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Sustainable Travel: Planet vs. Plastics

By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief



The theme of Earth Day 2024 is “Planet vs. Plastics,” focusing on society’s growing commitment to ending plastics and reducing production of plastics by 60% by 2040. The travel industry is participating by helping travelers to sleep more peacefully when on vacation, knowing that the hotels or trips they’ve chosen are making strides towards reducing plastics for a healthier planet. For these sustainable destinations, Earth Day is everyday.


 


Reducing the plastic footprint is at the core of 26-room, carbon-neutral Hotel Belmar’s commitment to the planet. The luxury boutique ecolodge has implemented eco-conscious procurement policies that prioritize eco-packaging and bulk purchases, significantly minimizing their use of plastic. Coupled with the hotel’s robust recycling and reuse programs, Hotel Belmar has made remarkable strides in minimizing plastic waste. The property joined Ecoheroes, an initiative dedicated to eradicating plastic waste from Costa Rica's coastal areas. Each month, the hotel provides financial support, empowering local coastal families to collect plastic waste, giving it to a local enterprise that transforms it into a material used in cement blocks for construction. Nearly four decades since its opening, Hotel Belmar has become a world-class example of eco-tourism that has protected and regenerated the Monteverde cloud forest and its biodiversity while providing educational and professional opportunities to the local community. 



The family-owned and operated property celebrates eight years without plastic bottled water and the hotel bar is virtually plastic free. An in-house seltzer machine produces plastic-free house made sodas flavored with amaranth and hibiscus.


The hotel also uses an eco-farming approach called the Biointensive Agriculture (Agrarian) Method to maximize crop variety on small-scale plots through water conservation, natural pest controls, and organic soil enrichment. Its Finca Madre Tierra farm is the first agricultural project of its kind in Costa Rica to earn a carbon-neutral farm certification. 



 


Located in a Maharaja’s palace estate surrounded by a 100-acre forest, Ananda in the Himalayas is nurtured by the nature that surrounds it. The world-renowned wellness retreat has a zero waste-water policy. Recycled water from the sewage treatment plant is used for gardening, and food waste is delivered to a nearby pig farm. The property installed a water bottling plant at the property with reusable glass bottles, which has reduced 99% of the plastic waste created by single use plastic water bottles at the hotel. Other noteworthy initiatives include heat pumps that help to reduce 1200 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day.



Additionally, Ananda invites guests to make monetary contributions, which they then match to help underprivileged girls by training them in spa therapy, giving them an opportunity of a profession and financial independence. 



The hotel also supports local farmers and uses 80% organic produce. Guests can enjoy cooking classes, which focus on the nutritional aspects of less-processed, plant-based ingredients helping them to learn and adopt Ayurvedic cooking practices.


 


Las Catalinas is a mostly car-free beach town nestled along the golden coast of Guanacaste in Costa Rica. Once a tropical dry forest, the town is actively restoring the lost ecosystem with its ongoing reforestation efforts. Today, techniques to prevent fires, plant native trees, and prohibit hunting have largely restored the tropical ecosystem. Central to the town’s conservation efforts is its creation of multi-use trails serving as vital corridors for wildlife and natural drainage systems. By preventing erosion and runoff, the trails help maintain the health and integrity of the forest ecosystem. Throughout Guanacaste and in town, Las Catalinas also promotes healthy drinking water through AyA, a program that helps fight against using plastic bottles for drinking water. 



Prioritizing sustainable energy, efficient water usage and treatment, storm water control, and enhancement of wildlife habitats, it boasts a closed loop food system and calculated 120 kilograms of food waste per day this quarter. 


Since 2007, the town has planted 5,000+ trees of 13 native evergreen species. No building can be more than four stories, and most are stylistically in line with the materials, and techniques found in quintessential Central American towns.




 


 


A popular all-inclusive, adults-only, plastic-free boutique hotel in Saint Lucia, Calabash Cove Resort and Spa is a Caribbean escape offering one of the only vegan menus on the island. With its ability to accommodate most dietary restrictions, the culinary team is constantly upgrading its vegan and vegetarian offerings with new items.



The resort also now only serves sparking and drinking water in glass bottles—cutting plastics—and much of the restaurant’s food and beverage is sourced locally focusing on local farmers and fishermen. 



All hot water is generated by solar energy, there are no oil or gas heaters, and an on-site water treatment plant recycles irrigation water. The resort sources from local farmers whenever possible and sends used kitchen oil to a commercial laundry and Saint Lucia Distillers to be used as fuel.


 


Rome’s family owned Bettoja Hotels removed all plastic bottles from its hotels on Earth Day in 2019. Spanning five generations with 495 rooms among the three hotels, this sustainability initiative marks the first achievement in the brand’s commitment to the environment, but not its last. 



Bettoja Hotels has reduced plastic consumption by the elimination of all plastic bottles from the hotels’ restaurants and mini bars, a reduction of 40.000 to 60.000 plastic bottles per year. Instead, they use glass bottles that are returned to the bottle company. The hotels also have efficient insulation and use thermal testing and double-glazing to ensure minimum waste.



Bettoja Hotels plans to continue to reduce plastic consumption by using natural substitutes such as bamboo for straws and cutlery, and eliminate single use plastic jam containers. The hotels reduce carbon emissions by utilizing local produce and reduce microplastics by using natural fibers for carpeting and linens.


 


It’s not just hotels that are doing better this Earth Day. Travel companies are bringing travelers face to face with sustainable practices around the world. Scenset is a luxury travel-tech company based in San Francisco, California, that specializes in designing personalized itineraries featuring exclusive experiences, vetted guides, and luxury accommodations. Scenset trips are expertly tailored to clients’ preferences, such as Scenset’s 10-Day Botswana Journey prepared by Christian Gibney, Senior Travel Curator. 

 


Scenset brings its eco-conscious ethos to Botswana and South Africa to help travelers contribute to the preservation of fragile ecosystems and support local communities. By promoting ecotourism in Botswana and South Africa, Scenset aims to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, while providing travelers with unforgettable experiences that leave a positive impact on the environment and local economies. Partner lodges and tour operators in Botswana and South Africa adhere to strict eco-friendly standards, ensuring that every aspect of your journey aligns with sustainable travel principles. 



Travelers engage with local communities and learn about their conservation efforts firsthand through experienced local guides who are passionate about conservation and environmental education. By choosing eco-conscious operators and participating in conservation-focused experiences, travelers can directly contribute to wildlife conservation, habitat restoration, and community development efforts.






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