Extreme Green – Greenspeak – 2016

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Visitors to Bali have almost too many options these days when choosing where to eat and sleep. It’s both politically correct and lucrative to be ‘green’ in these enlightened times and an increasing number of visitors are voting with their credit cards to stay at environmentally sustainable accommodation.

The word ‘ecotourism’ crops up frequently, but what does it really mean? The International Ecotourism Society defines it as ‘responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people and involves interpretation and education.’

In the Bali context, this translates as low-impact, small scale alternatives to mass tourism. It takes considerable commitment, knowledge, planning and investment to create sustainable accommodation. When faced with a selection of hotels which claim to be ‘eco’ or ‘green’, here are six questions to ask:

  • What are your policies to conserve water and electricity?
  • How do you manage the solid waste generated at the hotel?
  • How do you manage your kitchen waste?
  • Where does your sewage go?
  • What percentage of food in your kitchen is locally produced?
  • Where were the building materials sourced?

Management and staff of authentically sustainable hotels/lodges/retreats will be eager to share all this information and proud of their achievements. If you’re not getting enthusiastic and informed answers, take your custom elsewhere.

In this column I refer to five truly eco resorts/lodges/retreats that are fully committed to long term sustainability; I’m sure there are more. Four of these are located in Bali’s central mountains and the other next to the sea near Amed.


Balila Beach Eco Resort is the only one of these properties to be located on the beach instead of the mountains. Perched on a bluff over a sweeping black sand beach just a 20 minute surfside stroll from Amed, the property currently has five large rooms and seven small ones. Building by the ocean has different challenges from the mountain lodges. Beating the heat without air conditioning means building walls with local rock and earth, high ceilings, orienting the buildings so direct sunlight never enters the rooms and providing plenty of natural ventilation. Many of the wooden supporting posts are made of neem, a local fast-growing tree with insect-resistant properties.

The greatest challenge here is water conservation on the arid north coast. The property’s well becomes brackish in the dry season, so three rainwater catchment tanks have been constructed under the buildings to hold a total of 62 cubic metres of water. “It’s really difficult to be self-sufficient in water in this area,” explains Birgit, the Austrian-born architect who designed and built the Balila Beach. “Every drop is captured and recycled over and over. The toilet and shower fixtures use reduced water. Black water from the toilets is processed through a wastewater garden and grey water irrigates the fruit garden.”

The garden provides some of the food served in the simple restaurant but it’s harder to cultivate a food garden near the sea than in the mountains. All the food is very local and daily fish is purchased from the fishers whose boats line the beach below. As with Bali Silent Retreat, WIFI is discouraged; internet is available in the restaurant but not in the rooms.

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