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A walk in the woods and the sounds of Mediterranean wildlife – these are just two of the reasons why Cabañeros Ecolodge, belonging to Responsible Hotels, is such an attractive destination for nature-loving ecotourists. Here, visitors are treated to log cabins, rustic stone paths and a wide range of Iberian wildlife, visible through an array of activities, including stargazing, horseback tours and rutting deer watching. Situated in the Cabañeros National Park,this locale owes its name to the huts traditionally used by shepherds and coal merchants as temporary shelter while they were out working. This is nature and culture coming together in the heart of the Castilla la Mancha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We at Responsible Hotels have been in contact with the project manager, José Ignacio Vega, to give us first-hand details on this ecolodge.

  • There are a number of factors that make the Ecolodge Cabañeros special, but in your opinion, what is the main attraction?  

Of course, much of the attention goes to the location of the huts above the trees, perfectly integrated into the wild Mediterranean forest. We currently have five, of which three are high in the trees. Besides an obvious charm, these wood accommodations offer many of the amenities that ensure their sustainability, including waste water management, responsible insulation and energy efficient lighting through the use of LEDs.

  • The ecolodge is located in the National Park Cabañeros – what are the most notable features of the natural environment?

The area boasts a shady, wild, Mediterranean forest with some humidity from the local reservoir, making it one of the most important forests in Europe, with three levels of oaks. The area also has a marine past, providing it with some of the most unique fossils in the world, dating back 500 million years. Its landscape is also known as “Rana” for the area connecting Africa and Europe, home to some of the most genetically pure examples of Iberian red deer.

  • How can ecotourists get the purest experience in the wild? What activities are available?

To begin with, the housing already acts as a living nature lesson, putting visitors in direct contact with fauna and flora. For example, each autumn, travellers can observe the rutting deer. During the spring, birds and insects are the most common and accessible. For the most part, the kinds of animals on display around the ecolodge are those most commonly found in Mediterranean forests, including different birds, wild boars and mustelids at night. From there, visitors can find national park information, programmes about the forest or astroturismo in the Cabaneros.

  • One of the most characteristic animals in the area is the deer. What activities are available to become more familiar with it?  

Chief among these events is the Deer Festival, held on the 4th, 4th and 6th of October, where the ecolodge collaborates with the sustainable tourism association in order to promote the richness of these animals. The festival, now in its second year, offers a number of activities, including a seminar on ecotourism and larges animals, craft exhibits and a photography exhibit showcasing the wilds of the area. There are also 4×4 safaris available to tour the area.

  • Could you also expand on the safaris and horseback riding?  

Of course. The safaris allow a glimpse at the local landscape and fauna, as well as the Iberian red deer and the horseback riding offers the chance to follow routes through the Montes de Toledo as only the animal would allow.

  • Are there any specific conservation projects for this area?  

These projects are developed within the National Park. At the ecolodge, we manage and care for the stream during the winter, mushrooms, pruning and thinning the forest. We are also now in the process of studying local insects and birds.

Log cabins above the trees, wide open space to gaze at the stars, deer watching, watching birds and insects, horseback riding and safaris – all hosted in a truly privileged setting. The Ecolodge Cabañeros is a respectful and responsible escape, situated in the middle of the Cabañeros Park. This is a wonderful escape for ecotourists who want to enjoy intimate contact with nature and unwind from the stress of everyday life.

Responsible hotel in Mexico.

Responsible hotel in Mexico.

Adhering to responsible tourism can sometimes present a significant challenge to conscious travellers: How to choose eco-friendly lodging? How do you know if a hotel really does adhere to rules and a philosophy in protection of the environment? The TripAdvisor Website has offered a solution to this challenge with a United States-launched programme called “Eco-Leaders”, where tourist information is made available about those establishments that are respectful to the environment. As reported in the “green” news Website, Green Lodging News, the number of hotels included in the “Eco-Leader” route has doubled from 1000 to 2100 in the months since the program began. This success has been attributed to the attraction of an initiative that collects the information about green lodging free of charge to be presented on the TripAdvisor site. 

