Guest Column by
Co-owner and GM of the Lodge at Chaa Creek
Since receiving Belize’s first Green Globe certification in 2009 we’ve been pleased to be joined by a growing number of colleagues who recognise the value of incorporating sustainable practices in their development and operations.
When we first opened our family farm at Chaa Creek to guests in 1981, my husband Mick and I knew that we wanted to make sure that our new eco-lodge would contribute to Belize’s environmental sustainability and society. Our own travels taught us that tourism could either degrade or enhance the local environment and communities, and we knew which approach we wanted to take.
While Green practices have been part and parcel of our operations from day one, we found that one of the many advantages of Green Globe certification is that it helped us formalise sustainability programs, and this in turn helped us design initiatives that fostered staff, community and, importantly, guest participation. An example of such successful collaboration is the Pack a Pound project.
Pack a Pound
Since its inception in 2008, the Pack a Pound program has seen Chaa Creek’s guests assisting over 15 Belizean schools with donations of much needed school supplies and learning resources.
The concept is simple – Guests are asked to add or substitute one pound or more of school supplies in their luggage, or post those goods through the mails when they return home. Chaa Creek staff then works with school principals to distribute the goods according to needs. So far, we’ve seen guests donate anywhere from two to twenty pounds of school supplies that have benefitted hundreds of needy students with school books, arts and craft supplies, calculators, pens, pencils and other necessities.
While we have a number of initiatives currently in place at Chaa Creek, such as the Chaa Creek Cares program, which sees 10% of all room revenue going directly into environmental and social programs, Pack a Pound is one of my personal favourites, as it engages overseas visitors with a worthwhile, community-level program that produces real results.
To my mind, this is what true eco-tourism should be about – highlighting earth’s beautiful yet fragile environment while at the same time bringing people from developed and less-developed countries together. With the Pack a Pound program everyone wins – our staff love going out to the schools and being rewarded with smiles, guests take genuine satisfaction in participating and leave Belize with a warm feeling, and school kids and their families benefit immensely.
It’s great to see small things make such a big difference to so many people.