MIAMI—The 2006 American Express Caribbean Tourism Environmental Awards, presented in late June in Miami during a special awards luncheon as part of the annual Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC), paid tribute to the hotels that are models of responsible environmental and social performance in the region.
“The relationship between tourism and environment must be intimate and continuous, especially in the Caribbean, where sustainability is indispensable to preserve our tropical paradise” says Dianelys Rodríguez, vice president establishment services, American Express Latin America and Caribbean Division. “Our congratulations to both winners for taking the lead in environmental practices and serving as role models for the Caribbean region.”
The 2006 American Express Caribbean Tourism Environmental Awards’ winners obtained the highest combined scores based on their performance in the following five areas: Environmental Management & Stewardship, Infrastructure, Awareness, Conservation, and Health & Safety. In the Small Hotel category, the winner was the 3 Rivers Eco Lodge & Sustainable Living Centre, Dominica. In the Large Hotel category, the winner was Sandals Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The 3 Rivers Eco Lodge & Sustainable Living Centre also won the award in 2005. Located in Dominica, this family business lives by a fundamental goal: to live in harmony with, yet have as little harmful impact as possible on the unspoiled natural beauty of its surroundings and community.
Their philosophy is driven by a belief in their role to protect and enhance the environment for guests, as well as the residents of the local community. Keeping in line with their goals, every aspect of the hotel has the environment in mind. The management embraces a sustainable lifestyle, minimizing the use of all resources, and monitoring all systems.
The sun powers the entire property. Even the water supply is pumped from the river using a solar powered pump, which works in silence to avoid disturbing the surrounding natural habitats. Likewise, solar hot water heating systems are used. To minimize water consumption, gray water is treated and then reused in the garden, and campers use dry toilets.
The hotel composts all kitchen and garden waste, and uses that compost to grow as much organic food as possible without the use of chemicals or fertilizers. A pickup truck has been retrofitted to run on used vegetable oil as well as diesel fuel. With the ‘cooking oil truck’ they have reduced harmful emissions by some 93 percent, and are able to recycle oil that had been previously discarded by local restaurants in local rivers and ravines. Whenever possible, the hotel avoids purchasing packaged goods. The hotel shops locally, recycles and uses biodegradable products, and tries to keep waste products to a minimum. Water, electricity, gas, solid waste and paper consumption are monitored daily to continuously find new ways to reduce usage.
An important aspect of 3 River’s philosophy is to involve the local community. Employees come from local villages, and they are trained in sustainable living. As an eco-lodge, the hotel owners believe that community-based tourism is essential in order to ensure that their local friends benefit from the hotel’s existence. Bearing this in mind, the hotel offers a number of local community-based activities for the visitors’ enjoyment, which, at the same time, help many native people earn money to provide for their families. The activities give guests a true taste of life in Dominica, as seen by a Dominican, and are as innovative as they are engaging. They include:
• Learning traditional farming methods and how to make and taste one of Dominica’s national dishes—Calalou Soup.
• A day at an organic herb farm, discovering traditional herbal medicines and remedies, and tasting various bush teas.
• Coffee and cocoa preparing and roasting—where tourists can take some home at the end of the day.
• Visits to the local village primary school—getting to know the kids, sharing experiences with them and learning the local history.
• Band practices with the local reggae and calypso stars—The Blazing Squad.
• Learning to make ancient knitting or flower crafts, among others.
These are just some of the responsible practices that 3 Rivers Eco Lodge undertakes.
“Environmental issues concern not just the air we breathe and the water we drink; they also concern our obligation to each other, and to future generations to protect our planet,” said CHA President, Berthia Parle, MBE. “In the Caribbean hospitality industry, businesses that utilize the most solid social and environmental practices benefit communities and save not only our environment, but our heritage as well.”
The Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica has a fully implemented Environmental Management System and Health and Safety program. This program received Green Globe 21 certification in January 2001; since then, Sandals Montego Bay has been continuously improving its operation, with programs such as:
• Energy conservation management;
• Freshwater resource management;
• Waste minimization;
• Improved social and cultural development; and
• Safe care, use and handling of chemicals.
Sandals Montego Bay has a full time environment, health and safety manager, responsible for staff training, developing community awareness, and liaising with the Montego Bay Marine Park and National Environment and Planning Agency.
Staff are encouraged to participate and become involved with monthly awards, annual health and safety expositions, field trips, committees, clubs and special events such as medical missions for children’s infirmaries, AIDS hospices, and neighboring mental hospitals, as well as youth training and recruitment programs, and community clean-ups—both above and below the water.
The American Express Caribbean Tourism Environmental Awards demonstrate the Caribbean travel and tourism industry’s genuine commitment to pursuing sustainable tourism development in the region. The awards program is designed to encourage investment in environmentally friendly technologies and sustainable management practices within hotels and resorts by recognizing those properties that have realized significant achievements in “greening” their operations.
A team of qualified environmental experts performed site inspections and evaluated the properties in five categories:
• Environmental Management & Stewardship takes into consideration the integration of management, the comprehensiveness and accomplishments of the green team, the implementation of action plans, as well as plans for the future.
• Conservation of Natural Resources takes into consideration the hotel’s ability to implement the principles of the three R’s; recycling, reuse and reduction of wastes, energy and water consumption.
• Awareness & Community Activities reviews environmental and conservation training programs for the staff, community awareness and outreach programs, the efforts made to communicate the hotel’s conservation and protection policies to guests, and future plans or commitments to act.
• Infrastructure & Technology reviews the hotel’s use of sustainable or renewable energy technologies, the property design, the use of water- and energy-saving devices, and capital investments made towards greening the hotel.
• Health and Safety examines the maintenance of relevant equipment, disaster awareness programs and emergency plans