Environmental Requirements

Establishments that want to be a part of the programme must follow a basic series of requirements that TripAdvisor has formulated to ensure the quality of the “green” accommodation. Hotels must provide reliable information on issues vital to the care of the environment and the management of energy, water and waste, placement issues, trade, innovation and education.

Measuring the sustainability by Responsible Hotels.

Measuring the sustainability by Responsible Hotels.

Some of the issues given consideration and designated important include energy monitoring on a regular basis (at least quarterly), a minimum of 75 percent of light bulbs used should be low consumption, the reuse of linens (towels, sheets, etc.), recycling at least two items, personnel training to encourage ecological awareness and environmental education on the part of the hotel.

All of these items are valued and assigned a badge that signifies each. They are classified as four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The higher a hotel’s rating, the greater their impact when it comes to the establishment’s green practises. 

Programme Benefits

An important feature of “Eco-Leader” award is the ability to gather customer feedback. So far we have received over 8,000 opinions about the green practises in action at our various accommodations – a number that provides greater reliability to the programme and those involved in it.  It is also important to highlight the TripAdvisor “green filter”, which allows a visitor to search only those places that act in accordance with environmental protection. 

The programme also includes an audit system that reviews those establishments designated “green” to ensure their compliance with all necessary requirements and sustains a level of “Eco-Leader” quality at all times. 

In this way, this programme follows suit with the type of initiatives promoted by Responsible Hotels, as seen over the last three years on its online channel, in support of responsible hotels worldwide. Like TripAdvisor, we categorise hotels according to a scale that allows conscious travellers to book with an assurance that they will get a sustainable holiday, from eco-lodges in Latin America to cabins in Spanish natural parks to hotel chains that stand apart for their environmental care. 

Check Out Our List Here

As responsible tourism becomes more widespread every day, many travellers are seeking out sustainable options before they begin their journey, including finding out which establishments and products are environmentally friendly. But how do you choose a hotel that is truly responsible?

With this objective in mind, we have spent recent decades creating an environmental label that helps to facilitate finding the sustainable choice.  With Responsible Hotels, we invite you to witness the origin of this process.

The first environmental commitment originated from the Artic cold. Our neighbours in Northern Europe were the first to introduce ecological awareness to the political arena. In 1989, the Nordic Council of Ministers approved the ‘Nordic Eco-lable’, better known as the ‘Swan’ label. This was the precedent that led to the creation of the European Union flower eco-label in 1992, which was known for the offering of green products and accommodations.

Nearly 25 years later, the Swan label marks a before and after in respect to our environment, especially considering the strictness of the label’s qualifications.

To be awarded the ‘Nordic Eco-label’, one must first perform an environmental study and assess whether it is possible to positively improve the product or service’s impact on nature. The criteria are reviewed every three years to keep it updated.

This label promotes the sustainability of products and services by evaluating all phases of the life cycle: from raw materials, to day-to-day use and waste management.

The Pioneers

One of the pioneering hotel chains to receive the Nordic Swan label was ‘Scandic’, with 70 hotels located by Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, which was recognized for its environmental policy. In the hotel’s rooms, synthetic plastics are replaced with wood, cotton and wool. Bath products are biodegradable and even the hotel’s breakfast foods come from farming.

The ‘Nordic Ecolabel’ and its sister “European Eco-label”, with its flower symbol, are focused on reducing any adverse effects on the environment by comparing products and services of the same industry, thereby contributing to an efficient use of resources and a high level of environmental protection. The goal is to provide consumers with objective information so they can evaluate the impact of a particular establishment.

The Nordic countries have also now been renamed the “green countries” for their great care for the local ecology. The swan, which is one of the significant animals of this ecosystem, was chosen to represent their environmental awareness – awareness that has now spread to the rest of Europe. Responsible tourists wanting to visit this area may recognize the symbol that characterizes sustainable accommodation: the swan that looks after the environment.

