In celebration of Earth Day, we are honoring key projects and sustainability initiatives at Regenerative Resorts that are creating a positive social and environmental impact on their local ecosystems and surrounding communities. Utilizing Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown as a resource for carbon reduction methods, we explore how marine conservation, regenerative agriculture, regenerating forests, and educating girls and women are addressing our global needs to prevent and reverse climate change. The role that our hotels play in creating a vehicle for resilient ecosystems through tourism is an important reminder of how we choose to travel matters as tourism dollars fund the vital impact work at each property.
As our oceans sit on the frontline of climate change, so do the people who live near them. The land and sea are interconnected as we look to address increasing water temperatures, marine heatwaves, and sea levels. “What practices can be used to sequester carbon in coastal, marine, and open ocean environments? How can human activity support and enhance natural processes?” Project Drawdown asks these questions to analyze our oceans’ life-sustaining role in finding solutions to restore and protect our planet.
In Jamaica, GoldenEye opened a new dive shop on its property this past year, where guests can donate directly to coral reef regeneration and the hotel’s fish sanctuary. Guests who are certified divers have the opportunity to contribute to coral regeneration by helping to plant coral firsthand, creating a memorable and educational activity with a positive impact on the guests and the delicate marine environment. This work is crucial as GoldenEye is the only hotel in Jamaica currently working on coral regeneration. The fish sanctuary also plays an important role in conserving the marine ecosystem, as overfishing has been a problem for decades. GoldenEye uses the fish sanctuary as an educational tool, explaining to local fishermen that the sanctuary is like a bank—if you save it, its value will grow exponentially and allow for more sustainable fishing in the future. One sanctuary manager describes that “the sanctuary is basically a no-fishing zone, the concept being that the fish are going to get so plentiful inside the sanctuary that they’re going to need space and spill over onto the adjacent reefs, where the fishermen are allowed to take them.” Over the past two years, the area has seen a significant increase in fish populations, proving the added economic benefit of ecotourism to the area. Out of the 14 marine protected areas around Jamaica, Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary is considered one of the most successful.
In the Anambas Islands in Indonesia, Bawah Reserve’s work is rooted in coral regeneration and marine conservation. The hotel has only been in operation for just over two years, but the hotel spent five years developing the property with sustainable principles at the core of its construction. One of Bawah’s first priorities was to make the reserve a marine conservation site, banning fishing within 10 miles of the property. Much like GoldenEye, fishing is a common livelihood in the area, so educating locals and providing alternative means of employment is a key facet of their work. In the Anambas Islands, dynamite fishing had devastated the marine environment with harsh chemicals and greatly damaged the coral reefs. This is why one of Bawah’s primary projects is coral regeneration—allowing guests to enjoy a conservation dive in which they can transplant baby coral and name the new coral formation after themselves. The work is already paying off, as Bawah Reserve has reported the return of fragile manta rays to the area. Now, through being accepted into the Signing Blue program by WWF- Indonesia, the signing of the cooperation agreement marks a long term commitment to sustainable tourism and responsible travel.
Hamanasi Resort in Belize is also following this vein, as the hotel already has experience in supporting marine conservation through sustainable seaweed farms. Known as “Belize gold,” the seaweed grown by the farms provides a holistic approach to solving the problems that are facing Belize: by giving fishers alternative employment that keeps them on the water, combating overfishing, providing safe habitat for native fish and invertebrates, and reducing ocean acidification locally. Now, Hamanasi is looking to expand its conservation impact through potential projects in coral regeneration as a signature project of the hotel.
Reforestation and Land Management
According to Project Drawdown, preserving temperate and tropical forests as undeveloped land is crucial for improving biodiversity and continuing to draw down and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
In Cambodia, world-renowned resort designer and owner, Bill Bensley, identified an unprotected wildlife corridor connecting the Bokor National Park with Kirirom National Park, and set out to protect this 400 acre river valley from poaching, mining and logging. Now, Shinta Mani Wild funds a dedicated Wildlife Alliance ranger station within its camp where guests are invited to join the rangers in their diverse work, which includes dealing with a multitude of snares and the animals they catch, arresting poachers and loggers and seizing the likes of chainsaws and homemade guns and on a happy day, the release of captured wildlife.
