By Dian Hasan | July 12, 2010
In the era where the entire world seems to have been swept by a “Green Fever”, where “eco-consciousness”, “sustainability”, and “giving back” are increasingly entering our daily vocabulary, I thought it’d be interesting to zoom in on the street-level to see first-hand a very special group of people who are “living a green life” across the world.
Now that’s a pretty wide net to cast! So rather than being stuck in a myriad of terminology and areas, arguing about what sustainable, green or eco-oriented means, I’ve chosen to narrow it down to the business world.
One approach that is gaining popularity is the “3Ps” of 1. Profit, 2. People, and 3. Planet, a business model that focuses on doing well (read: be profitable first), and positively impacting the immediate community and environment (read: empower and engage internal customers/staff, all stakeholders and the community, while maintaining low carbon footprint on the environment). This special group of entrepreneurs are now often referred to as Social-Entrepreneurs.
Social entrepreneurship is the work of a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change (a social venture). Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. ~ Wikipedia
And I choose to focus on tourism, specifically on the hospitality and travel industry, to see not only how green efforts are put into practice, but more importantly to meet the special group of people who are making a difference. A small but growing community of men and women from all walks of life and backgrounds, for whom the call to take on a responsible cause is pursued with nothing short of a passion and fervor!
Andrew Miners (UK) and Marit Miners (Sweden), husband and wife team, founders of Misool Eco Resort. Andrew, avid diver, adventure traveler, and old Asia hand, has been involved in diving operations in the region for over 20 years. Marit, Columbia University anthropologist, diver, and yoga practicioner, met Andrew while vacationing in Thailand in 2000.
Misool Eco Resort, Batbitim Island, in Raja Ampat. Built at the epicenter of Raja Ampat, a remote area previously only accessible through boat-based “Liveaboard” diving expeditions. Misool is one of the few resorts in Raja Ampat area, and considered the chicest with the clearest Responsible Tourism mission.
Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. An area that forms part of The Coral Triangle, home to the world’s richest marine biodiversity. Raja Ampat is widely regarded as the crown jewel of The Coral Triangle, and ranks as among the world’s best diving areas, boasting the greatest concentration of coral and fish species on earth.
- The resort established “Misool Conservation Centre” organization that manages all the Responsible Tourism efforts.
- Community-run, empowering local community.
- Sustainable building materials (recycled drift wood from fallen trees from Yessa Island and surrounding areas.
- Solar Power, Wind Turbine.
- Reef protection/conservation efforts via Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, WWF (World Wildlife Fund), and other international eco-oriented organizations. Misool Eco Resort created its own Marine Conservation Area surrounding the resort island in 2005. The entire 174 sqm (425 sq km) is a No-Take Zone and a shark sanctuary, regularly patrolled by our Rangers with the help of grants from WildAid and the Coral Reef Alliance. Within just two years of establishing this area, shark numbers have increased dramatically and sharks are already returning to, growing, and mating in this shark sanctuary!
The arduous construction process, lead by Misool’s own Thorbin Nieman [top left], German-born master carpenter and dive master. The hoisting of wooden beams in place had to take advantage of high tides. Dive Center, under construction [bottom picture].
The magical underwater world, conserved with the help of various international organizations. Photo: Jones/Shimlock [L]. Alang Alang tall grass being dried and readied for roof material on neighboring Seram Island [R].
Marit Miners practicing a Yoga pose in her “backyard”. Marit and Andrew Miners have taken their responsible tourism to heart! Conservation of the coral reefs and empowerment of the local community underlies their resort operations.
Misool Eco Resort’s take on Responsible Tourism, as stated in their website:
Misool Eco Resort is deeply committed to a policy of environmental and social responsibility. We seek to provide exceptional and enriching experiences in a sustainable environment. We aim to protect and revitalise both our natural surroundings and the community in which we operate. We are committed to demonstrating to our hosts, our guests, and the local government that tourism can support a local economy with much more favourable terms than mining, logging, overfishing, or shark finning.