More and more tourists are becoming more eco-concious when choosing how to spend their holidays, including how they choose a more responsible hotel. Throughout history, tourism has caused irreparable damage to the environment thanks to massive hotel complexes, the enrichment of multinationals, the indiscriminate consumption of energy during the high season and pushing excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

However, there are alternatives that encourage solidarity and ecological care, all without losing a bit of charm. Indeed, its quite the opposite case. That is why Responsible Hotels want to present just one of the experiences of someone who has chosen to explore this new sustainable model.

Cristina Luque is a young nature lover who opted for a responsible hotel on her last vacation.  This time around, her destination was Ecuador where she spent some unforgettable days in direct contact with the local, natural environment. Her first stop was one of the most characteristic ecosystems in the country: the rainforest. The Bellavista Ecolodge is located in the middle of this landscape, situated in harmony with its environment and is self-sustaining because all necessary energy is produced by renewable energy options.

 ”I was pleasantly surprised by the architecture of this lodge because I found natural elements that were not in it. The wood, bamboo and straw helped shape this beautiful place,” said Cristina.

The ecolodge’s history proves to be equally interesting. Several decades ago, the preservation of this area became especially important as soil cultivation threatened the entire area. In the 1990s, a British couple purchased about 700 acres in an effort to recover the essence of the rainforest and for ten years they let the vegetation and wildlife run its natural course. Thus was born this estate, which is also home to research and environmental conservation efforts.

“The lodge organised hiking and bird watching. It was exciting to see the enormous reserves of  hummingbirds in their natural environment,” said our ecotourist.

After spending a few days enjoying this corner of Ecuador, Cristina decided to head to the beach area and likewise chose for the occasion a responsible hotel. Hosteria Mandala is located in Puerto Lopez and has, among other delights, a botanical garden and an area of musical instruments from around the world.

“I liked the humpback whale sightings and the social consciousness of the hotel as it holds an initiative which employs a local staff and contributes to the conservation science project,” says Christina, adding that the hotel’s “whale and dolphin museum brings you closer to these species with a very interesting addition of CDs with songs of these animals. “

The decoration of this lodge is made by local artists from vegetable and marine elements, offering a glimpse of the purest traditional crafts.

“Responsible hotels offer a bonus for you when choosing a place to stay. They allow you to zoom in on an area, offering empowerment and respect, all while contributing to its conservation without having a negative impact at the same time,” concluded our ecotourist – “I was happy to have had the experience.”

Responsible Hotels recommends this increasingly popular holiday choice among more discerning tourists, offering exciting experiences while respecting the environment around us.

Photo by Gran Hyatt Atalanta

Photo by Gran Hyatt Atalanta

Rainwater collection and recycling systems are a reality in a number of businesses and households across the world, but they do not have much of a presence in Spain. This sustainable initiative has emerged as a compelling and economic alternative for hotels who have implemented it, especially across the Atlantic.

That’s why Responsible Hotels wants to take this opportunity to draw attention to the successful implementation of the practice at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in the United States.

The work of engineers is increasingly providing environmental service options for the hospitality industry. Recently, the specialised ‘green’ industry publication, “Green Lodging News” offered a clear example of this with the experience of the U.S.-based Grand Hyatt Atlanta Hotel, which devised a novel system for recycling water resources.

The hotel’s Environmental Director, Wes Shirley, noticed one stormy night that it was a real waste not to use all the rainwater falling on the roof. Soon after, he went to work by contacting a plumber and the hotel’s administrative director and called on the help of the Southern Polytechnic University.   Together, and with the help of some engineering students, they devised a formula to collect the excess rain water. 

While the previous system had the rain pouring down the drain into the sewer system of the city, the revised approach disconnected these channels and funneled the water directly from the roof, through filters and into a collection of tanks installed at the bottom of the hotel for reuse.

There are currently seven of these huge tanks varying in size from 2,500 to 5,000 gallons, or between 9,462 and 18,925 litres. To get an idea of how much they can get to store, a 15-minute rain shower produces about 4,000 gallons (15,140 litres).

Shirley remarked that while a few “parking spaces were sacrificed”, “they are happy because the system has worked very well.”

