Our online eco rating exam explained

What difference does an Online Eco Rating Exam make?

In this day and age every time you turn around there is another “eco” lodge popping up. As “ecotourism” is moving more mainstream, more hotels will try to ride on the sustainable bandwagon. In some ways this is wonderful. It’s really good that hotels are wising up and trying to improve their best practices. I applaud that and it’s good for business.

But what about those places that will pretend they are “eco” when really they are doing the minimum. We have even created a word for this problem that is cropping up: “Greenwashing”. It seems clear that we need some way to differentiate between hotels that are committed to sustainability and those that just use if for publicity purposes.

Our online eco rating exam explained

One way to insure that a place really is sustainable is to get certified by someplace like Green Globe, http://greenglobe.com/. They send someone out to do a hands on rating. The only problem with their rating is that it is expensive to have someone travel out to a lodge, etc. and personally evaluate them. Last time I checked it cost the lodges around $1000 (US) to become certified. For many lodges, this keeps them from joining. By definition, it’s the smaller lodges that are more “eco”. Should they be penalized because they can’t afford the fee?

The next best alternative is to have some kind of check and answer system that doesn’t need a hands on visit. I’ve tried to develop just that with the “Online Eco Rating Exam”, https://www.eco-tropicalresorts.com/ecorating/. It’s a way for lodges to respond to a series of questions and come up with a score that shows exactly how “eco” they are based out of a total of 5. In order for a lodge to get a perfect score, they have to have Policies and Procedures as well as a way of monitoring their consumption of water and energy and send it for authentication. The online rating covers energy, water, recycling and waste, community, and land and nature conservation.

There is no charge to members to take the Online Eco Rating Exam and it is a way for them to prove that they are not “greenwashing”. The Exam is always being improved on as new things come to light or as many people express their opinion.

Right now I’m grappling with water issues. Should lodging that is in a wet area of the world be penalized for not using water saving techniques? I’m leaning towards yes because water is a global issue and I see “eco” lodges as ways to open up people’s eyes to conservation in all its aspects. Please feel free to share your opinion by answering here or contacting me directly at lise @ eco-tropicalresorts.com.

In summary, an Online Eco Rating can make a big difference, especially for small establishments. It helps add credibility to hotels.

Tembo Ki9jani and Ecotourism

Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism

Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism in Tanzania

Tembo Kijani sits right on the coast of Tanzania in Africa. Here you will find secluded, white sandy beaches. The owners are passionate about ecotourism and their philosophy is to take what nature gives and to give back to nature. This post is about Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism in Tanzania.

The buildings at Tembo Kijani are made from local materials and designed to blend into the surrounding nature. They use Makuti roofs on all their buildings. This type of roof can be seen throughout Tanzania and is accomplished by using coconut leaves. What’s great about these roofs is that they help with constant air flow, thereby keeping the heat from building up. Below is an image of these roofs.

Tembo Kijani in Tanzania

Being far off in the bush, Tembo Kijani uses only solar and wind power to generate their electricity. Each bungalow has it’s own controller and guests can see exactly how much electricity they are using.

Waste management is done with the goal of zero waste. Water is filtered instead of purchased in plastic containers. All kitchen waste is composted. Waste water is reused to water the bush.

Ecotourism is at the heart of Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism in Tanzania.

Kenya Green Hotel

Ecotourism in Africa

I have just completed research on ecotourism in Africa though haven’t covered all of its countries. Before I discuss my research let it be known that I was born in Senegal, Africa and one of my favorite books/movies is “Out of Africa”. The book was written by Isak Dinesen and is autobiographical and written in 1913. It is not so much the story line that caught my attention but the beautiful land and wild animals of what was to become Kenya. Africa is and will always be in my heart.

I have to say that Namibia really impressed me with it’s promotion of eco-tourism. They have added the protection of the environment into their constitution, where I think it belongs and wish other countries would follow their example. Around forty percent of its land is protected in some way. This has helped with the highly endangered black rhino. Namibia is one of the few countries with a rising population of this endangered species. To read more about Ecotourism in Namibia please go here: Namibia Eco Lodges-Tours

The government of Botswana has set a code for the operation of eco lodges and safaris to help insure preservation of that nation’s land and wildlife. To read more go here: Botswana Eco Lodges-Tours

The longest running Chimpanzee rehabilitation program is in The Gambia where at one point they disappeared but now there are 4 different social groups of chimps there. I definitely have a soft spot for all the wildlife in the world and this heartens me. To read more about The Gambia ecotourism go here: The Gambia Eco Lodges-Tours

Kenya is a well known spot for ecotourism in terms of its wildlife. It’s here people go to see the Big 5 animals. Read about it here: Kenya Eco Lodges-Tours. The newest Kenya Eco Lodge is pictured below. What’s hard to believe is that this is in a suburb of Nairobi.

Kenya Green HotelWildebeest Eco Camp.

