Where to aim on the eco-continuum?
I spent over a year traveling around on sustainable hotel/resort site inspections from East Africa, to Central America, and seemingly all points in between. Rarely did I get to spend more than one or two nights at each property. For me to be thorough, I needed to have an action plan, call it a comprehensive checklist to each property. It wasn't easy, and I never had enough time to do laundry. *Admittedly, I have had to hand scrub jeans in the shower as a result, which is absolutely the green thing to do, but still isnt fun.
I saw every shade of 'verde' from the washed-out, to the vibrantly pure, and it was in this journey that I formed a deeper understanding of the industry, it's operational challenges, and perhaps surprisingly, I grew a an appreciation for those not quite green enough - yet.
Now let me start with what I looked for at the time.
Being holistically focused, I was looking to be convinced that a property was operating under, or as close to, a triple bottom line as possible. Among the 2 page list of things I looked for (in under a day), I needed to know where the food orders were coming in from, what detergent was being used in the laundry room, where their electricity originated, their waste terminated, and if locals (especially women) held positions of authority. All equally important stuff in my eyes, as we have all come to learn that every choice has both a network, and a life cycle of impacts.
I am happy to say that I found places that met nearly every point on the checklist. They were hitting a 'sustainable grand slam' and it was well-earned, believe me. These are not easy accomplishments, especially in the developing world, and the extra effort and cost, is worthy of our support. Yet, a deeper understanding washed up on me.
I saw a great many places that would have earned, perhaps 50-60% of the check marks. Not amazing, but I had a sense they were trying. These were honest attempts, and I could see it in their eyes. Their hearts were in the right place, and they had 'green goal posts' in their future. Some were off-grid properties that had no choice but to use diesel generators. Yet they grew their own organic food, were locally owned, and were strong corporate social citizens. On the eco-continuum they were ¾'s of the way there, and they were pushing in the right direction. If supported financially, I knew that noisy fossil fuel generator's days were numbered, to be gone forever, in favor of a hopefully quieter and more renewable option.
So herein lies the our collective dilemma.
Do we, as stewards of this planet, support only the efforts of those that got there, those hitting the sustainable grand slams, or, can we enact greater global change by supporting those that want to get there. In a sense, it's akin to a teacher paying extra attention to an A-level student. But what about the kid sitting right behind her. He could be trying just as hard, and shares the same goals and intentions, but perhaps he isn't blessed with the same natural abilities. What about him? What happens to him?
If we want true wholesale change, we must continue to support those that have earned it, but we must also consider those that are trying, especially in these difficult economic times.
They are what we need for the future. We are what they need now.
Aaron Smith, Founder