In many ways, the experiment has worked. The hotel does not spend on electricity because the new approach does not require a pumping system and saves substantial amounts of water. The filtered rainwater is used for the hotel’s cooling tower, which requires about 15,000 litres of water a day during the summer. Water for consumption is drawn directly from the city’s water utility.

An Economic Investment, Recovered 

In Atlanta, they are able to collect about 4 million litres a year from their rainwater collection system. Taking into consideration the cost of both the original effort and the price of water, Shirley estimates that they were able to recoup their investment in less than four years.

In addition to this benefit, the Grand Hyatt Atlanta collects water from its cooling tower, recycles its washing water and is in the process of installing a system to collect the condensate from the HVAC system and ice machine . Shirley added that they, “are currently investigating the possibility of recycling of grey water.”

Thus, responsible hotels have an incentive to using this tool to exploit the recycling of rainwater along with their contribution to saving this precious commodity.

Hotel Duque de Nájera, Rota

Hotel Duque de Nájera, Rota

At the foot of the Bay of Cadiz, the Duque de Nájera Hotel sits in a privileged natural setting next to the beach in Rota. This hotel forms part of the foundation of the Responsible Hotelseffort through its strong commitment to environmental stewardship, offering guests a one-of-a-kind experience.

For that reason, we wanted to speak with the hotel’s environmental coordinator, Maria José Merino, to give us a first-person account of how responsible measures are carried out.

-While working with the Duque de Nájera Hotel, you have developed a number of initiatives that have supported water-saving efforts, the containment of water pollution and an overall respect for the natural environment. What environmental measures would you like to highlight?  

As we are very concerned about the eco-environment and energy savings, we have worked to allow our guests to have the opportunity to contribute to our efforts and goals of the hotel. An example of this is how we deal with changing sheets. Through the use of coloured cards, guests can signal whether they prefer a change of linen or they want a change. The same system is used for towels.  

By doing this, we save both water and energy. Also, we encourage the separation  of waster through the use of coloured rubbish bags. Our housekeeper can then take them to specified recycling carts, allowing us to not only rely on larger hotel waste for recycling opportunities. These are just a few of the many activities that contribute to our establishment’s commitment to change.  

Emilia Lafuente (TUI), Auxiliadora Bernal (Subdirectora del Hotel Duque de Nájera), Cornelius Hoetzl (TUI), Juan Sañudo y María José Merino Rodríguez.

Emilia Lafuente (TUI), Auxiliadora Bernal (Subdirectora del Hotel Duque de Nájera), Cornelius Hoetzl (TUI), Juan Sañudo y María José Merino Rodríguez.

-What activities are planned for customers regarding contact with the environment and nature? 

 The activities organised by our hotel are mostly focused on allowing the most contact possible with the natural environment. Although, given our location in the middle of town, we also like to offer cultural routes as well, with an emphasis on sustainable transport options.  

We organise cycling trips to nearby natural settings, including the Celestino Mutis park where guests can admire natural wildlife as well as get up close and personal with the local chameleon. Rota is one of the few area where guests can view this animal in its natural environment. 

-Does the Hotel Duque de Nájera Hotel offer activities dedicated to younger guests? 

 Although our activities are designed for all ages, it is true that many of our illustrations are aimed at explaining environmental awareness for the younger among us, working with their natural curiosities.  

Another effort implemented by the hotel is an organic garden where we are able to show children the native flora and how we are able to raise common crops. Many of these young guests have never left the big city and are astonished to see vegetable like potatoes and carrots growing out of the ground. It is a very enriching experience for us.   

- What are the advantages of developing this policy environmental? 

Apart from the satisfaction that comes from contributing to the care of the natural environment, our ability to provide and implement these responsible measure for our local surroundings helps us achieve a pride in our work and the quality service we provide, as well as the appreciation of our guests.  

Solar panels

Solar panels

-How does the hotel work to include fair trade and local suppliers?  

