Eco with an edge:
The dazzling infinity-edge
pool at the Alila Ubud
resort in Bali, Indonesia
According to Hitesh
Mehta, award-winning landscape architect and one of the
world’s leading authorities on ecotourism, “The word eco
has been hijacked.” Indeed, the tiny word (actually just a prefix)
has become ubiquitous, in the hospitality and travel industries as
elsewhere, yet what does it actually signify? An “ecotour” could
simply mean a nature walk; an “eco-hotel” might indicate the
presence of recycling bins on site, and nothing more. When a
uniformly accepted vocabulary on such matters is lacking, how can
planners discern which properties are embracing green practices,
and which are freeloaders riding the eco-bandwagon?
“One solution is to ask questions,”
says Kelly Bricker, director of The International Ecotourism
Society (TIES), based in Washington, D.C., which defines ecotourism
as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the
environment and sustains the well-being of the local people.” Among
those questions: What is green about your facility? How have you
benefited the local community? “If they use environmentally
sustainable practices, they’ll most likely make it known,” Bricker
Bricker also recommends considering
whether the property has achieved some type of ecotourism
certification. Hundreds of such programs exist, and TIES is in the
process of establishing a set of criteria to which it believes
certification programs should conform.
Planners leaning in a green direction
likely would find eco-lodges and eco-resorts of particular
interest. Mehta, a TIES board member, says there is a notable
difference between the two. Eco-lodges must meet specific criteria,
such as conserving the surrounding flora and fauna and engaging in
educational programs about the local environment, and they
generally have few frills and fewer than 75 rooms.
Eco-resorts are more loosely defined.
“They implement some ecotourist practices, but they also feature
amenities such as spa treatments and golf, and they generally have
more than 75 rooms,” says Mehta.
The increasing popularity of ecotoursim
in recent years has led to the proliferation of sustainable travel
beyond typical destinations like Costa Rica, Ken-ya and parts of
South America. Properties in Asia and Europe, for example, are
beginning to exemplify ecotourist practices. The following are a
handful of resorts off the beaten “eco” path, yet entirely
committed to being green.
The Alila Ubud hotel,
in the Balinese village of Payangan,
offers open-air dining
amid coconut palmwood
pillars and a traditional
The 56-room, eight-villa Alila Ubud,
set in the Balinese hillside village of Payangan, didn’t
deliberately set out to be “eco” when it was built 10 years ago. In
recent years, however, the hotel has made sweeping efforts to
minimize its environmental impact and aid the surrounding community
in the process.
In May 2007, Alila Ubud became Green
Globe-certified, meaning it follows criteria established at the
1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. A
“Green Team” of 12 staffers is responsible for upholding the
program’s requirements (audited annually by a Green Globe
assessor), though general manager Amanda J. Pummer notes that all
of the hotel’s workers are extensively trained in maintaining the
The property excels in energy
conservation and practices sustainable waste recycling with its use
of organic composting and the recycling of 80 percent of the water
it consumes. In fact, thanks to various initiatives, water
consumption fell from 5,038 gallons per room per day in 2006 to
1,392 gallons in 2007.
Another of the hotel’s goals for 2007
was to reduce paper consumption by 50 percent. “We managed to
reduce it by approximately 22 percent,” says Pummer. “The good news
is, though, we are now using 100 percent recycled paper for all our
in-house commercial printing.” The resort also encouraged the paper
distributor to create a carbon-neutral tree-planting program in
order to offset the energy used to ship the paper from Denmark.
In addition, Alila Ubud makes it a
practice to support the surrounding community by hiring most
employees from local areas, and management is creating special
tours that will focus on traditional Balinese textiles, which will
introduce the products to guests and help preserve local business
Future green practices at the property
will involve research and further attempts at carbon offsetting.
Pummer intends to conduct studies on the community’s flora and
fauna. To reduce carbon emissions, a proposal is in the works to
change the mode of staff transport from motorbikes to
biofuel-powered shuttle buses. And in the cultural realm, “We will
be introducing new experiences for guests involving local Balinese
healers,” says Pummer.
Meeting facilities consist of a modest
room for up to 30 attendees on the ground floor of the hotel’s
central courtyard. Ubud, an artists’ center known for its
galleries, museums and other cultural activities, is just three
miles down the road.
All of Alila Ubud’s
rooms have views
of the surrounding
Ayung River valley.