The Kindergarten Principle of Going Green
Saving the environment has been a day-to-day task imposed by people of authority. As early as the primary school, teachers had been imparting to students the logic behind why water needs to be conserved, why burning garbage is toxic to the atmosphere, why smoking is not healthy, why walking is healthy, why we should switch the lights off when not in use, why garbage must be disposed properly, why trees should not be chopped off, and why oil and water don’t mix. These were the basic lessons that should be carried out decades later. It is true that everything needed to be learned in life is learned in kindergarten. When we look around now, we cannot help but wonder, are these lessons still being taught and practiced? Why then do people need to be reminded of something very basic? Why do governments and environmentalists invest hundreds of thousands for a signage that says ‘no littering’?
Now we have movements that fight hard to protect Mother Nature, companies using this as their corporate mission, the punch line in an advertising agency pitch, and a slogan in politician’s campaign.
Saving the planet has become so much of a focus that buzz words like environment-friendly, eco-friendly, eco, renewable, sustainable, biodegradable, carbon-free or carbon-neutral, organic, zero-toxic and green have been coined and used, over-used and abused for its sake. Industries are going out of their way to tell the world that they are doing their share in the green revolution.
The hospitality industry stands out in such proclamations and efforts. Hotels have finally realized that they have to minimize their carbon footprint and influence the start-ups to follow suit. Millions are being invested in innovative equipment that minimize the usage and wastage of resources while hundreds of manpower are concentrated on the study of renewable alternatives to energy.
Green Hotels Around the Philippines
Below are a few hotels that have met the given criteria in the quest for going eco. We highlight on a green measure unique to each hotel:
Atmosphere Resort and Spa
Atmosphere Resort and Spa located in Dauin, Negros Oriental meets nearly every green benchmark set. The resort uses solar energy for power and water and inverter appliances for maximized energy efficiency. It also has in place a no plastics and no straws policy while bath amenities are refillable. Toilets are dual flush while rooms have power cut-off systems installed. The resort also supports enterprises that commit to environment protection while employing local women to craft wearable items made from recycled materials.
Eco Hotel Tagaytay
What makes the flagship property scream eco at a glance is the way it was built with reclaimed wood sourced from a nearby community. The interiors are adorned with upcycled materials like wine bottles, plastic spoons, discarded egg trays, plastic bottles, scrap metal, ditched corks, and used pallet crates. The indoor slippers are made from water lilies sourced an eco organization in Laguna de Bay.
Nature’s Village Resort
Awarded ASEAN Green Star Hotel in 2010, Nature’s Village Resort situated in Talisay City, Bacolod recently bagged the bronze Seal of Good Environmental Governance in June 2017. What stands out in their campaign to preserve nature is their practice of vermicomposting. This process uses earthworms to turn paper and other biodegradable materials into high quality fertilizer for the resort’s organic farm.
Nestled in Panglao Island in Bohol, Amarela is a recipient of the ASEAN Green Hotel Award. It is one of the few resorts that recycle water through rainwater collection and a process called the Reed Bed System. Reed beds are aquatic plant based systems, rather like a pond, which allow bacteria, fungi and algae to digest the sewage and clean the water (www.reedbeds.co.uk).
Secret Paradise Resort and Turtle Sanctuary
This is the only resort with a turtle sanctuary in the Philippines. Located in the San Vicente, Palawan, the resort has garnered a total of sixteen international awards. Turtle Bay has been the sanctuary protected by the resort for 10 years. Turtles are seen to be swimming all year round in the protected private bay.
One of the few accommodations available in Batanes, this ancestral home studio of internationally acclaimed artist Pacita Abad, has housed many amazed guests willingly open (because of weather disturbances) to stay another day. The heritage hotel aids the education of the Ivatan youth and the livelihood of the Ivatan farmers through projects put up by the Abad Memorial Foundation. Ivatans are a Filipino ethnolinguistic group predominantly from Batanes.