There are a number of benefits to working with fair trade products and local suppliers. A part of helping our young entrepreneurs in the area is working with local providers who allow us to buy fresh products in manageable amounts, helping us purchase only what we would consume. At the Duque de Nájera Hotel, most of our employees are from Rota so it helps improve our relationship with the local community to do this, creating a more positive working environment, which is something we pass on to our guests.   

-The Cadiz coastline is an ideal place for the development of renewable energy. Do you use it at your hotel?  

We have long relied on renewable options for energy savings, including the installation of solar panels to provide hot water. Now, we have a system that includes photovoltaic panels for electricity and are always on the look out for new initiatives and ideas that will help create energy savings.  

In addition to saving water and energy saving efforts or those that help increase contact with the local environment, the Duque de Nájera Hotel is always looking for news about sustainability in an ongoing effort to provide the perfect destination for tourists demanding a responsible holiday option.

Source: Uploaded by user via Fuerte Hoteles on Pinterest

 

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase xeriscape at least once before, but what does it mean? Xeriscaping means landscaping with native plants that have little need for water and are easily adapted to the local environment, protecting the surrounding and avoiding the waste of natural resources.

This practice is an increasingly common trend among hotels and easily adaptable to home gardens as well. Further, it does not require any special knowledge, only a bit of curiosity about local plant species and some imagination to create a truly original garden.

 

These low-effort xeriscape gardens provide a great advantage over conventional approaches, providing a significant decrease in water consumption and less overall investment in the time needed for its care,  resulting in less total expense and energy. To this we can add that it also serves as a habitat for local wildlife and native bees, butterflies and other animals.

We at Responsible Hotels can explain how to create such a sustainable garden in just 5 easy steps using xeriscapes as inspiration for new ideas.

  • Soil

The first thing to consider is the type of soil you have to work with and what kind of water it will require. If you have sandy, loamy, well-drained, organic matter, the need will be minimal. Once the soil type is in place, its time to move on to the next step – your choice of plants.

  • Choosing Plants

We can properly select plants for this process according to the type of soil available and climate conditions at your home. For this step, its useful to rely on some help from a local nursery staff. The species that can most commonly live well with this sort of irrigation are trees, Mediterranean shrubs, herbs as well as those plants most adapted to drought conditions.  It is not highly recommended to use grass as it will require large amounts of water, but there are some varieties that need less attention and energy.

 

 

  • Design and Planning

Once you know the type of soil and which plants would work best, it is not time to turn your attention to distribution. For our purposes, we group these plants according to the need for irrigation. Another recommended measure is to create spaces of shade to help reduce water loss for individual species.

  • Efficient Irrigation

At this point, we must consider which irrigation system that we will use. The ideal is a drain or drip system timer, which optimizes the use of water as each plant requires. It is important to schedule the watering time outside of hours of high heat to avoid quick evaporation. Another tip is to collect rain water in storage tanks if available.

 

 

  • Mulching or Natural Covers

When using this approach to gardening, it is important to use something to cover surfaces, like rocks or tree bark. In addition to offering a decorative addition to the garden and a minimalist touch, the coverage also keeps moisture in and helps control the growth of weeds. Such materials are natural casings for our garden that we must periodically replenish as they degrade over time. Another positive is that the decomposition of these natural surfaces fertilizes garden soil, thereby saving on chemicals used for the same purpose.

And finally, how about really ensuring an fully efficient approach by using solar lamps to light the garden at night? Beginning as a novel way to save water when gardening, this approach has helped transform the practice by creating one of the most innovative ways to create a low maintenance approach to landscape design with minimal need for harmful chemicals. Simple, cheap and environmentally responsible – isn’t it time for you to take a chance with a xeriscape gardener? 

UICN If in the previous post we talked about customers who participate in hotel sustainability programs being more satisfied with their stays; it is now, with respect to the high level of customer satisfaction, when hotel companies consider that sustainability must become the norm: more than 75% of U.S. hotels have linen and towel reuse programs, 59% have both guest and internal recycling programs, and 46% have a water-saving program, according to the American Hotel Association.