Too see about ecotourism in Mauritius go here: Mauritius Eco Lodges
For Mozambique Ecotourism go here: Mozambique Eco Lodges
For the Seychelles: Seychelles Eco Lodges-Tours
For South Africa: South Africa Eco Lodges-Tours
For Uganda: Uganda Eco Lodges Tours
For Tanzania: Tanzania Eco Lodges Tours
For Zambia: Zambia Eco Lodges-Tours

One last thing I want to add is about the mass hysteria over Ebola. It reminds me of when I lived in Guam and my family and friends were so worried about the Brown Tree Snake that was taking over the island as the news reported it. I lived there for five years and only ever saw one. The news often gets things wrong and I would have no fear of traveling to the countries where there are outbreaks of Ebola. I would just use common sense and avoid areas where there are outbreaks but these are small and things are getting better. There is so much to see and do in Africa and the areas involved are so small and the only way to catch Ebola is if you’re close to a person with an actual outbreak. It is not transferable until a person is actively sick so don’t let the news scare you away!

If anyone has anything to add to eco-tourism in any of these African countries, please email me as I would love to add it! All my research was done online and I know that can be limited. Email me at lise(@)eco-tropicalresorts.com. Sorry about the (@) but I already get too much spam, as I’m sure you do as well!

Ecology in Bali

Ecology in Bali-Sustainable Ecotourism Directory with listings in Indonesia.
ubmitted by Sumber Sari Eco Villas – www.sumbersariecovillas.com

Ecology in Bali improving. One of our Villagers, on the Reef Preservation/Conservation Project has only got a stump on one arm rather than 2 complete arms. He lost this half of one arm in dynamiting the reef to kill/catch fish in his younger days !!
Now, at least he understands that a healthy reef, brings in more fish that can be netted from the beach with a team of the villagers without damaging more coral – they are now catching as much fish as the village needs, and have set up a Reef Patrol to stop people (the Javanese, given the chance, still come across the Strait and do it, dynamiting that is) damaging our villagers livelihood and Bali’s Ecology.
Just an interesting aside, as to what education and understanding can do, with a bit of help with some Ecological thinking that benefits everybody !!

To see listings in Indonesia on Eco Tropical Resorts/Sustainable Ecotourism Directory go here: Indonesia Eco Lodges.

Thailand Eco Lodges promoting Ecotourism

Beyond Borders: Rethink ASEAN Ecotourism

Workshop for ASEAN – Promoting Ecotourism

By Bronwen Evans, owner-operator of Faasai Resort and Spa: FaaSai Resort and Spa
In addition to its natural beauties, Southeast Asia has warm weather, cultural diversity, amazing eco-systems, easy accessibility and affordability. Little wonder that it is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. It is about to get even more popular, as next year it will join together in a new common market – the ASEAN Economic Community.  This means more roads and rail networks will go in and (in time) a single visa will be available for travel within the region. Obviously this will attract more tourists and this may disappoint ecotravelers who come to Southeast Asia because they are looking for authentic local experiences in quiet and unspoilt destinations.

Rice threshing the old fashioned way

Surin Laopha the owner of Faasai Resort threshing rice the old-fashioned way

It is heartening therefore to see that ASEAN is embracing the concept of ecotourism and Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sport, recently hosted a workshop for regional tourism leaders called Beyond Borders:  Rethink ASEAN Ecotourism

The workshop was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Designated Area for Sustainable Tourism (DASTA) in Thailand and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). The Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT I) designed and facilitated the programme, with Jaranya Daengnoi and Peter Richards the lead facilitators.

The programme was very practical and in addition to talks by industry leaders there were field trips to ecotourism operations in south eastern Thailand.

The field trips were to the Jumrung Community, Rayong Province, a community initiative which offers visitors a chance to experience eco, agro and educational tourism; Huai Raeng Community in Trat province, a community-based initiative which offers boat trips to mangroves and homestay; and Faasai Resort and Spa, a small family-owned eco-resort which offers similar local trips, hands-on experience in the resort’s organic farm and “forest cuisine” – dishes based on locally-grown herbs such as Siamese cardamom.

Sites of Kung Wiman

Workshop attendees visited sites of Kung Wiman, near FaaSai Resort

 

All the places have a focus on agricultural tourism, supporting local communities, learning and sharing, and supporting cottage industries. There is also a unique Thai element to all three as they emphasize Thailand’s concept of the “Sufficiency Economy”.   This is not merely “sustainability” in the commonly understood meaning, but stress ethical values and “sufficiency” – living within your means, sharing resources, living as part of a community and cultivating resilience to external shocks.  This draws upon Buddhist traditions of kindness, tolerance and simplicity and the concept was developed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Religion is an important part of Southeast Asian culture, and there is much common ground between Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, which have many devotees in the region. This was certainly evident in the people attending the workshop. When I spoke about values-based tourism from a Buddhist perspective, the Muslim members of the group were very receptive and enthusiastic about the idea and talked about their own heritage and experiences as we visited the sacred Bodhi tree at the resort.

While the group discovered many commonalities between eco-tourism practitioners in Southeast Asia, they also shared knowledge about how to develop successful ecotourism ventures. Ideas included creating memorable experiences, designing special packages to attract long-stay travelers, students or special interest groups,  using online media effectively through story-telling and developing social networks and communities of interest.

