Making Sustainability Part of Your Everyday Business
As part of our network of hotels united under a common ethos, Regenerative Resorts seeks to continually expand the knowledge and understanding of all the hotels with which we partner. In this regard, we offer remote trainings and presentations where our partners can dive deep into the subjects that matter to them and learn from one another’s experiences.
Our most recent remote convening was a service training with five hoteliers presenting on common issues they’ve experienced with integrating sustainability practices into their business and how they have engineered solutions to these challenges. With the hotels located in diverse regions, from the mountains of Wyoming to the Caribbean, the convening was a chance to understand what sustainability practices are used worldwide.
What About Waste?
One common thread throughout the discussion was the question of how to minimize waste and maximize recycling, especially in remote locations. With waste management regulations varying from place to place, it can be difficult to know how best to approach this issue.
Tranquilo Bay, in Panama, mentioned that their main waste management challenge stems from the fact that they are located on an island. All of their waste and recycling must be transported by boat to the mainland, so minimizing their output is of the essence. While a new recycling plant has just opened on the mainland, all the trash must be sorted by hand, and getting the staff to properly sort it is difficult. In Wyoming, Flat Creek Ranch faces a similar issue, as their waste must be driven into town and sorted by hand. The ranch also cannot leave any sort of compost or trash outdoors, as wild animals are attracted by the smells. They were able to utilize their food waste to feed a local 4-H pig, but they are looking to find a more general use for their compost.
One success of Flat Creek Ranch is ensuring that the waste is properly sorted by explaining their recycling and composting procedures to the guests. Rather than being turned off by the rules, guests are interested to know how the ranch operates sustainably, and they enjoy contributing to the process. Additionally, when staff members see how eager the guests are to help, it incentivizes them to continue to thoroughly sort the trash when it is taken to town.
Food waste is one are in which most of the hotels have created schemes and solutions for composting. For example, Playa Viva, located in Mexico, has a comprehensive composting and water recycling system. Food scraps are sorted between chicken scratch or sent to a worm bin. Greywater also goes down a grease trap that is sent to the worms. The worms eat the grease and the food scraps, and aquaponic plants filter the water. Working up through several tiers of plants that filter the water, the sink water and compost is eventually utilized in the garden. Playa Viva also uses banana circles as a microcosm for the permaculture principles they are teaching on a larger level.
Tranquilo Bay also has a good compost system, although their onsite gardens are mostly natural, with very little added to them. Instead, they let the guides use the compost in their gardening nearby.
In terms of greywater use, Ibitipoca Reserve also experienced issues with smells from their open system, possibly due to products killing off their bacteria. Flat Creek Ranch uses a mixed system and flushes RID-X once a week, and finds that it is an effective way to balance the bacteria in the septic system.
What’s for Dinner?
As many of the hoteliers noted compost and food waste management as an important factor in their sustainability practice, it’s no surprise that several of the hotels prioritize growing their food onsite and using organic produce in their meals.
In particular, Ibitipoca Reserve, in Brazil, has worked hard to switch to 100 percent organic produce onsite. They are currently able to grow 30 to 35 percent of what they serve, but have struggled in the past to find organic produce for sale in the surrounding community. New governmental policies have made it difficult to convince consumers to prioritize organic foods, as they are much more expensive than non-organic.
Ibitipoca was able to solve this problem by making a deal with a local grocery store to import organic fruits and vegetables for them to purchase. The hotel also convinced the store to package their produce in wooden boxes instead of plastic. They are also working to educate the community and local schools about the importance of eating organic products.
In Aruba, Bucuti Tara Beach faces a similar issue. There is no agriculture whatsoever near the resort, and many customers are not willing to pay for organic produce. The resort has to import food from the US, as it’s the only way to ensure the quality of what they serve to the guests. To combat this, Bucuti Tara Beach only buys seasonal products in bulk, and does not use single-use plastic.
What Kind of Energy?
With so many alternative energy sources available, there are endless opportunities to convert to or partially utilize a green power source. Flat Creek Ranch, Ibitipoca Reserve and Bucuti Tara Beach all use solar panels. Flat Creek Ranch recently updated their solar technology, and was impressed by how much more efficient their energy use is now. They used to run their generator for a few hours in the evening, and now don’t have to run it at all, as they are completely powered by solar.
Ibitipoca uses solar power very efficiently, but is not able to sell back the excess electricity due to government restrictions. They have a backup generator that they run only when necessary. The reserve has also developed a small house onsite that is powered by a nearby stream.
Bucuti Tara Beach uses 175k solar panels onsite, but there is a government cap on how much solar power they can consume, as local electric companies are supported by the government. Currently, solar power makes up 20 percent of the resort’s consumption, and local wind power means that 45 percent of their energy needs are met by alternative sources.
In closing, the hoteliers discussed the importance of environmental certifications such as LEED, Carbon Neutral, Green Globe and Travelife for endorsements by international travel agencies. While it may seem like a lot of work in the moment, Bucuti Tara Beach pointed out that often these certifications only require the work to be done once, and the benefits of the certification are priceless.