This is supported by Pat Maher, ‘green guru’ for this association, who says that, in addition to the ecological benefits brought by these changes, this measures also save a lot of money. Sustainability makes business sense for the hotels.

A saving of 745 million dollars

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the hotel industry could save 745 million by reducing energy use by 10%, which translates to hotels earning 2 more dollars per room night.

In view of this, many hotels are trying to encourage their guests’ participation. It is the case of the Sheraton Chain that gives customers a five-dollar food and drink voucher for every day they decline housekeeping’s services; or Hampton Inn, which offers 100% biodegradable cutlery, plates and cups made from potato starch, and asks their customers to reuse towels.

Luxury also goes ‘green’

Although we could think that sustainability programs would hit a roadblock with luxury guests, it is not so. “These practices do not diminish the luxury experience, we still have the best towels, linens and amenities”, Sue Stephenson, vice-president of Ritz-Carlton, says.

Since 2011, the Ritz chain uses the same sheets for its customers two nights in a row and they still have not had guest complaint but have positive comments because “guests know that we are doing the right thing”,” Stephenson said. It is also noticeable the case of Hilton, which has implemented 200 ‘green’ practices and has saved more than 147 million dollars.

It is a fact that more and more consumers choose environmentally responsible hotels. And this is reflected by the last TripAdvisor survey. 71% of travellers reported that they planned to choose hotels based on sustainability for their stays during this year, in contrast with 65% (for 2012).

At home or outside, environmental practices is not just a passing fad but a trend that translates into big savings for hotel chains, increases their guest satisfaction, and promotes sustainability and awareness of their customers. These are the reasons why hard work is needed for raising customers and staff’s awareness. Sustainability has become a safe asset… available to all?

 

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UICN
Hotels face a big challenge when turning their customers stay into a sustainable experience without reducing their comfort and wellness. For example, it can be seen as something unimportant, but, how many customers hung their towels in the bathroom to be reused? At Responsible Hotels we invite you to discuss about customer satisfaction versus responsible tourism practices, starting from the article published by CNN with the title ‘Hotel towel dilemma: Replace or reuse?

This dilemma about towels is only the tip of the iceberg hiding beneath the hoteliers’ concern for being really ‘green’, because they deal with guests aware of the environment, but they do not want to miss any services paid for when they book their stay.

If I pay for it, I want it

Even the most environmentally conscious customer wants towels and amenities to be replaced every day… they have paid for them! Although most of them show an increasing concern for environmental care and prefer to consume green products and practice environmentally friendly activities, there is a big gap between their attitudes and their real behaviours.

This is shown in a report made by Michael Giebelhausen, a marketing professor at Cornell University, who says that as well as a hotel’s sustainable initiative, “consumer also must make some effort”.

Guests who go green are happier

However, to which extent do this means an effort? Those guests who participate in sustainable practices during their stays are happier, according to a study by American Hotel Association, for they feel good about themselves for being environmentally responsible, and that is reflected in a positive way by their satisfaction with the hotel.

These guests, who are supposed to receive a different level of service – because their towels and linen are not replaced every day or they not have amenities–, report in the surveys being more satisfied with their hotel stays than those who have not participated voluntarily in this kind of sustainability programs.

One explanation for this, according to professor Giebelhausen, is that the hotel is providing them with the possibility of “living up to their ideals”, filling the gap, mentioned below, between what you think and what you really do. Either by fashion or because they are really concerned, they feel good about their contribution to the environment.

If we understand clearly that sustainability is an added value for the customer (endorsed by the surveys), is it also so for the income statement? We will see this in the second part of this post that will be published soon under the subject matter ‘Sustainability, as a business?’

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with 23 leading global hospitality companies, are to launch a common methodology to calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings in a consistent and transparent way.

The group saw an opportunity to improve how the hotel industry communicates its impacts. Currently, approaches to measuring and reporting on carbon emissions vary widely. This can lead to confusion amongst consumers, particularly corporate clients, looking to understand their own potential carbon footprint and meet their own goals/targets in this area. In addition, the number of methodologies and tools in use make transparency of reporting within the hotel industry difficult to achieve.

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