Environment

Beaches Turks and Caicos goes green

BY KIMONE THOMPSON thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010    

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ONCE you open the sliding doors to the patio overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the faint hum of the air-conditioning unit stops.

It's barely audible, but if you stay outside a while you'll notice the change in temperature in the room when you get back.

The automatic A/C switch-off feature is one of a raft of environmentally friendly ones practised in all three villages — French, Caribbean and Italian — at the luxury Beaches Turks and Caicos on Providenciales.

That, along with partial solar energy use, a keycard light control system and a tap-installed aerator, forms part of the hotel's utility plan which it hopes will result in savings of up to 20 per cent of its hefty US$750,000 energy bill.

There are two sets of photovoltaic panels at the hotel. They provide energy for the pools, the A/C system, and the back of the house which includes staff locker rooms, storerooms, laundry and housekeeping. The light control system allows you to switch the lights on and off once the room entry keycard is inserted into a magnetic slot by the door. Pulling the card out turns the lights off all at once.

"As a result (of these measures), we have been able to save 8.5 per cent from total energy costs and the aim is to achieve another 12 per cent," former executive assistant manager Florian Seifert told Environment Watch.

Seifert, who now operates from another Beaches property, was in charge of environmental health and safety, security, transportation, among other things, at Beaches Turks and Caicos.

But the money to be saved, though it cannot be understated, is not the only benefit of the green practices.

"Our aim and our promise to our guests and team members is to deliver a safe, clean environment and to ensure that they are not getting hurt and that they can enjoy their jobs," Seifert said. "At every staff meeting we have we try to encourage people to become environmentally friendly. If the company is environmentally successful, we can have more jobs (because) everything you do in saving money for your company secures jobs in the area or village."

Other measures the hotel uses to ultimately decrease costs and do a good turn for the environment, are recycling, paper shredding, composting and using locally produced fish fertiliser.

"It smells terrible," Seifert admitted.

Beaches Turks and Caicos also has its own desalination plant -- since there is no fresh water source in the TCI -- and uses the waste/grey water for irrigation.

"And we only use approved and certified Green Globe 21 products to ensure the environment stays clean," Seifert said.

The resort also takes its environmental programme into the water. Fourteen miles of Providenciales' north coast, close to where the hotel is located, is a marine park. That means guests aren't allowed to interfere with the underwater flora or fauna, especially not the coral reef.

To give its guests an alternative, the hotel's water sports team implemented an artificial reef using shells, rocks and concrete, through the non-profit Reef Ball Foundation. The reef units, called reef balls, have a rough surface to encourage settling by marine organisms such as corals, algae and sponges.

"It gives guests an alternative as they won't have to walk 10 minutes down the coast to the marine park and it's a way to protect the endangered coral reef," director of water sports Michael Clarke said.

Clarke, a Jamaican, is confident reef balls could be used in a similar fashion in Jamaica.

"It could work tremendously in Jamaica. I think we could have one of these in every hotel in Jamaica. Guests go to Jamaica not only for the ocean; they go for the vegetation and tropical fish. But unfortunately, when in Jamaica we don't see any tropical fish. If Government had put stringent rules and policies in place, this wouldn't have happened," he said.

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