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The Art of Eco-Conscious Travel

What if you could travel and take your eco-conscious actions with you?

Traveling to the ‘untouched’ places of the world is a delight that many yogis seem to relish in. Standing upon high peaks overlooking beautiful vistas, walking along pristine beaches in the tropics, experiencing local cuisine and nightlife or hiking through the wilderness are things that may have made it on to your “must-do” vacation list in order to see life in some other part of the world for exactly what it is…real.

But there is a dark side to all of this that few of us realize…the waste and trash that comes as a result of our visit to a place that can barely sustain the lives of those who already live there.

Despite spending time doing my best to conserve the resources that I use in my own home, travel is one of the spots which I had never considered. Though I’ve been appalled when witnessing garbaged-filled beaches in Belize or burning garbage piles in places like Costa Rica, the reality is that many countries (especially those less fortunate than the US) simply don’t have the infrastructure and educational outreach to make the idea of “Recycle, Reuse, Renew” come to life.

On my last vacation, I had the incredible pleasure of staying at a unique hotel nestled in the hills of Port Antonio, Jamaica called Hotel Mocking Bird Hill. Initially I was drawn to hotel because of it’s lush grounds, yoga decks, pool, access to some of Jamaica’s most beautiful natural attractions and ability to accommodate various dietary needs (such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free).

I knew that the hotel had won awards for it’s conservation efforts and hosts various wellness & yoga events, but I have no idea how extensive those efforts were. Not only was I wowed by their creativity, but I also came to see that the future of tourism (especially fueled by the yoga industry) must mirror and even exceed our own daily efforts. Conservation is the way for all of us to continue enjoying and savoring in this vast and diverse world without destroying the ground, water, sky, air, culture and community that we witness.

In an effort to inspire more eco-conscious travel, I wanted to share with you some of the ways in which conscious travel can meet the yoga world head on.

1) Solar Powered

The entire facility is primarily run off the solar panels which they’ve installed on their rooftop. Even the pool is cleaned through solar ionizing technology to minimize the amount of chlorine needed for a relaxing swim. The laundry is hung outside and dried under the hot sun (the hotel nicknamed it their ‘solar dryer’).

2) Recycling

There is very little recycling happening on the island of Jamaica. The amount of plastic and trash you’ll see in the waters around Kingston is horrifying since there’s nothing to actually do with all the waste produced by both the island residents and tourists alike.

To counter this, Hotel Mocking Bird Hill has taken to creating functional art around their property (think chandeliers) as well as using it for other creative purpose (they’ve make garden borders from the bottles to keep everything tidy throughout the property).

3) Saving Water

As many of us in the yoga community know, water is a big deal even beyond the ‘hydration’ mentality which we constantly share with students. Clean water in many parts of the world is quite hard to come by… especially when you’re traveling in Third World countries (Jamaica being one of them). As tourists visit all these beautiful, untouched places, we often fail to realize how much water is used and wasted during our stays.

So Hotel Mocking Bird Hill took matters into their own hands and built an extensive rain collection and treatment system which feeds the entire facility (see picture above with black containers). Thus, their guests are never a burden on the water supply for the residents of the island. Plus they avoid all the bureaucracy and politics of dealing with the utilities.

One of the coolest things I encountered here was their unique shower system from Hansgrohe called EcoStat which allows you to set your ideal temperature for the water and then be able to stop and re-start the shower whenever you want without having to relocate the warmth you started with.

So I could rinse, stop the water, soap up, then rinse. Again stop the water, studs my hair, and then rinse. Do you realize how much water this nifty device saved each shower?

4) Being a localvore

Do you know where your travel dollars ever really go when you stay somewhere? Probably not. I didn’t actually think about the answer until my trip because I just assumed that something would flow back to the community in which I was staying. To the contrary, I’ve come to learn that most money used to buy things things to enhance one’s stay are often purchased at the lowest price with no regard for where they come from.

The owners of Hotel Mocking Bird Hill spend their guests’ money on locally made toiletries, locally hand-crafted goods & treats which are left daily in your room for you to sample or carry home as a gift, and locally grown food from farmers in the area. Even their staff are locals… all growing up and residing in the area of the hotel with a great passion to share with you it’s jewels.

5) Reuse

The idea behind reusing something is to create less waste and, as I’ve highlighted, Third World countries need more help than you can even imagine. So the steps your hotel takes, no matter how small, definitely make a difference.

Hotel Mocking Bird Hill gives it’s guests metal straws in the chilled drinks, a personal fabric napkin ‘packet’ which is only washed when it’s actually dirty or you asked for it to be washed (thus saving on water), makes it’s own home-made stock from the scraps of veggies (think carrot peels, pieces of potato, etc) which is used in recipes and even gives your food scrapes from dinner to their lovely dogs or to the local pig farmer to share with the hogs.

As conscious yoga practitioners and world travelers, we need to pay attention to how hotels and such are structured to support their surrounding community. Let’s minimize our impact by bringing consciousness to how we travel and where we stay. This way we can honor our basic agreement with the Earth to leave it a better place than how we each found it.

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About

Jennifer Fugo is a Philadelphia-based yoga teacher, health coach, and founder of Gluten Free School, an online classroom dedicated to healthy gluten-free living. Named a “Gluten Free Guru” by Philadelphia Magazine, Jen's spent the last 4 years vibrantly living gluten-free while coaching clients to do the same. For recipes, articles, events and yoga classes with Jen, visit her at http://www.glutenfreeschool.com and http://www.jenniferfugo.com.

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