- With the full cooperation of the local community, we’ve established a 425 sq km No-Take Zone surrounding Misool Eco Resort
- We regularly patrol the area for illegal fishing and shark finning
- The Misool Conservation Centre is being registered as a UK-charity, and will provide a well equipped, functional base for scientific research and conservation projects, both social and environmental
We’ve enginereed our structures to be as low impact as possible, both during building and operation.
- MER uses sustainable sources of wood. With the exception of a few furniture samples and plywood, all the wood used to build our resort has been salvaged hardwoods. Our team has excavated driftwood buried under beach sand, and then milled every single piece by hand in our portable saw mill. To date, we’ve milled over 400 cubits of wood in Seram, and nearly another 100 cubits in Raja Ampat.
- This wood has been purchased directly from the local people rather than logging conglomerates.
- Most of the fine carpentry work, such as making doors, windows, and furniture, is done locally. We supply the carpenters with our own eco-lumber.
- Our pier has been constructed with salvaged 22-inch metal pipe.
- We’ve engineered our structures for a balance between energy efficiency and using natural, environmentally appropriate materials:
- our cottages use natural thatch roofing. It’s a locally made product, and an excellent insulator.
- the cottages have deep verandahs and low roof lines, decreasing the amount of solar heat which enters the building.
- the steeply pitched roofs and open eaves create a natural ventilation system.
- cavity walls are insulated with coconut fibres and treated with borax, a natural termite deterrent.
- whenever possible, we use natural finishing products such as teak oil rather than varnishes and chemical sealants
We’re doing what we can to minimise our consumption of fossil fuels.
- We have sourced low consumption appliances such as air conditioners, fans, and lights
- We are currently experimenting with a wind turbine. We’ve successfully rigged one small one to power the staff bungalows.
- We also experimenting with solar panels. We now have a small panel powering the Dive Centre in the evenings, cutting down the number of hours our generator runs
- We hope to switch over to biodiesel soon using locally produced coconut oil
Water is very scarce at Misool Eco Resort, and we ask our guests and staff to do their part in minimising its consumption. We’d like to decrease our dependence on water sources off our island.
- We have drilled our own well, and also installed a desalination unit.
- We’ve installed water-saving shower heads and taps
- Grey water will be processed with waste water gardens and then redirected to flush toilets
- Rather than washing linens and towels daily, we wash them only when requested
We are operating in a very fragile eco-system, and we’re trying to create a closed loop
- Grey and black water goes through our waste water garden cleaning flower beds
- We compost all our kitchen scraps, which makes great fertilizer for our organic kitchen gardens. And it keeps the monitor lizards happy
- We avoid using pesticides and herbicides. We spritz our plants and trees with an unsavoury mix of tobacco and water. Bugs find it abhorrent
- Inorganic matter is returned to Sorong for proper recycling and disposal
- We try minimise the amount of toxins released into our waste system by supplying our guests and staff with biodegradable soaps and shampoos
- Our island is free of disposable plastic water bottles. Guests are given a sterilised reusable water bottle, refilled at no cost with safe drinking water
- We ask our guests to think carefully when they’re packing and leave disposable plastic lighters, plastic bags, plastic bottles, etc, at home
- We intend to offer a carbon-offsetting option with our holiday packages
The conservation of this delicate ecosystem is critical for a multitude of reasons, including the survival and wellbeing of its human inhabitants. The local community is a subsistence economy, existing on a very slim economic margin. We truly believe that the conservation of this area is absolutely vital to the economic and cultural survival of Raja Ampat’s indigenous people.
- We’ve contracted the land for Misool Eco Resort directly from the Yellu, the local village 14 miles to the northwest of our resort island.
- The majority of our labour comes from Yellu.
- Whenever possible, we buy locally.
- We offer favourable employment terms, approved by the local department of labour as well as our workers themselves.
- All of our workers are offered health insurance for themselves and their families
- We offer many opportunities for advancement as well as job training, regular English lessons, and CPR.
- We educate our local staff on the importance of conservation.
- Our local staff educate our management on local remedies, traditions, wildlife patterns, secret lagoons, Indonesian and local language and culture, etc.