Eco hotels, eco lodges and resorts, eco villages, eco tourism: with much gusto and fanfare Bali has jumped on the new band wagon. As many lodgings, hotel and resort properties have been and continue to be built in Bali, it has become very fashionable to label them as green or eco-friendly. All too often the terms eco and green are very loosely applied. Green is the new black as they say and eco- anything has become the buzzword du jour. But what constitutes a true eco hotel? What are the requirements and criteria to be or transform into a green accommodation and who monitors adherence to its principles? ls it just the design of the physical premises that is green or is there a green philosophy that permeates all aspects of this concept? Last but not least, how successfully is the idea being applied in Bali ?
The word eco (derived from ecology) has a long etymology and can be traced from the Ancient Greek oixog (oikos, meaning house or household and by extension, the immediate environment). Strictly speaking, ecology is a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments. Correspondingly, the basic definition of a green or eco hotel is a hotel or accommodation that has incorporated important environmental improvements to its structure and operation in order to minimize its impact on the environment. In other words, an environmentally responsible lodging mirrors the practices of green living. These hotels have to be certified green by a recognized independent authority or by the country they are located in.
The precursors of today’s green hotels were the The Green Hotels of Bali meet the following criteria: dependence on or respect for the natural environment, ecological sustainability, proven contribution to conservation, incorporation of cultural considerations, provision of environmental training programs, and provision of an economic return to the local community.
Physical structures should be built from locally available and sustainable resources. Here in Bali building materials are tropical hardwoods, local stone and other locally sourced environmentally friendly products. The buildings must be designed to better blend in with their environment. ln addition, they must also be run on eco-friendly principles, such as serious recycling programs and waste management, serving organic or locally grown food in restaurants or using natural ventilation as opposed to air conditioning.
Green hotels follow internationally accepted green guidelines to ensure that their guests are staying in a safe, non-toxic and energy-efficient accommodation. The basic characteristics of a green hotel include energy saving tactics like low-flow/water conserving showerheads, tap aerators and toilets, energy- efficient lighting. Water conservation is practiced by recycling gray and black water for gardens and landscaping.
Where feasible it employs fresh-air exchange systems in lieu of oras an alternative to wasteful air conditioning and renewable of waste water and re-use of grey water is to be emphasized; the disposal or recycling of garbage has to follow accepted green practices. Surprisingly, being green does not necessarily mean increased operating costs.
Most of the savings are realized in reduced use of electricity and water, which also means that less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the air.
Who monitors adherence to green principles? –According to Wikipedia environmental certification is a form of environmental regulation and development where a business can voluntarily choose to comply with predefined processes or objectives set forth by a cerlincation service or authority.
Most environmental certification services have a logo (commonly known as an ecolabel) which can be applied to products certified under their standards. This is seen as aform of corporate social responsibility allowing companies to address their obligation to minimize the harmful impacts to the environment by voluntarily following a set of externally set and measured objectives.
Many countries and regions have embarked on creating certiiable green or sustainable tourism standards, but only recently has there been any collective agreement on an international basis. Eco certification like the ISO 14001, EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) or the Eco-label in Europe, Australia and the USA is virtually non-existent in Asia, outside of Singapore where The Singapore Environment Council has the Eco-Hotel Certification program that is limited to Singapore hotels.
Nevertheless, many Eco Lodges built in remote, rugged and wild environments like the savannas of eastern Africa and the jungles or rainforests in Costa Rica to accommodate ,adventurous tourists on safaris and jungle treks. Their design was predicated by the use of traditional building methods and local materials applied by skilled local craftsmen in these areas.
Given that their location was in untamed territory, far from modern amenities like electricity, these accommodations were truly integrated with their immediate environment and had a symbiotic relationship with nature around them.
Today’s concept of tourism is changing and many travelers want the experience of a green or ecological vacation without necessarily having to give up the amenities of full-service hotels or having to trek to faraway places to reserve a bit of unadulterated scenery.
Therefore eco hotels and resorts are enjoying their day in the sun. First, a distinction must be made between eco-lodges and eco hotels. Traditionally, eco-lodges are located in a natural area and are not impacted by urban noise, traffic, smog or pollution.
The accent is on the natural environment and guest activities are heavily geared to nature excursions with rangers or interpretive nature guides who have significant knowledge of the local biology and habitat. Eco hotels are not limited to natural environments but also include properties in more urbanized settings and locations that have invested in improving their “green” credentials.
