It’s still possible to indulge and pamper yourself on an island vacation and stay green. Jamaica is a great choice for eco-friendly vacationers not only looking to not impact the planet in a negative way but in some cases to also give back.
An easy choice for most is to pick a place to stay that practices green initiatives. Smaller boutique and family owned and operated hotels and hostels are usually the first places to look at. Rustic hostels in rural areas like the UNESCO world heritage site of the Blue Mountains such as Whitfield Hall Hostel, uses solar lanterns and old fashioned kerosene lamps to light the nights along with water pumped directly from a stream on the property to provide the necessities for the guests.
Hotel Mockingbird Hill in Port Antonio is a leader in sustainable tourism, being one of the first to evolve into an eco-friendly choice for those seeking an environmentally conscious holiday in Jamaica. Not only is their hot water and other energy sources fed by solar energy, but their upcycling initiatives can be found in the lampshades you see over your heads to some of the vases you see dotted around made from recycled bottles. They have won numerous awards and are leaders in demonstrating how we can not only have less of an impact on the environment but contribute in a meaningful way to the community, including hosting environmental forums and initiatives and sharing their knowledge of how to lessen the impact on the environment.
Other boutique hotels like Kanopi House in Portland have used only renewable and found materials in their building and utilize ‘grey water’ and in full support of Jamaican farmers, offer dining on site with organic meals sourced from locally farmed ingredients. The classic property Round Hill Hotel and Villas also practices organic farming, including purchasing back produce farmed by a student initiative they themselves fund. Among other environmental initiatives, they run a coral nursery and have coral gardeners, who work diligently to care for and expand the nearby existing coral reef.
Another classic historic hotel doing its part is the Jamaica Inn, known for its turtle hatching project to assist with protecting the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. In addition, every Earth day a tree planting initiative takes place in order for them to help do their part in cleaning the air. Solar panels help reduce energy use and recycling practices reduce waste in landfills.
Jakes Hotel and Villas on the South Coast is a unique boutique hotel which sources its produce for its menu from local farmers and offers a monthly farm to table dinner. It also has a pool filtered with salt water and offers some rooms with fans instead of air conditioning. Another boutique hotel in Treasure Beach, 77 West shares a ‘green rate’ on its website, where guests can opt for a room without air conditioning for a lower rate.
Larger hotels have also shown that even the simplest changes create a great impact. Half Moon Hotel replaced all their lightbulbs and adopted a midnight low light policy with the resort making an enormous dent in its energy use both during the day and the night. The landscape and gardens are irrigated utilizing wastewater, further reducing their impact on the environment, while they also host symposiums for Earth Day, support a local all age school and has achieved Green Globe Benchmark certification in recognition of its many environmental and social initiatives.
It isn’t just independently run properties that practice green initiatives, as of 2018, Sandals is the only hotel chain in the world to have six resorts currently holding Master Status from EarthCheck, the world's leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism. Six of the other Sandals and Beaches resort properties hold Platinum Certification; three, certified Gold; and three, Silver Certification. These levels of certification are awarded by not only a standard of environmental practices but the number of years that the properties have been audited by an independent entity on an annual basis and qualified. It takes 15 years to achieve Master Status, showing Sandals Resorts’ give back attitude for years.
Nowadays most hotels in Jamaica recognize their responsibility to the environment and the community, adopting eco-friendly practices in energy conservation and lessening their environmental impact as well as creating their own foundations to help preserve the flora and fauna of the island and support their local community. This ranges from school funding and sports programme initiatives to buying local. Check your hotel website as there is often a section dedicated to showcasing their green initiatives or even how you can donate to causes. Many environmental awards also look at community initiatives such as the medical mission driven by the Issa Trust Foundation begun by the same family who run the four Couples all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica.
Jamaica also takes its environmental responsibility in regards to tourism seriously when it comes to tours and activities. From the Jamaican Bob Sled experience at Mystic Mountain to Chukka activities across the island, the experiences have been crafted to have minimal impact on the surrounding area while also promoting the welfare of the wildlife and the education about the creatures indigenous to Jamaica.
Eco-friendly tours like the Black River Safari educate old and young alike on the delicate environmental and ecological balance of the area while Marine Sanctuaries have been created in Ocho Rios, Discovery Bay and Montego Bay with strict regimentation from restriction of motorized boats entering the area to fishing and coral reef protection.
If you want to take your eco-friendly vacation in Jamaica one step further and happen to know you’ll be in Jamaica on the third Saturday in September you can go to the Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET) website to join one of the many teams taking part in the largest one-day volunteer event in the world, International Coastal Clean Up Day, where Jamaicans of all ages take to the beaches to do their part to help keep our island beautiful.