Diamond Resorts have a long history of embracing sustainability at their resorts. We spoke to Jose A. Alonso Caballero, Sustainability Ambassador at Los Amigos Beach Club and Jardines del Sol Resort Manager Jeanette Hansen for their tips and advice.
GH: Can you take us on your hotel or resort’s sustainability journey? When did it begin? Where are you now?
Jeanette Hansen: As a Diamond Resorts managed property, Jardines del Sol strongly values the importance of being environmentally conscious and first began its sustainability journey in 2011 by applying for the ISO certification. Since then, the resort has been focused on becoming more eco-friendly through a variety of sustainability initiatives including water control and electricity consumption, and proper waste disposal and recycling procedures.
In 2012, the resort reduced its energy consumption by installing solar panels in five accommodations, and converting its main pools to primarily use solar panel heating as the weather conditions permit. Electricity upgrades were completed and light bulbs were replaced with LED lights in order to be more environmentally friendly.
Alonso Caballero: We have always tried to be a sustainable resort, but our real journey (in terms of measurements, investments, certifications and guest awareness) started in 2012 when we obtained our first ISO14001 certification.
Now in addition to the ISO14001 certification we have achieved numerous other awards and certifications and offer activities and sustainability awareness for our members, owners, guests and team members. We have also developed a European focus group dedicated to sustainability with sustainability ambassadors at every resort and office.
GH: Why did you feel it was important to have a sustainable hotel?
AC: At Diamond Resorts International we strive to make a significant contribution to the conservation and preservation of our world’s precious natural resources. Diamond Resorts International® is actively taking steps to be an environmentally conscious, sustainable, global organization that recognizes how our actions affect the lives of our members, owners and guests, our communities, and ultimately our planet.”
It is important to be sustainable because:
- It has social, economic and environmental benefits.
- We save energy and water costs.
- We become more efficient.
- We innovate.
- We help preserve the environment for future generations.
GH: What are the key initiatives that the hotel has undertaken to improve its sustainability?
AC: The key initiatives have been the targets provided by the ISO14001 certification and those created by our Sustainability Focus Group.
Most common targets from the ISO14001 are:
- Decrease electricity consumption.
- Decrease water consumption.
- Decrease paper consumption.
- Increase recycling by installing more selective waste bins.
- Decrease energy waste (air conditioning/heating)
- Use of environmentally friendly products (cleaning products, eco efficient paper, etc.)
- Creation of an Environment Policy, which all team members and all external providers are required to follow.
The main actions of the Sustainability Focus Group are to increase awareness for our team members and guests. When it comes to sustainability, one of the most difficult aspects to control is the guest’s consumption in the accommodation.
Some of our awareness initiatives include:
- Electricity saving campaign
- Water saving campaign
- Paper saving campaign
- Activities for special global awareness days (Earth Day, Oceans Day, etc.)
- Weekly activities (sustainable vegetable garden, green quizzes, beach cleaning, plant a tree, etc.)
GH: What initiatives have had the biggest impact on your sustainability and / or your bottom line?
AC: The biggest impact has been through the implementation of new protocols and installation of new services and facilities:
- Energy Audit
- Dangerous waste bins and protocols
- Replacement of normal light bulbs for LED
- Double flush system in toilets
- Water tap aerators
- Under door draft stoppers
- Air conditioner/Heating sensors for doors and windows (stop the device when windows are opened)
- Installation of selective waste bins
- Drip irrigation for all gardens
- Close monitoring of all electricity and water usage to detect any anomalies
- Solar energy source for the indoor swimming pool
We have saved water and energy in public areas, but we have not yet recovered the investment due to the difficulty of decreasing the energy and water consumption by guests in the accommodation. That is why we concentrate on awareness campaigns to involve as many guests as possible.
JH: One of the greatest assets at Jardines del Sol is the expansive grounds and beautiful gardens; therefore the team has focused on developing this valuable resource. In 2013 they installed a hydroponic table to grow vegetables and herbs. This is a method of soil-less gardening that uses a growing medium, such as gravel, to aerate and support the root system of the plant and to channel water and nutrients. The produce is then used by the onsite food and beverage operator who incorporates these ingredients into organic menus for the restaurant.