Flat Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming has worked diligently to manage its forests and waste, including finding alternative ways to compost organic matter that limits predation and does not habituate native species to the hotel’s presence. The hotel also recently dealt with a nearby forest fire, and worked with the local forest service to prepare for a potential fire. After an evaluation of the ranch and its property, the forest service reported that Flat Creek Ranch has done an exemplary job of preparing and that the grounds have been well-maintained and are safe. This advance preparation serves to protect the local ecosystem and ensure that the forest itself will be resilient for many years to come.
In Nicaragua, nearly half of Morgan’s Rock (a 4,000-acre property) has been designated a private reserve. The actual owners bought the land with the goal of reforesting and tree farming and providing employment to the local community. In 2004, the family decided to build a hotel with the minimum environmental impact, in order to preserve the nature and animals in the surrounding area. Through reforestation, tree planting, environmental awareness and education Morgan’s Rock helps defend this important natural area against poaching, illegal logging and deforestation. Through the planting of hundreds of thousands of trees and an ongoing vigilance to keep poachers off of the land wildlife has increased all over the property since the lodge opened. This protected area represents one of the last large sanctuaries, critical to the conservation of regional wildlife habitat along Central America’s Pacific coast.
In Belize, Hamanasi Resort has also worked extensively on forest regeneration, planting native tropical species to reforest the area. Hamanasi reports that reforestation in tropical areas is an effective project to invest in as plants tend to grow quickly in the region, and impact can be easily measured by the return of wildlife and birds.
A key solution that has emerged at the forefront is regenerative agriculture, a circular process that nature has intuitively been practicing for 3.8 billion years. This concept in practice enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture.
Finca Luna Nueva, in Costa Rica, has long been working to conserve the natural environment through its impressive regenerative agriculture. “This is the only way that we can stop and reverse climate change. Thirty-five percent of carbon emissions are from farming. Worldwide there are over five billion hectares of land used for farming and grazing. If they all use regenerative agriculture, it will take about 20 years to stop climate change.” Royvin Gutierrez, a guide at eco-lodge Finca Luna Nueva shares. The hotel is planning ahead for the next two years, with the goal of eventually drawing down 30 tons of carbon a year through its regenerative practices, which include expanding to 15 acres of sustainable farmland for cows. Through the farm and native species, Finca Luna Nueva is also working on regenerating native bird habitats and has recently constructed a new observation tower out of bamboo.
In Portugal, Craverial Farmhouse features an educational farm on-site with horses, donkeys, pigs, goats and hens and an orchard with over 600 indigenous fruit trees, from quince to lemon and apple trees. Coupled with this is an organic garden where the vast majority of the seasonal products served in the restaurant is grown. Its farm-to-table philosophy is a core part of its slow-living ethos and a return to nourishing the Earth. Craverial aims to further its mission by developing independently as a producer and distributor of organic farm produce.
Education and Empowering Women
One of the priority solutions presented by Project Drawdown is the idea of educating girls and women. Educating girls and women allows them to have agency in family planning and act as more capable and empowered stewards of the environment.
African Bush Camps views education as one of the core aspects of their work. Most of African Bush Camps’ education initiatives aim to empower local communities by providing them with the necessary elements for success. On being established in 2006, African Bush Camps also started its Foundation. The Foundation’s education initiatives aim to empower local communities by providing them with the necessary elements for success. Many of the major projects the Foundation is working on offers access to education for students, including a yearly scholarship program. Although the scholarship achieved the immediate goal of sending children to school, the Foundation created a continuous financial need without addressing the root causes of this need. One of its programs allowed people to sponsor a goat for a child. Goats are a valuable source of income in rural areas, and the children were taught proper goat management. The goat’s veterinary needs were covered. When the goat was old enough, it could be bred, allowing its kids to be sold for a profit. This system ultimately created a source of continuous income the children could use to pay for school supplies and tuition.
The African Bush Camp Foundation’s scholarship program always seeks to support at least 50% girls and young women. Traditionally, girls do not progress with schooling beyond primary school in rural areas, but there are so many bright young women who want to continue with their schooling, pursue careers and improve the quality of life in their communities. The scholarship program that identifies candidates in primary schools and gives them full scholarships to attend top high schools. Any of the students who are accepted to university are then also supported throughout their tertiary education. The foundation currently supports several young women in university who are studying conservation, tourism and hospitality and more. The impact of empowering and educating a generation of children that otherwise would not have been able to attend school is nearly incalculable, paving the way for an optimistic future.
Each of the hotels and projects mentioned above are representative of, but a small fraction of the regenerative work being done by Regenerative Resorts around the world. Through conservation projects, sustainable land management, and education initiatives, we hope to show the world what it truly means to make a positive impact.