The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is making the most of its new Outdoor Learning Center. Created in partnership with ValleyCrest Landscape Companies as part of Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program, the center highlights a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as a green house and life-size game board. The organic garden features California pepper trees and fruit trees including lemon, orange, grapefruit, plum, peach, loquat and fig. Various lettuces, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, squash, and watermelons are all planted in raised beds. Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, mint and chives are also highlighted in the garden. Native plants, such as Evergreen Currant, Douglas Iris, Chalk Dudleya, Coral Bells and California Wild Lilac, have been incorporated into the garden and grow beside plants that were used many years ago by the Native Americans that lived in the region.
These native plants include White Sage, Cleveland Sage, California Sagebrush, Lemonade Sumac, Creeping Manzanita and others. As the fruits, vegetables and herbs mature, they will be incorporated into the menus in Raya, the resort's new restaurant concept by chef Richard Sandoval.
The greenhouse showcases the growth of native species of plants as well as organic, healthy vegetables that are used in the organic cooking activity, Ambassadors in the Kitchen. Rain gutters on the greenhouse collect moisture that is used to irrigate the garden and an underground cistern collects runoff that is used in the greenhouse and the garden. On the complimentary Garden Tour, guests have the opportunity to explore the garden and learn about the greenhouse.
The Outdoor Learning Center is incorporated into several of the Ambassadors of the Environment eco-excursions. Gardening Gurus allows guests to learn about organic gardening, composting and plants. A Vegetation Vacation starts with a hike in the Dana Point Reserve where guests discover the native plants and animals of the Dana Point coastal region. Upon returning to the resort, guests enjoy a gardening experience in the organic garden.
The Center's life-size game board is a fun and interactive way to teach guests about sustainable living. The game is divided into nine sections--energy, water, biodiversity, food, waste, toxic waste, transportation, homes and buildings, and being an Ambassador of the Environment. Guests are the game pieces and they roll giant die to move forward. They read questions from the Sustainable Living cards and if they answer correctly, they advance in the game. At the conclusion of the game, participants discuss what they learned and talk about each section and how it relates to their life and sustainable living.
Kudos to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for getting so much mileage out of its new Outdoor Learning Center. Has your property done something similar? I would love to learn about it. Leave your comment here.