Resort Report

A Vision in Green

greenvisionBeaches Turks & Caicos earns Green Globe Certification
By Kathy Borsuk

We all know how good it feels to wear a brand-new suit of clothes. The fabric’s colors are rich, every button is in place, creases and collars are sharp and hems unfrayed. Yet without proper care, over time it’s easy for that garment to become faded, stained and worn, losing its appeal and often abandoned in the back of the closet.

Beaches Turks & Caicos resort

So it is with a tourist destination like Providenciales. It’s really a conundrum; the very qualities that initially make a place appealing — in this case, a pristine combination of sand, sea and sun — can readily be “loved to death” as more visitors discover its charms.

To keep the Turks & Caicos Islands “beautiful by nature,” everyone must accept responsibility for the environment. And as the country’s largest resort, Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa realized from the beginning that they had to play a leading role.

So it was that in December, 2003, Beaches Turks & Caicos became the country’s first Green Globe certified resort, joining 18 other resorts in the popular Sandals all-inclusive chain. With this accomplishment, Sandals became the first Caribbean English-speaking chain to be totally certified.

As reported in the Fall 2002 Times of the Islands, efforts to earn Green Globe status began in earnest in mid-2001, by implementing an action-driven Environmental Management System (EMS) that led to eco-friendly changes in all aspects of daily operations.

Environment, Health & Safety Manager Gordon Elder stepped aboard in November, 2002, following formal training with other such managers in the Sandals chain. He immediately expanded the EMS program to cover health and safety aspects and tackled areas where it needed most improvement, such as team member awareness and education. Elder says he relies heavily on the Green Team, a group of eco- conscious team members from every department. “Their specific suggestions, brainstorming sessions and outreach activities form the backbone of our success in getting Green Globe certified.”

greenteamThe Green Team

A panel of auditors from SGS, an international certification agency, performed the inspection. For 3 1/2 grueling days, they combed the Beaches property with detailed checklists, at large to ask questions of anyone working on the 36-acre site. Elder’s efforts paid off, and the resort passed with flying colors.

Where the environment is concerned, Beaches’ top three projects are the reverse osmosis plant (replaces using scarce natural freshwater wells), a reclaimed water facility (in which wastewater is treated and recycled to irrigate the grounds) and the compost heap. This includes dried leaves, sludge and 45 to 70 buckets of coffee grounds a month! It has been producing fertilizer since June, 2003 — itself recycled to keep the property’s beautiful landscaping healthy and lush while reducing the use of harmful herbicides and pesticides. Beaches’ Grounds Department also looks after the greenhouse, where 35 different types of flowers and 7 varieties of trees are re-grown.

Other conservation efforts range from energy and water management to reducing the use of hazardous chemicals and maintaining an environmentally sensitive purchasing policy. Specific actions taken include using efficient fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow showerheads and phosphate-free chemicals, purchasing goods with minimal packing material and eliminating the use of non-biodegradable products.

Elder explains that a large part of his job involves teaching and sensitizing Beaches’ 780 team members, who represent 33 nationalities, about environmental, health and safety issues. Through on-going presentations, a Green Vision handbook and safety signs (also translated into French Creole) and an Environmental Bulletin Board, he not only heightens awareness of why certain practices help the natural environment, but also why they make the work environment a healthier, safer place for team members and guests.

compostBeaches Turks & Caicos resort compost heap

For instance, he has compiled a massive notebook of usage and safety data for all chemicals used on the property, and, with Beaches Training Manager Marion Warnke, explains to team members the best and safest way to handle and store the chemicals they use on their daily jobs. The TCI Fire Department participated in fire extinguisher training seminars and a property-wide fire drill, while hurricane safety and emergency procedures are regularly reviewed.

In collaboration with the Public Relations Department, Elder schedules Green Vision presentations to mark key environmental milestones, often involving government and community groups. For instance, on World Health Day, the Green Team organized a conference with Desmond Hall from the TCI Health Department to discuss working together to improve island recycling efforts. On World Population Day, the Green Team helped the Providenciales Red Cross conduct a clothing drive and on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, senior citizens were invited to lunch at Beaches, which included an environmental presentation.

Realizing that children are the key to future change, Elder involves the local schools whenever possible. On TCI’s Literacy Day, Beaches staff talked about the environment with students at the Enid Capron Primary School and planned for this March is a repeat of the successful Clean-A-Thon with Clement Howell High School.

Young and old, Beaches guests are involved in Green Globe efforts, starting with their initial orientation to the property. Elder explains, “We created an environmental mascot, Lucky the egret, as a tool for offering pointers on how guests can help preserve her beautiful surroundings. We have room cards that encourage guests to conserve energy, water and detergent use by turning off lights and thinking twice about reusing linens and towels.” The response is overwhelmingly positive, he says, as increasing numbers of travelers value eco-conscious experiences.

To increase motivation among team members, Elder developed a Green Vision awards program, including selecting an Environmental Employee of the Month. He also plans a quiz show-like contest covering facts from the Green Vision handbook. Regular internal environmental and safety audits help nip problems in the bud.

Elder concludes, “All of our team members are proud of achieving Green Globe status because it enhances the image of both the resort and the Turks & Caicos Islands. We’ll continue to improve our performance and work to maintain the certification when the auditors return annually. We also look forward to sharing our knowledge with other interested parties so that the entire Turks & Caicos Islands remain beautiful by nature.”



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On the Cover

Marta Morton, owner/operator of Harbour Club Villas (www.harbourclubvillas.com) took this photo of the native Turks & Caicos rock iguana on Bay Cay. This endemic animal is being threatened by the invasive green iguana. See article on page 36.

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