The team also created nine recycling points around the resort, and placed recycling bins in all accommodations.
During the year, the resort celebrates global sustainability holidays and conducts environmental awareness campaigns for its members, owners, guests and team members. These campaigns consist of organized activities that provide information on best practices for how to preserve the natural environment for our future.
GH: Do you have any community outreach programmes and if so, can you describe them for us? Who has benefitted and how? What benefits has it brought to the hotel?
AC: As we have obtained the ISO14001 certification, we require that our external suppliers sign a contract agreeing to work under the standard of our Environmental Policy protocols.
We also choose to work with suppliers that have sustainability-related certifications so that we perpetuate the net of certified companies in the community.
GH: What has been the biggest surprise on your sustainability journey?
AC: We have been pleasantly surprised by the participation and positive response received from all of our guests. It has also been exciting to see how much water and electricity we can save with just a few simple actions.
JH: While on this journey, Jardines del Sol has discovered significant advantages to being a sustainable resort including reduced costs in the mid to long term as well as an increased competitive edge in the hospitality sector.
GH: What has been the biggest challenge?
AC: The biggest challenge is trying to reduce the consumption by our guests in the accommodations.
JH: The biggest challenge for the resort during its journey to sustainability has been implementing the new infrastructure and executing procedures. But this challenge has also proven to be the biggest success as both guests and team members have fully embraced these new initiatives and even supported the resort’s efforts.
GH: How have guests and / or business partners reacted to your sustainability programmes?
AC: The reaction from our members, owners and guests has been amazing. They have embraced all the initiatives, collaborated with us, and even given us suggestions for new things to do as well as areas of improvement.
JH: Jardines del Sol proudly offers a garden walk activity to its members, owners and guests. Lead by the resort’s gardeners, guests can learn about the plants and how the water cycle in Lanzarote works without an underground water source. The gardeners grow their own plants and recycle what they can from trees and even reuse materials for onsite purposes.
GH: Is there a stand-out aspect to your sustainability that is unusual or eye-catching or different from other hotels?
AC: All of the Diamond Resorts managed European properties have sustainable vegetable gardens onsite. We use these vegetable gardens to host activities with the guests. After a brief presentation about the garden and our sustainability efforts, guests are invited to help cultivate the garden and even take some produce with them.
We celebrate unusual global days including “Ugly Sweater Day” (a day where we switch off the heating) and “Lights Off” (where we turn the lights off for 15 minutes to save energy).
We also do some sustainability activities with guests including cleaning the beach, planting a tree, guided tours through the forest and sessions about local flora and fauna.
We post signage on property including a sign on the trees that displays the amount of oxygen supplied by one tree each day. We give awards or gifts (like a complimentary week stay) to the most sustainable guest.
We have a Sustainability Suggestions Box for guests and team members and there are Sustainability Ambassadors in all our resorts. All team members have to attend periodic mandatory training and updates about sustainability.
GH: What plans do you have for your hotel’s sustainability in the future?
AC: We plan to continue setting powerful targets in the ISO14001. This will include installing new services and facilities for saving energy, reducing consumption and increasing recycling; as well as purchasing more environmentally friendly appliances.
We will also continue working with guests on sustainability awareness by providing fun and engaging activities and games, and developing new initiatives through our Focus Group.
GH: Please list any awards and / or certificates your hotel has been awarded for its sustainability.
AC: ISO14001 International Certification Tripadvisor Gold Green Leader Hotel Cornell Study Participant for Carbon Footprint Analysis
JH: Jardines del Sol has received the 2015 and 2016 GreenLeader Gold designation from Trip advisor, an award which acknowledges the resort’s continued commitment to environmentally friendly practices.
GH: What tips or advice would you offer to any other hotel in your region which is just beginning the sustainability journey?
AC: Do not be afraid of the money spent in developing a good sustainable management policy. With time it will bring savings in costs, and will attract those guests who seek out and prefer sustainable hotels.