These properties have varying degrees of green-ness. In the absence of formal eco certification standards in Asia, most hotels that label themselves as green try to obsen/e a minimum of so-called green criteria.
Some just pay lip service to the green concept and try to blow smoke screens in front of their ageing and inefficient mechanical systems, hiding unhealthy plumbing and other non-eco infrastructure behind fake waterfalls and artfully designed gardens. But there are those that are very dedicated to the concept and have gone to great lengths in their commitment to “nature plus nurture”.
They have set the barfor what true eco-friendly travel, tourism, and living can be. Land consen/ation, organic gardens, sustainable power and energy use, responsible waste management, all these elements are part of their commitment.
Green criteria and characteristics- The requirements and criteria to be or transform into an eco property are fairly straight forward. internationally accepted standards dictate that in order to be considered an eco hotel, the property must usually energy sources like solar or wind energy.
Housekeeping uses natural, non-toxic or non-polluting cleaning products and laundry detergent and stocks the guest rooms with bulk organic soap, eco-labeled products and amenities instead of individual packages to reduce waste; towels and sheet are 100% organic cotton and re-use is encouraged by guests to reduce water consumption. On-site restaurants serve organic and locally grown food and use non-disposable dishes.
The use of chemical pesticides throughout the facilities and grounds is eliminated and organic or environment-friendly products are substituted. Recycling is emphasized both in hotel operations and by providing recycling bins in guest rooms and hotel public areas, On-site transportation uses non- motorized or green vehicles.
In terms of education, employee training emphasizes environmental awareness, and eco-friendly practices are regularly drilled in. ln addition, the hotel’s environmental commitment and initiatives are communicated to guests using in-room literature or education about the hotel’s local conservation or environmental stewardship and the chance for guests to participate in sponsored community or environmental programs.
In a nutshell the, main areas of concentration to become a green property are in the areas of water and energy consumption, common sense practices that help in conservation, the handling of waste and proper recycling, awareness and training of employees regarding environment friendly solutions and local economy considerations.
Green architecture plays no minor role in the concept of green lodging. A chat with well-know Bali architect Popo Danes reveals that the skin and bones of the property can contribute a great deal of green-ness. Foremost, land conservation by avoiding the destruction ofa minimum oftrees and plants in the construction process is paramount; the buildings should be positioned to take advantage of the environment in a non<destructive or damaging way and indigenous and non-protected natural materials such as bamboo and recycled timber should be used for construction.
Second, the building’s blueprint should be based on emphasizing natural cooling and ventilation systems; mechanical systems should be energy efficient; the handling hotel properties in Asia voluntarily choose to comply with eco certification requirements and actively pursue an Eco rating.
The primary motivations for many hotels that want to implement eco certification are to provide an ethical green environment for their guests, increase sustainable development, improve the image of the company, gain a competitive edge and to make a higher profit. The green hotels of Bali – Bali boasts a fair number of true green hotels, resorts and lodges. They range from homey, small properties like Desa Seni in Canggu with its expansive organic gardens to the Bali Eco Village in the central mountains.
ln between there is the exquisite Bali Eco Stay and the Sarinbuana Mountain Eco lodge on Batukaru mountain, both true havens for nature lovers. ln the urban setting of Denpasar, the Fontana Hotel merits a special badge for its green footprint. Ubud counts the most eco-friendly properties and Amed is edging up to the table. They all merit more than a cursory mention because of their genuine efforts to be green; therefore we will examine the particular green attributes of a number of Bali lodgings in a follow-up article.
ln conclusion, it must be said that eco-tourism is essentially a contradiction in terms. Tourism, by its very nature, brings about a larger carbon footprint because it engenders journeys to sometimes far-away places using energy-guzzling transportation modes such as planes that contribute enormously to the carbon footprint. lt means consumption of energy hungry infrastructure such as air-conditioned rooms, big chlorinated swimming pools, more water usage, petrol gobbling local sightseeing, etc.
On the other hand, tourism also provides a means to improve the local economy and cottage industries which are lifesavers in some less privileged locales. Green tourism contributes to
the local economy and helps to transfer some wealth from people in developed nations to businesses and communities in emerging and some of the least developed markets. Ideally a way should be found to develop ecotourism as a more sustainable long term means to earn income rather than destroying or altering habitats for short term gains.
Story by Ines Wynn