Sunday, 30 March 2008

eco-hotel of the month

This month Shireen and Barbara, Innkeepers at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in Jamaica, explain their motivation to set up an eco-friendly hotel and talk about their future plans:

Since opening almost 14 years ago, Hotel Mocking Bird Hill has gained credibility as a leader in sustainable tourism development in the Caribbean. Twice Green Globe certified we are often asked why observing sustainable practices is important to us and what do we undertake to claim we are environmentally friendly.

One of the motivating reasons is that we have grown up in developing and then, later, in first world countries and seen the disparities between the two, as well as the negative impacts of so called “development”. This has influenced us a great deal. We have seen how communities were without water while the water available was directed to the large luxury resorts. We also lived in Germany for a long time and were very active in the “Green” movement in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We actively separated our waste, discarded unnecessary packaging at the supermarket counters, joined a group of friends who would collectively buy local seasonal food from the farmer and take it in turns to drive out there and pick it up for the group.

People living in abject poverty usually do not have the luxury to care about natural resources, as they worry instead about their next meal and obtaining their most basic needs. In the worst cases, their destitution leads to destruction of their environment. At the same time, however, our ability to create wealth and the economic resources that might enable those people to escape poverty will require that we use our natural resources as wisely as possible. Hence we have the doubly challenging task of making prudent use of land, air, water, forests and oceans while trying to meet the demands of an increasing number of impoverished people. We recognise the critical role that tourism can play in addressing these demands and set out to therefore operate our business along sustainable guidelines and demonstrate that even small business can make a positive contribution.

We started toying with the idea of developing an intimate inn / boutique hotel along sustainable guidelines and started by touring the country to select our location. We therefore consciously sought out Port Antonio, the least developed tourist region of Jamaica and set out from the start to plan and develop our business along responsible and sustainable principles. In doing so we sought to identify actions, resources and partners necessary to encourage the provision of products and services, which enhance rather than destroy the environment and culture.

Size is an important aspect that affects operations and costs. Much of what we do is possible because the hotel is small. It would not be feasible for a large resort to dry their clothes in the sun, to do their baking in sun ovens and so on. So in such instances the smaller scale of operations is an asset. It’s like nature, which is not mass-produced. Hence, environmentally friendly operations are ideal for small hotels as it does not require enormous capital outlays and it keeps operating costs under control.

We are constantly working to increase the efficiency of our systems as this is the main area of improving our performance. We install an awning to provide shade and keep our storerooms cooler which in turn lowers the demand on the cooling units (freezers and fridges).

Rather than trying to find solutions to our problems, such as recycling the plastic, we focus on avoiding the issue from the start so that we do not have to worry about the recycling. When considering how to invest money and effort and time for the sake of environmental benefits, choosing the most effective actions, though not terribly difficult, requires a bit of thought and homework.

Our future plans include adding more solar panels and using renewable energy to operate pool and water pumps as well as for outside lighting and guttering the roof of a building which has not been guttered as yet and increasing our storage capacities for harvesting rain water.

Our best moments are when staff who left our services return saying they realise how much they appreciated working with us after they left and that they are so used to our standards that they are not happy working elsewhere and above all they recognise how much they have learnt working with us. This acknowledgement makes our work worthwhile and brings home the fact that our work is not in vain and that we are achieving our goals gradually. Of course positive guest feedback brings moments of quiet satisfaction and a motivation to continue and keep improving.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Weird and wonderful eco-friendly accommodation!

While each of the accommodations featured on the ecobookers site is unique in its own way, some are a little more unique than others! So if you’re looking for a holiday to remember this year, maybe a stay in a weird and wonderful eco-friendly hotel or ecolodge would be just the ticket… read on to discover some of the more unique eco-friendly accommodations featured on the ecobookers site:

Bintang Bolong Lodge, Gambia
Located near the small and authentic African village of Bintang, Bintang Bolong Lodge is situated in approximately 3 hectares of land on the banks of the Bintang Bolong, the largest tributary of the River Gambia. On this part of the river the tide level changes by more than 1 meter, so that at high tide well over half of the camp is flooded. For this reason, the majority of the lodgings are built on stilts amongst the Mangroves where wooden jetties provide docking facilities!
One of the main attractions of this unique hotel is the River Restaurant with its large terrace from which you can experience incomparable sunsets.

