Chic Sustainability Goes Global


Issue 1 2014

Green living is so in, it’s almost mainstream. Better still, building a better and more beautiful future is great – not just for travellers frequenting these eco hot spots, but also our planet. Sustainable design and building, the implementation of animal welfare programs, conservation projects start- ups and the involvement of local communities are just some of the valuable constituents being instigated by hospitality businesses that are changing our landscape, writes Tatyana Leonov

Treehotel: Harads, Sweden

Remember long summer days spent playing in your tree house? At the Treehotel in Sweden you can step back in time and stay in one of seven wondrous tree-rooms. Located in Harads, around 80 kilometres from the city of Lulea, Treehotel is the brainchild of Britta and Kent Lindvall. Inspired by Jonas Selberg Augustsén’s film The Tree Lover (a story about three city dwellers who rediscover their roots by building a tree house together), Britta and Kent built their concept hotel with an emphasis on the surrounding pine forest. The whimsical tree rooms are suspended above the ground (ranging from four to six metres high), giving guests the experience of really being amidst the foliage. Together with some of Scandinavia’s leading architects, the Lindvall’s created dwellings with minimal impact to the environment. Substantial resources have been devoted to finding sustainable construction and energy solutions, and each room features an environmentally-friendly combustion toilet and a water-efficient sink. The seven distinctively themed rooms, all with spectacular views of the Lule River, are unique not only in exterior, but also in the custom-designed interior furnishings. The Mirrorcube is a box in which the surroundings are reflected. To avoid birds flying into the mirrored walls, they’ve been clad with infrared film (the colour is invisible to humans but highly visible to birds). The exterior of the Bird’s Nest looks just like the real thing, albeit much larger, while providing a camouflage for guests to disappear into. Whereas, the UFO is designed to do the opposite, cast in durable composite materials, it looks eerily out of place in the forest. Guests of Treehotel can unwind in an almost untouched environment and escape into the fantasy world that is reminiscent of their childhood.

Anantara Golden Triangle: Chang Rai, Thailand 

Nestled in the intersection between Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, this luxurious hilltop retreat in Thailand’s north offers stunning views across the Mekong River and beyond. It’s a truly opulent resort with all the trimmings – gorgeous rooms with Thai-style accents, stellar restaurants and an absolutely indulgent spa. But the Anantara’s charm doesn’t just lie in its ultra-luxe ambiance – it’s actually an eco-friendly wunderkind that also houses its very own elephant conservation camp. Last year the resort won a hat trick of environmental awards for its commitment to protecting the planet and maintaining excellent environmentally-friendly practices. Its eco achievements include using recycled wood and locally-sourced materials to refurbish pre-existing buildings; introducing tree planting and wastewater treatment initiatives; enforcing hunting and fishing regulations to create a haven for the area’s native species; and donating out-of-use bed linen, toweling and unused amenities to local communities and charities to encourage recycling and reusing. The resort has also set an energy consumption saving target of 10 per cent annually to reduce its impact on the area, and guests can even contribute to Anantara’s conservation work themselves by participating in native tree planting. Many elephants in Thailand live on the streets without adequate nutrition and healthcare, and the resort’s onsite elephant camp is designed to better the lives of the 30 or so Thai elephants that live there with the aid of food and veterinary care. Guests can opt to take an education tour with the resort’s director of elephants, John Roberts, learning about the improved livelihood of the creatures (yes, guests can ride the gentle giants too). Every year Anantara holds the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in the seaside town of Hua Hin to further raise money for the elephant camp.

The Berkeley River Lodge, The Kimberley, Australia

The Kimberley coastline is renowned for being simply stunning, and the 20 ocean view villas that make up the Berkeley River Lodge offer visitors a truly magnificent escape amidst the rugged surroundings. Martin and Kim Peirson-Jones were initially approached by the traditional Indigenous owners from Wyndham and Kalumburu to find a tourism use for their land. They wanted a development that would offer employment opportunities, a revenue stream, and eventually the opportunity to return to live on their land. They spent two years of living on-site making it all happen (initially in a tent before the building materials arrived). In May 2012 they welcomed their first guests and by the end of the 2012 they’d won the state’s New Tourism Development Award. Throughout the design and the building environmental sustainability was a major consideration. The natural layout of the dunes was complementary to the direction the architect was given to maximise views from all buildings and harness prevailing breezes, minimising the need for air conditioning throughout most of the year. Care was also taken to minimise the removal of plant life. Building materials include recycled plastic timber decking, sustainable growth bamboo flooring throughout the interior, as well as plantation structural pine timber where required. An extensive solar system was also installed to complement diesel generators, and currently 90 per cent of the electricity comes from solar energy, which is used in the main building and in each of the villas as well as in the laundry. The luxe lodge is only accessible by air or sea, but the level of difficulty getting there makes it all the more appealing...

andbeyond Phinda Private game Reserv, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

each andbeyond Lodge is built and maintained with minimal impact on the surrounding environment – a key feature when it comes to any building project – but especially important when the surrounding land that a resort stands on is home to an abundance of wildlife. Not all solutions are glamorous, some even go unnoticed, but finding practical solutions to minimise land disturbance is pivotal on each and every reserve. This might include the water recycling, solar power use and the removal and recycling of invasive vegetation. At Phinda even the biofuel that is created from the recycled kitchen and workshops is used in pilot vehicles and on-site lanterns. These vehicles take guests out to sight everything from large mammals such as the magnificent lion, to tiny elegant creatures like the graceful nyala antelope. However, at Phinda it is the fastest of predators that has a special place. Having reintroduced the cheetah to the area after an absence of over 50 years, Phinda has quickly established a reputation as one of the best places to view and photograph these rare cats. With much of Phinda dominated by a mosaic of various Savanna habitats, these speedy carnivores have plenty of space to carry out their explosive hunting technique, as well as enough cover to protect and shelter their cubs. Another success story at Phinda is that of both the white and the more endangered black rhino. Brought back from the brink of extinction, both the grass-eating white rhino and the shrub-grazing black rhino are doing well at the reserve thanks to the maintenance of the landscape.