“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing behind but footprints.” According to one New York Times journalist, that was the definition of “ecotourism” in the 1980s. The definition has grown so that today we talk about “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people.”
Below are three inspiring examples of ecotourism in ecolodges around the world which have inspired us.
1. Hoshinoya Karuizawa. Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Hoshinoya Karuizawa is set in a lush valley below an active volcano and harnesses geothermal heat and hydroelectricity from fast-flowing mountain streams and is almost energy independent as a result (the hotel uses micro-hydro generators). This is an exceptional example of using a “local resource” to improve sustainable energy.
As if micro-hydro generators weren’t enough to get us excited, Hoshinoya Karuizawa has set up a not-for-profit conservation programme which has a special focus on avoiding conflict between humans and black bears, through educating people and tracking and shepherding the bears away from the town. Lastly, the hotel group has set up a scheme to help children affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Hoshinoya Karuizawa: 75% energy independent through the use of three micro-hydro generators.
Hoshinoya Karuizawa is powered by the Energy In My Yard (EIMY) system, which runs on hydroelectricity－provided by the river flowing through the premises－and geothermal energy. It was developed from a simple idea: Using energy without damaging the resort’s rich natural environment.
2. Ritz-Carlton. Georgia, USA
Admittedly, the Ritz-Carlton in Georgia is not a typical “natural area” but, after spending the last six months experimenting with bee-keeping and gardening, we were fascinated by this hotel’s vegetated garden. The chef’s garden is located on the roof (we’re talking fresh herbs and greens) but the 18,000 sedum plants also help to reduce what is referred to as the “urban heat island effect” through green surface reflection and insulation, leading to a cooler building overall.
You’ll also find 100,000 bees on the roof, housed in two beehives. The bees assist in pollination and provide hotel guests with natural honey. As a bonus, you get free parking at the hotel if you drive a hybrid or electric-powered car, and there is a “bicycle valet” – now that’s green vision!
A Langstroth Hive in the the Ritz-Carlton’s rooftop vegetated garden.
3. Waipiata Boutique Lodge. Mahurangi, New Zealand
In order to restore the foreshore and harbor surrounding Waipiata, the lodge owners took a long-term view. After removing grazing stock, they planted hundreds of indigenous plants, including kauri, puriri, kowhai and pohutukawa trees and native flaxes and grasses. A predator control project was then initiated in order to protect native trees and wildlife that had no defenses against imported predators like possums, rats and rabbits.
This has been a complete restoration of the indigenous wildlife, and – as a result – the lodge has been awarded an Enviro-Gold award. For those of you who read last week’s blog, you’ll know that the “restoration of wildlife” was pivotal to the success of Londolozi as well. Maybe that’s why we loved this story. If there’s a project supporting the rehabilitation of indigenous species, we’re behind it!
On the water’s edge at Waipiata Lodge. Pure water is fed to the lodge via three underground tanks and an advanced waste system collects and purifies water which is then distributed as potable water back to the land. The property also recycles waste via composting and a worm farm.