is a bit peculiar to live in such an isolated environment with few urban conveniences. Currently all the staff at Golden Buddha are from Thailand and 90% are fromthe island or the nearby coastal villages. In addition, where services are available by local businesses, large or small, we use local. The head of the island’s TahPaeYoi village provides all boat services to and from the resort using energy efficient longtail boats powered by 14 hp engines. Small business operators in Kuraburi town provide ground transportation services for our guests. The closest accountant is in Takuapa and we use her services. It is a symbiotic relationship. Yet simply hiring local does not mean one is building responsible tourism on Koh Phra Thong. It takes much more. All of our staff are paid significantly above the legal minimum and we pay their taxes and social insurance. They all get paid legal holidays and vacation pay. Unlike many Thai hotel operators, we try to provide year around employment to staff that want it. When we are not busy with guests, they take their holidays and visit family, and at the resort do maintenance, plant trees and carry out other rainy season tasks. Training is another important contribution to the local staff on the island. Our training is heavy on skills for the hospitality industry and English language. Other training is more specialised such as food management, hygiene, carpentry, diesel engine maintenance, computer usage and sustainable gardening.

Our environmental policies continue to evolve. They are based on 1) good science, 2) practicality, and 3) guest acceptability.We lose a lot of business by not having air conditioning and hot water, but there are plenty of places for those tourists. Instead, we provide healthy food made with fresh, local ingredients. Electric power is provided from 6pm to 11pm in the houses, which is acceptable for most people. We have two generators of different sizes. Except when the resort is at full capacity with guests we use the smaller one at 2 litres per hours of fuel consumption. That saves 4 litres/hour over the larger one, which is generally only used 20 or so days/year, or as a backup. We don’t power water pumps for swimming pools; rather we provide miles of un-spoiled oceanfront beaches and a calm bay for guests to enjoy in just about any weather condition. What works in some places doesn’t work in others. Waste material is a problem everywhere. We would like to see everything that comes on the island go off again. Whereas in some communities’ glass beer and soda bottles are recycled, that is not possible here. As recently as 2 years ago the glass bottles were simply being buried after crushing. In 2008 we realised that beer and sodas in aluminium cans would actually solve an environmental problem for us. Aluminium has commercial value and is purchased locally. We no longer buy any bottles and only get beverages in cans. The result is that our staff collect these from any place they can; from the bar, the houses or those left carelessly on the beach and take them to Kuraburi to sell for some extra money. Another simple waste management problem has been plastic packaging. Two years ago a businesswoman in Kuraburi that sourced all our vegetables, fruits and meat was using a massive number of disposable plastic bags. We cannot recycle them and the only practical thing to do with them is burn them. We don’t have the complete solution, but we have made great strides. We have reusable plastic boxes and coolers, which go back and forth to her business. She packs them up and sends them to the pier and they return to the island. What plastic packaging does come to the island now goes back to the mainland for proper disposal. Since our island is virtually all sand and poor in biological carbon, we are able to benefit by saving all food scraps which are composted along with grass clippings, coconut branches and other natural trash. During the rainy season our staff utilise the compost in our gardens. These vegetables and fish they catch after work make a substantial contribution to wholesome staff meals for almost six months each year.

At Golden Buddha we do care about the environment, our staff and the local community. And, of course,we care about our guests. After all, we are in the hospitality business. Guests want to relax and enjoy the local surrounding without hardship. We are believers in science. It can have bad uses or good uses. Wewill continue to explore ways to use wastewater for our gardens, solar for power and lower energy techniques to purifywater.We are not too sanguine about making ice in the resort. The laws of thermodynamics are not very forgiving and it simply takes a lot of energy to cool water from 25 C to -4 C with current technology. We continue to look for improvements and we welcome all feedback, suggestions and potential partnerships.

For more information contact: myles@goldenbuddharesort.com com or go to Golden Buddha Beach Resort