El Nido Resorts
Four island based resorts: Apulit, Miniloc, Lagen, and Pangalusian all adhere to ecological best practices to preserve the literal and figurative green nature of the properties. A luxury resort group located in El Nido, the accessibility to the islands where the resorts are housed is through the use of boats with environment friendly boat engines keeping carbon emissions to a minimum. El Nido Resorts also preserves a sanctuary of jacks who are cared for by employees and in no means served for meals.
Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort
Located in Sabang Beach in Puerto Princesa, this resort is an awardee of the ASEAN Green Hotel Standard in the years 2012, 2014, and 2016. Its unique contribution to the environment is that the resort has reduced its carbon emission significantly by utilizing a gas absorption chiller and heater technology using LPG.
Blue Water Maribago
The resort located in Cebu has been in the forefront in saving the environment through moves as Project Blue or the coastal and underwater cleanup drives, and the rehabilitation of mangrove forests. The resort also grows a vegetable garden with produce that is utilized by the on-site restaurant.
Bohol Bee Farm Resort
With an organic restaurant perched on a rugged seaside cliff, this six-hectare resort found in Panglao Island, Bohol offers honest to goodness garden-to-table healthy green cuisines. With its wide spread of organic delicacies, the resort is most popular for their manually produced organic ice cream. Sprawling all over the property are little native workshops with locals handcrafting souvenirs and pretty wearables. The vast operation of the resort employs over 400 workers, all villagers and their dependents.
Green Canyon Eco Art Resort
Nature lovers will find it worth the journey to go to the heart of Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga and be greeted by the prolific flora of Green Canyon Resort. Built around the natural landscape and without disturbing the trees and inhabitants, the resort prides itself for using cutting edge water filtration system that ensures wastewater is clean before it flows back to the river. In the rooms, notice that the bedframes are made from the trees knocked down by typhoon Ondoy.
How Can a Hotel Become Eco-Friendly?
A hotel need not have a huge capital to be eco-friendly. Just like what we all learned in kindergarten, one only needs common sense, a strong conviction and great love for the environment. Here are a few suggested actions to stake your claim on the go green movement:
Educate, Educate, Educate
Start with yourself. Recall what you had been taught in preserving the environment. And if for some reason, school eluded you these lessons, a bit of common sense will come into play. Practice and set an example to your peers. Train your staff with the basics of environment protection. Emphasize on the benefits in a larger picture, not just though cost savings in operations and positive guest feedback.
Proclaim to your guests the teachings and training you impart to your staff. Invite them to be a part of the advocacy. Get them involved and entice them to participate in their own way whether within the premises of the hotel or elsewhere.
Go public with your advocacy. Make a statement, not just a guiding principle. Be heard by others that your establishment is concerned and is taking action. This can be done through social media, of course. Or this can be done through traditional mass media. There are a few local shows that feature green practices and are endlessly looking for materials. One is ABS CBN’s Green Living and another is Net25’s Klima ng Pagbabago.
Renewable energy is now getting more and more grants in research and development. Such is the commitment of environmentalists to seek other means of producing power while not depleting the planet’s resources. Going renewable is not as intimidating nor is it expensive. Your hotel can start by investing in small items such as switching to LED lights and inverter type air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. These appliances demonstrate energy efficiency through power savings in the long term while reducing the number of consumable parts.
Another small investment is the installation of solar water heaters and solar pads. Make use of an equipment that harnesses the infinite supply of the power of the sun. This would be a wise and worthwhile investment given the savings on electricity long term. Start powering the small equipment like fans, computers, TV, printer and work your way up.
This is a no-brainer. Any resource of limited supply used in any establishment must not be wasted. Reduce water consumption by installing heat or movement sensor fixtures. This solves the concern on keeping the tap running while one is brushing ones teeth or washing the dishes or taking a shower. Reduce paper consumption in the office. Go digital and keep soft copies instead of printing copies all the time. This addresses the use of consumables as cartridges and ink. Pantries should be free of plastics and paper materials as plates, cups, spoons and forks. Mandate your staff to bring their own washable and reusable items.