Thankfully, governments are coming to appreciate the value of this kind of small-scale tourism. It attracts travelers wanting to get off the beaten track and have a more authentic experience while it is low-impact and ensures that the money spent by tourism mostly remains in the local community.

White Water Lake

White Water Lake – the sanctuary and organic farm operated by Faasai Resort

Mr Pasit Poomchusri, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Tourism in Thailand, led the workshop, which followed on from previous initiatives aimed at capacity-building within the Thailand tourism industry.  He sees good ecotourism potential in Thailand’s coastal eastern provinces, Rayong, Trat and Chanthaburi. These destinations offer a good alternative to travelers. They are only a few hours’ drive from Bangkok and have many resources such as sea and mountains, marine and forest parks, biodiversity, strong local communities, delicious food and agri-tourism.

As a local operator, I find it very encouraging that the Thai government is giving such support and encouragement to small eco-enterprises and I feel enthusiastic about the possibilities for ASEAN operators to work together in the area of ecotourism.

Bronwen Evans is a New Zealander who, together with her Thai husband Surin Laopha, is the owner-operator of Faasai Resort and Spa, an award-winning eco resort at Kung Wiman in Chanthaburi, Thailand.. To see their listing on Eco Tropical Resorts please go here: FaaSai Resort and Spa.

Water Conservation

I keep having the same discussions with different lodges concerning water conservation. This is one of the 5 areas of my Eco Rating Exam. The 5 areas are Energy, water, recycling, land and conservation, and community.

Water conservation makes a lot of sense because there is a big water problem worldwide.  Wikipedia has an article on it here: Worldwide Water shortage, they claim there is a water scarcity in every continent of the world. The map below shows it:

Water scarcity worlwide

The Eco Rating Exam stresses water conservation. Lodges and Tours in very wet and rainy areas feel that they shouldn’t be held up to the same standards because there is an abundance of water where they are.  I have tried to incorporate some things into the questions of the Eco Ratings Exam.  For example, one of the questions is do you re-use gray water for irrigation?  This makes no sense if you have so much rain water that you don’t even have to irrigate.  I solved this question by adding this as a possible answer: Water is abundant and there is no need to collect gray water. There is another question that lodges do score lower on if they answer no.  That question asks if they record their water usage as part of water conservation.  So far, I have been tackling this question on an individual basis but maybe it’s time for some guidelines.

Our overall goal is promoting ecotourism.  As such, I think eco lodges and tours are in a great position to help educate people and act as the fore front for Global change.  By recording usage and conserving to some extent, even when they don’t have to because of an abundance shows the world that it’s important. As with most things in life, this is a progression.  I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts about this water issue.  the more it is discussed, the more we will move forward towards change.

Here’s a quick way to share your opinion.
Do you think lodges/tours should have to record their water usage if they are located somewhere with abundant water?

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

YesNo

You can contact me via our Contact Form if you have more to share or write a comment on this post. I will get it.

Golfo Dulce and Earthwatch in the OSA peninsula in Costa Rica.

The owners of Saladaro Lodge participated in an Earthwatch sponsored program recently.   They shared some of their thoughts and are taking an active role in a new study which will take place next year.

Centro de Investigación de Cetáceos CEIC – Costa Rica (http://cetaceansgolfodulce.blogspot.com/) is a non profit working to help preserve Golfo Dulce. They have been studying the whales, dolphins and the supporting habitat of the Golfo Dulce since 2005 with the intent of collecting more knowledge and monitoring impacts. Some of the dolphins they have known during this time have an advanced fungus derived from chemicals used on the palm plantations. These groups help with collecting data on species, time, temperature, actions as well as identifying individual animals and comparing to previous photos. They also monitor people’s impact on the beaches surrounding it.

As a part of the program they also study poison dart frogs on the Osa peninsula and will be starting a new study of the Aguja (needlefish) at Saladero Lodge this coming July, 2014. Our location is one of the few critical areas for the aguja spawning on the west coast of Central America. The type of rocky beach and temperature is very important for the eggs to hatch. They are a primary food source for the dolphins.  

Their primary goal is to prove that the Golfo Dulce is a unique marine area that needs to be protected and to influence the government into making all of it a Protected Marine Area.

For more information click here: http://www.saladerolodge.com/

The Ocean Cleanup Project

Getting rid of the miles of trash that litter the oceans of the world should be a priority for all of us.  Apparently a 19 year old student, Boyan Slat, is trying to do just that and is making good headway.  He, along with many helpers, is halfway through a feasibility project with his incredible design to rid a large swatch of litter from the ocean.  So far it looks very promising and he thinks the study will be done by the end of the year.  His system would only take about 1 1/2 years to do the job of cleaning the oceans.

If you would like to read more about this go here: The Ocean Cleanup.  He is in need of monetary donations as well as people to help.  This is an incredible idea who’s time has come.  I can’t wait to see it up in action!