Let’s have a closer look at the Eco Lodges. From all tourist facilities, these lodges should have the least impact on the environment. Eco Lodges belong to some of the best-known products in Ecotourism. Their intention is good, but there are no official international rules that set the standard and regulate Eco Lodges. There is no regulation about how you need to manage your lodge to be able to call it an Eco Lodge. So far it is only possible to gain different certificates with different international organizations. Some of them include the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance, the Center for Responsible Travel and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). All of them can provide good guidelines which responsible businesses can decide to follow. Some countries have their own regulations and laws which hotels and lodges need to obey. But how the restrictions are locally enforced depends mainly on the local authorities and the absence or presence of corruption. More information about sustainable hotels in chapter 14.2.
An important fact that most people forget, or prefer not to talk about when it comes to Eco Lodges, is simply that many of them are built right on a pristine beach, or into the (Amazon) Rainforest… So to build these Eco-Lodges, you first need to damage the environment. First trees and plants need to be cut to create infrastructure, for the construction and to transport the tourists, supplies and provisions. Some ‘Eco Lodges’ use poison to protect their gardens and tourists from insects. While others have monkeys as ‘pets’ and/or swimming pools full bleach to keep the water clear. Still, they are legally allowed to be called Eco Lodges.
Keeping the above in mind, what would be a real Ecological Friendly Lodge, if such a thing exists? Let’s try to give a few general ideas. For starters, such a lodge will have to be built at the edge of a natural area, not right within. Part of the infrastructure is already present, so only a limited amount of trees will have to be cut. The lodge would have to be built with mostly natural construction materials that don’t have to come from far. They can’t have an artificial swimming pool that uses bleach and in their garden only grow local plants. Of course, they don’t use poison to protect those plants or their clients, which means there will be more mosquitos. The lodge has no wild animals as pets and they don’t feed wild animals to animate their clients either. Not even the (humming) birds! The use of electricity is reduced to a minimum, so no air-conditioning, television, and internet. The use of water is limited to the minimum, so sheets and towels will only be washed after the clients leave. Preferable the lodge provides biodegradable soap and shampoo and their meals are prepared with food that grows in the area and doesn’t have to be transported for hundreds of kilometers. Guides who work with Eco Lodges will have to treat all Flora and Fauna with respect. This means that they cut as little flora as possible and surely don’t pick up tarantulas, snakes, sloths, or any other animals that their clients like to take pictures with. Do you think that this type of lodge would still be popular with tourists? Likely most tourists prefer to stay in a less ecological friendly lodge. A friend of mine who runs a rural/ eco-lodge at the coast of Colombia agrees with this. Her clients frequently complain about the basic facilities of her lodge. Those basic facilities include: no flushing toilets, only short cold water showers, limited variety of available food, guests have to bring their own towels and sheets are only changed when the guests leave. A good example of a guest friendly sustainable Eco Lodge is Izhcayluma in Ecuador.
Of course, the concept of an Eco Lodges is still good. And in many places, it might still be better to have semi Eco-Lodges, instead of no lodges at all. This is because the biggest advantage of these lodges is often that they prevent mass farming, hunting, logging, or even mining in the area. However, overall it is good to keep in mind that staying in an Eco Lodge doesn’t mean that you don’t cause an environmental impact. It just means that your stay has less of a negative impact on the environment. Besides, it is always good to try to adjust your behavior while traveling and staying at a lodge or hotel. See chapter 15.