Ecolodging is a response to the growing demand for green tourism, which simply put is aimed at environmentally attuned customers who not only wish to experience nature firsthand but also leave a minimal footprint while doing so. The need for such destinations ultimately lead to the Ecolodge conservation concept. An Ecolodge as defined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is a tourist lodging designed for the expressed purpose of ecological and cultural conservation. Key for any Ecolodge are its water, power and disposal systems being built for efficiency and waste reduction. An Ecolodge also is designed to fit in with its surroundings by being built of (where possible) local materials and in architectural styles that blend into the local culture. Local expertise and involvement is highly encouraged.
Things You Will Need
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Consult with your architectural engineer to ensure that they know of your intention to build an Ecolodge as opposed to a standard inn, mentioning the requirement for low-impact, high-efficiency building systems. As far as building design considerations go, make sure you stay culturally relevant. For example a ranch style inn on the great plains of North America would be fine, but an authentic nod to the plains Native Americans would be better. Similarly, cultural Ecolodges are often mirrored to look like the ruins that draw visitors to the locations themselves. Try to use green technology, like wind, solar and geothermal for power systems and heating when possible. Incorporating clever architectural aspects can also reduce the energy cost of air conditioning in extreme heat climates, with air conditioning being acceptable as long as its powered by green sources and well maintained. Before beginning work, be sure to consult with all levels of government to ensure that local laws and standards are met and any taxes are understood beforehand.
Have the construction foreman or estimator consult with an environmental impact specialist when choosing building materials. This will ensure that the use of ecologically dangerous chemicals is avoided in the building process. Often times innocuous items like varnish can be very hazardous. In cases where the use of harsh chemicals cannot be avoided, ensure that strict containment procedures are in use, and that construction staff is fully prepared to deal with any potential spills. When possible, have such tasks done in a controlled shop setting off site. If large machines or vehicles must be used in the construction process, plan out the ideal way to minimize the number of trips and reduce terrain damage. Having helicopters airlift staff and materials into a location instead of felling forest for a construction road would be preferable for example.
After you have obtained the rights to build on a given location, bring in both your preferred environmental experts, as well as local building contractors to ensure that the construction process of your lodge is both locally authentic and preserves the low ecological footprint requirement of an Ecolodge. Once both groups are familiar with the needs of the project, give the go-ahead for construction. During the construction process, closely monitor progress by having the foreman and the on-site environmental consultant provide progress reports. Keeping a photographic record can also be helpful for later promotions, where you can show customers your commitment to conservation.
Building an Ecolodge, due to its unique nature extends beyond the scope of erecting the structure itself; with strict guidelines being in place as to staffing and employee practices before you can actually call your facility a true Ecolodge. Hire the majority of facility staff locally when culturally acceptable, making use of local guides while providing on-the-job training. Offer expanded educational opportunities for staff when possible, particularly language studies to assist them in interacting with visitors. Contributing to the overall health and wellness of the indigenous community also is par for the course in Ecolodging.
When bringing in local workers and independent vendors ensure that their native culture is one that practices such behaviors to begin with. In situations where small business and trading is not conducted by locals, then bringing in outside staff is a more positive option. Have managers file frequent reports of both goings on and financial activity, as well as offering incentives to guests to critique their stays. When allowing the sale of locally produced goods, encourage fair-trade policies so that vendors are getting a mutually beneficial relationship instead of being exploited, particularly in the case of original handcrafted works of art.
Always ensure that you properly screen employees, with emphasis on background-checking management-level staff. In areas far removed from major settlements (as is often the case with ecocultural tourism) ensure that at least one staff member is trained in advanced-level first aid, and that there are communication lines in place (such as a satellite phone) in case of emergency. Prepare for problems in advance by setting up an emergency response plan, outlining staff actions in the cases of as many foreseeable problems as possible.