Resort Report

Keeping It Green

Story & Photo by Kathy Borsuk

Guests at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort and Spa come to enjoy the crystal-clear turquoise ocean, fresh sea breezes and sugar-sand beach, all of which are TCI trademarks. Little do they know that extensive, behind-the-scene efforts are underway at the popular all-inclusive resort to help keep the Turks & Caicos’ beautiful natural environment intact.

Since the spring of 2001, Beaches Turks & Caicos management and staff have been working towards becoming the country’s first Green Globe certified resort. If all goes according to plan, Rooms Division Manager Clive Edwards says he expects the property to earn the certification by early 2003.

Green Globe 21 is a global environmental program for the travel and tourism industry, part of a larger action supporting sustainable development adopted by 182 governments at the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992. It works by providing the industry with a framework for achieving year by year improvement in key environmental areas, including efficient management of energy and water resources; waste minimization, reuse and recycling; and storage and use of hazardous materials, and encompasses social and cultural issues, as well. Companies that have been certified to the Green Globe 21 standard are entitled to use the “brand” to promote their environmental achievements.
Beaches Turks & CaicosThe corporate initiative was piloted by Beaches Turks & Caicos General Manager Jeremy Jones, who had previous experience with the Green Globe program when he managed the Swept Away Resort in Jamaica, a property which is now Green Globe certified. Jones says, “Since our inception in 1997 as TCI’s largest resort, the management of Beaches Turks & Caicos has recognized its important role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment for the benefit of both guests and island residents.”

Following the lead of a successful pilot program at the corporation’s Sandals Negril Beach Resort and Spa, the process here began with a visit by group Environmental Manager Richard May in April 2001. He conducted a preliminary audit using the Green Globe Standard Checklist and found that the resort was nearly 50% of the way towards meeting requirements for certification. It helped that Beaches was naturally environmentally friendly, with the ocean fronting the property protected as Princess Alexandra National Park and the use of “gray” water for irrigation purposes built into the infrastructure. Clive Edwards was exposed to Green Globe requirements by Richard May and the resort focused its sights on developing and implementing an action-oriented environment management system (EMS) which would become incorporated into all day-to-day operating procedures.

Green Globe was launched to staff in May 2001, with the goal of educating Beaches team members that there would be a drive towards operating with concern for the environment. A general environmental policy was endorsed and displayed in all departments. Edwards says that staff awareness is the key to putting the program into practice. “Not only does the staff have to implement the procedures on a daily basis, they also have to be able to explain them to guests when necessary.”

Soon afterwards, target assessments were created for the various departments. Each listed specific actions for meeting environmental goals and assigned responsibility for getting things done. “In this way,” Edwards explains, “the Green Globe program became a hands-on activity, in which each staff member was able to contribute in some way.” For instance, to improve water use efficiency, the Engineering Department repaired leaky faucets and toilet tanks, began replacing existing toilets and showerheads with water saving models, and installed automatic shut-off faucets and hose nozzles where appropriate. The Food & Beverage Department tackled the same goal with such actions as installing aerators on kitchen taps and pedal pumps where feasible, discontinuing automatic filling of water goblets in the dining rooms, cutting down on the use of ice in buffet lines and eliminating the use of ice carvings.

To improve the efficiency of electricity use, measures were undertaken such as installing energy saving and low wattage bulbs and asking room attendants to keep doors closed while cleaning rooms and to check that windows and sliding doors are kept closed tightly. In the laundry, dryers are operated on a low heat cycle and lint filters are cleaned between each cycle. Staff was asked to turn off computers, air conditioners and copy machines when not in use.

Other actions targeted the reduction of solid waste and use of plastic. Towards this end, all styrofoam containers were prohibited and pitchers replaced individual creamer packages in the dining rooms. The resort is examining the possibility of sending “green waste” from the kitchen and bar to a compost site, which would provide virtually free, natural fertilizer for the property’s lush tropical gardens. Even the office staff can make a difference, by using the backside of copy paper when possible.

To reduce the amount of chemicals entering the wastewater system, baking soda is now used to clean ovens and kitchen sink drains. Bleach use is reduced in laundry and housekeeping and an expanded line of environmentally friendly, phosphate-free cleaning products has been introduced.

Part of the Green Globe program includes nurturing the social and cultural environment of the local community. Beaches Turks & Caicos was a step ahead of the program in this respect, with a long-standing policy of inviting local craft vendors to display and sell their wares, promoting local tours and hiring local musicians for guest entertainment. At the same time, management continuously makes strong efforts to hire whenever possible qualified members of the local community and regularly sponsors training and educational programs.

Paramount to the success of Green Globe is the ability to monitor utilities consumption and solid waste disposal, not only to measure and quantify results, but to detect unusual shifts in usage that may indicate leaks or malfunctions. Fortunately, Beaches Turks & Caicos already had meters in place, as well as a management information system that could serve as an EMS tool to analyze daily electricity, water, diesel oil and liquid petroleum gas use. Monthly monitoring forms distributed to the various departments helped track usage more specifically.

By the time an internal audit was conducted several months later, compliance with the Green Globe standards had improved tremendously. The resort scored a 72%, with the pass level being 70%. As a result, Edwards is confident that following an official inspection next year, Beaches Turks & Caicos will become another one of the seven resorts in the Sandals chain that is Green Globe certified.

How do guests react to the program? Edwards explains that since many measures are unobtrusive, they don’t affect the Beaches sumptuous vacation experience in any way. And when given a choice, he says, the guests are generally positive towards making the environmentally friendly decision. The environmental policy is included in the guest services directory and during orientation, guests are briefed on the fact that environmental measures are being taken and that they have the voluntary option of reusing linens and towels.

The response is especially favorable from European visitors, who have long valued the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. “In fact,” Edwards states, “in a few years I believe Europeans won’t visit a hotel unless it is environmentally friendly.” Education is paramount, and the goal is that eventually, travel agents will inform their customers whether or not a property is Green Globe certified.

Staff awareness proved to be an area requiring focused attention. A “green board” was established in the staff canteen and there is a “Green Team” for which all departments can appoint a member to champion the cause. Posters were created to remind employees of the need for commitment to all environmental efforts. For the future, Edwards says, recognition awards for the “most environmentally aware” team members are planned as incentives.

Besides helping to keep the Turks & Caicos “green” (and blue), Beaches’ environmental management program is expected to reap cost savings. Following initial outlays for equipment and supplies upgrades and replacements, putting a Green Globe program into place has been shown to significantly reduce a property’s long-term operating costs. For instance, the pilot program at Sandals Negril helped the property save over $1.4 million (Jamaican) since its inception.

With strong support from the Turks & Caicos Hotel & Tourism Association, Beaches Turks & Caicos is eager to lead the way for other island businesses and add the Green Globe accolade to its many awards and distinctions. And perhaps in terms of long-term sustainability of the allure of the property itself and the naturally beautiful destination in which it is located, this achievement will be among Beaches Turks and Caicos’ most important legacies.

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