Amenities as soap, shampoo and even body lotion must be made available all the time but in a dispenser installed in the toilet and bathrooms. These dispensers must be sturdy, user friendly, abuse and idiot proof, and easily replenishable. Dental kits must preferably be available upon request, however explain this to guests upon registration to avoid misunderstandings. Amenities in pouches encourage wastage and this goes against every known green principle. Bedroom slippers must be washable and reusable provided the hotel adheres to strict hygiene measures.
Do this with office supplies like reusing the other side of a piece of paper. Go back to pencils you can sharpen manually and limit the use of pens. If your hotel has a coffee maker, coffee grounds are reported to be good fertilizers so instead of throwing them in the bin, throw them in your planters.
Using an eco-friendly spiel, encourage your guests to wait until the third night before they request for linen changes. Surely they don’t practice changing linens in their homes everyday so this is quite acceptable, especially if the green concept is explained to them. Also, make sure a signage is placed where this appeal to limit linen changes is visible.
Request for room keycards to be returned upon check-out. Other hotels charge for lost keys. This policy will not be very popular but will definitely be considered due to the unnecessary cost involved on the guest. The point here is unreturned keycards will have to be replaced and orders usually happen in bulk. Save the planet from more plastics and require for keycards to be returned.
Gray water is actually the reuse of wastewater or collected rainwater for watering plants and cleaning toilets. A simple way to do this is to have a rainwater catchment that will pump out the collected rainwater and reuse for whatever purpose (except bathing).
Recycle by Upcycling
Nowadays it is not enough to just recycle because not every item can be recycled especially with all these health and hygiene issues attached. The way to go is get creative and visualize what other purpose a non-biodegradable item can serve. A bottle of wine can be melted to serving dishes or cut into a candelabra or wall lamp. Plastic water bottles can be mini pots for herbs or decorative plants. They can also be collected and crushed into pellets that some companies use for floorings or accessories. If your creative team need more ideas and inspiration, YouTube can always be referred to for suggestions and instructions.
Waste Management and Compost
Waste management goes beyond waste segregation. What happens to the garbage after you diligently segregated them? Will it go where it was intended to go or your commitment stops after the garbage collection? Biodegradable waste can be made into compost, an organic matter decomposed and recycled as fertilizer and soil amendment.
Hotels with restaurants and a small garden can use this method to reduce biodegradable waste and enrich the land used for gardening. There are methods from easy to complex found online. Depending on what you want to harvest or produce, searching the level of complexity is a few clicks away.
Cleanliness is next to godliness and godliness is always green. Ditch the harsh chemicals used to sanitize the surroundings. There are environment friendly cleaning supplies available in environment conscious establishments like Bahay Maria and Human Nature. Housewives swear that kitchen ingredients like vinegar and baking soda do spotless wonders to their homes. Again, online you will find countless options to DIY your housekeeping supplies.
Support the Local Community
Providing employment alone to locals where your hotel is situated is good support for the community. Couple that with the eco education you are providing them, the green effects will go farther than the rooms of your hotel.
Another way to support the local community is patronizing and purchasing their products and services. Serve their local delicacies, purchase locally manufactured amenities, avail of local services like laundry, repairs, massage, and delivery.
Organic ingredients are more than just a diet fad. Going organic has positive environment impact as it bans pesticides, trashes genetic modifications, and discards synthetic fertilizers. Going organic also supports the small time local farmers reinforcing suggestion number 8. When sourcing organics, it would be worthwhile to ask if the supplier uses compost as it is a key attribute in organic farming.
Any hotel that claims to be green must conduct Earth Hour practices regularly and not only once a year as dictated by the annual calendar of events. Earth Hour must be an own initiative that goes further than lights out for one hour. It could be an hour of clean up around the community or an hour devoted to bringing the recyclables to establishments that can upcycle them. It can be an hour of teaching the locals on eco-friendly practices. Simply an hour devoted to imparting what you know to protect and preserve the environment.
The above points serve a double purpose. They are benchmarks for hotels to be eco-friendly while guidelines for travelers on how to spot a green hotel.
This is the first in a series of articles that feature green hotels and restaurants. Does your establishment have eco-friendly practices? Let us know! Email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to feature you.