Before You Book: Eco Friendly or Greenwashing
Every month more and more hotels and resorts are being constructed on Phu Quoc and they are all competing for your business. To differentiate their offering some hotels and resorts are trying to capitalize on a growing trend in the travel industry known as “Eco-Tourism”. Many businesses on Phu Quoc are trying to cash in on people's willingness to spend lots of money in the name of environmental protection and tout their environmental credentials in an effort to lure customers and create a positive image. Much of it is greenwashing though, or insincere and over-hyped attempts to be viewed as “green.” Lets define what “Eco-Tourism” and “Green washing” really are:
Eco-tourism is defined as “connecting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in responsible tourism activities should follow the following eco-tourism principles: minimize impact, build environmental and cultural awareness and respect, provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, provide direct financial benefits for conservation, provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people, and raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.”
Greenwashing is a simple, inexpensive means of being green. It is a term coined by environmental researcher Jay Westerveld -“greenwashing is the increasingly common practice of companies, particularly hotels, spending more money advertising their green practices and eco-friendly initiatives than actually instituting them.”[responsive][/responsive]
If you are a carbon footprint savvy traveler you probably have noticed little signs on the bed and/or bathroom sink that describe what that particular hotel/resort is doing to save the environment.[responsive][/responsive]
The amount of greenwashing that is taking place on the island is shocking. This problem isn't unique to hotels/resorts, but it's prevalent. More and more hotel and resorts on Phu Quoc tout how they are going green to save the environment, but they only make incremental changes designed to make us feel good. There are a few properties that make the capital investment to truly change their business model. If staying at an “eco friendly” resort or hotel is important to you, then before your book please review the following checklist of what to look for:
Phu Quoc Eco Friendly Hotel Checklist[box style=”1″]
- If they use buzzwords like “organic”, “local”, “eco-friendly”, “low density”, or “environment”, caveat emptor. There is no law that prohibits the use of green jargon (especially in Vietnam). It's up to you as a consumer to do your homework.
- Is there a bonafide recycling program? Are they composting?
- Does the hotel or resort employ locals/incorporate and support local culture and community? How? And if so are they receiving a fare wage.
- Is the property built and furnished with natural and/or reclaimed or renewable materials wherever possible?
- Are there green options for guests, such as bike rentals and local culture-based activities?
- Does the hotel or resort have green certification from a legit international or domestic organization or program?
- Does the hotel or resort use alternative fuel or electric carts for guest transit on-site and off?
- Are bathroom amenities and cleaning agents chemical-free?
- If there's on-site dining, is the food seasonal and sourced locally whenever possible (which reduces fossil fuel output as well as promotes local food security)?
- Is there a chemical-free on-site rooftop or other garden from which the restaurant sources product?
- Does the hotel or resort have a “living roof” or walls?
- Is the hotel or resort using alternative resources for operations? Examples include solar or wind power, geothermal heating and reclaimed water systems.
- Is the hotel or resort turning off the electricity at night to reduce energy consumption or to save costs?
- What is their commitment to local cultures? Rarely do you see properties trying to help the local communities in any significant way. They operate with underpaid Vietnamese staff (locals) and keep the bulk of profits for themselves (or for marketing) instead of keeping it in the local economy. Just because a hotel or resort hire local staff doesn't mean they are “giving back” to the community to help it grow.
We are living in an era of climate change. The tiny heart shaped island is developing rapidly in a somewhat of an unregulated manner. Businesses are keen to the fact that an increasing number of travelers have an elevated eco-awareness, and they want to capitalize on that. Your dollar spent represents a vote so make it count! Enjoy Phu Quoc, and remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints.