Everything is splashed with “green” and “eco” these days. For those interested in staying at places with a light carbon footprint, it can be hard to sort out which are legit and which are simply green washing their hotel policies. On a recent trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico, I was surprised to discover that there are several resorts that have truly embraced environmental awareness in just about all aspects of the property.
It’s easy and possible to be eco-friendly without giving up luxury. If you’re heading to the Riviera Maya and want to do your part to help the environment while still feeling pampered, consider staying at one of these two Earth-hugging resorts:
Hacienda Tres Rios
This resort was built from the ground up with sustainability and environmental planning in mind, and that’s not easy to do. In design and construction, there is always a tendency to opt for the cost-saving options, and it cost 40% more to build Hacienda Tres Rios than it would have if this was just another all-inclusive resort. But eco-consciousness won out, and today the property has a 96% rating for the Green Globe certification, the highest of any property in the world.
The very base of Hacienda Tres Rios is built around the preservation of nature. The building is lifted on stilts so that natural waterways can remain untouched. More than 100,000 mangroves have been planted since the 2008 hurricane ripped through this area, which has brought back a lot of the native wildlife including several species of lizards and birds. A complex desalination process creates very drinkable water on property, thus eliminating the reliance on plastic bottles. In the kitchen, menus are created using seasonal and local ingredients where possible, and the chef has an on-site garden that he taps for the freshest produce. There is a very active composting and recycling program throughout the entire property, and a design that emphasizes natural lighting and shading helps minimize energy usage. In addition, every single employee at Hacienda Tres Rios is Mexican, so all money spent here goes into empowering the local community.
What makes this property most spectacular, however, is the fact that guests hardly even know all of these amazing behind-the-scenes green initiatives are taking place. Instead of roughing it in primitive conditions, guests are treated to first-class luxury with minimal intrusion on their vacations. For example, if someone wants a plastic straw, they have to request it, a simple action that keeps hundreds of pounds of garbage out of the landfills every year. Instead of being thrown away, uneaten food from the buffet is sent to the employee kitchen. When you consider that the average buffet results in 40% waste and the one at Hacienda Tres Rios only creates 7%-10%, much of which then feeds employees, that’s a big difference. In the guest rooms, air conditioning only works if the door to the veranda is completely closed.
For more information, visit the website for Hacienda Tres Rios.
Rosewood Mayakobá is racking up awards left and right for its environmental program including the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Standard-Setter Award and Virtuoso’s Most Socially Responsible honor. The property is a Silver-LEED certified resort noted for its use of environmentally friendly products and local and fair-trade services and goods, preservation of native wildlife and efforts to protect local historic sites.
Like Hacienda Tres Rios, environmental stewardship at Rosewood Mayakobá is very much a behind-the-scenes process. Education programs teach employees best practices for the environment, and active recycling programs throughout the property include not only plastics, paper and cans but items like batteries as well. As citizens of the planet, staff members play an active role in beach clean up, turtle release programs and regional events that encourage sustainable development on the Yucatan Peninsula. Carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by collecting used vegetable oil and sending it to a company that produces biodiesel. Water-saving devices in suites and the kitchen make it easy to conserve water without even thinking about it. Packaging is a big waste problem, but at Rosewood Mayakobá there is a conscious effort to choose products with minimal or reusable packaging including refillable bath products. The resort buys locally and organically whenever possible.
Being eco-friendly is an ongoing process, and at Rosewood Mayakobá there is an on-site efficient energy committee that checks and regulates the daily consumption of energy at the resort and then offers solutions for optimal resource usage. Last year overall energy consumption dropped by 10%.
For more information, visit the website for Rosewood Mayakobá. (Photo credit: Rosewood Mayakobá)
My stay at Hacienda Tres Rios was compensated by the Riviera Maya Tourism Board, but all opinions are my own.