Lova Lava Land Eco Resort, Hawaii
This unique eco-friendly resort on Big Island, Hawaii, is situated about 1,500 feet above sea level, on one of the largest mountains in the world, Mauna Loa. Located on an old lava field the resort is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in off-the-grid living. The grill, shower and compost toilet are all constructed from lava rock found on the grounds of the resort and dead tree limbs have been used to build furniture. Guests staying at this resort can choose to sleep in a Mongolian Yurt or in one of two converted campervans which would otherwise have been destined for the landfill!

Pollywogg Holler, USA
Named for the serenade of frogs that fills the evening air, Pollywogg HollĂ«r is a Great Camp-style eco-resort which combines Adirondack-style craftsmanship, solar electricity, organic gardening, and gravity fed spring water. There are a variety of lofts, lodges and shacks to choose from, but for something truly different there’s the Phantasy Dome, an amazing futuristic, geometric structure, entered through a rustic Adirondack-style entrance. An eight foot diameter floating bed is the center piece of this thirty foot diameter dome!

Puri Lumbung, Indonesia
Puri Lumbung Cottages are located in Munduk, Bali, an area famous for beautiful scenery and a variety of fascinating walks and treks. The ‘lumbung’ or rice granary is part of Bali’s unique cultural heritage. Traditionally used to store rice under the protection of the goddess Dewi Sri, lumbungs are now seldom used because farming techniques have changed.
Puri Lumbung Cottages has been created from several disused lumbungs averaging 80 years old, which have been adapted into simple but charming accommodation!

Hoopoe Yurt Hotel, Spain
The Hoopoe Yurt Hotel’s location is idyllic - set in three hectares of olives groves and unspoilt cork oak forest, and with spectacular views of the Grazalema mountains of Andalucia, in the rugged wilds of southern Spain. To make the most of the stunning scenery, guests at this eco-friendly hotel are accommodated in Mongolian Yurts, each of which has as an acre of private meadow with hammocks and comfortable shaded seating areas. Each of the four yurts is individually decorated and features pieces of traditional Mongolian furniture and exotic textiles!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

New eco-lodges and eco-friendly hotels on the ecobookers site

It's been a long time since the last post as we have been working hard on a re-design of the site. It's not quite ready yet but we're sure you'll love it when it is!

In the mean time, there are a few new properties on the ecobookers site, which are well worth taking a look at.

The first is Motswari Lodge in South Africa. As part of the Greater Kruger National Park Conservancy and traversing close to 150 square kilometres of pristine habitat, Motswari offers visitors the best of Africa; wide horizons, untamed wilderness and plentiful game in its natural habitat.
While every comfort is catered for with the finest wines, superb cuisine and understated but luxuriously appointed rooms with lovely river or savannah views, the emphasis is still on the bountiful wildlife and true wilderness experience. With almost nine hours of optional game drives, walks and informal talks every day visitors leave well informed, refreshed and inspired.

Next up is Chez Sven Bed & Breakfast in Wellfleet, Massachussets, USA. This eco-friendly B&B is centrally located on Old King’s Highway, a “scenic road,” unpaved as in colonial times. It is a quick walk to Long and Dyer Ponds or into the village (1/2 mile to Long Pond; 0.8 miles to Wellfleet center) and only 2 miles to spectacular Cahoon Hollow Beach.
Here you can discover Wellfleet at its best: traditional Cape Cod setting, newly renovated rooms, ideal location, close to ponds, ocean and town.
Chez Sven offers organic cotton sheets, 100% natural amenities, wholesome breakfast and kid-glove care.

Next, we move over to Gecko Villa in Thailand. This eco-friendly Villa is set in over 60,000sqm of private grounds, with a walled garden, fish ponds and orchards and nestles amongst the paddy fields, between three small, rural villages, in Thailand’s Isaan plateau. With its private swimming pool this stand-alone, 3 bedroom getaway is exclusively yours during your stay and is fully catered and serviced.

Finally, we have Spier Hotel in South Africa. This 155-bedroom eco-friendly hotel is built on the banks of the Eerste River and has panoramic views of the Helderberg mountains and vineyards.
The Spier Hotel provides four star comforts in a charming village-style setting with comfortable, spacious bedrooms grouped around six private courtyards and individual pools. Spier puts its focus on sustainability and, wherever possible, locally made and environmentally friendly products are used.
Spier also offers stimulating experiences, from exploring the collection of contemporary South African and African art to discovering the art in Spier’s wines. Guests can wander around the extensive grounds, landscaped with indigenous plants, or ramble along the riverbanks, watching the bird life or simply enjoy the peace.

More news of the re-design to come soon...!