Friday, May 25, 2007

The Big Green Deal

We got the Green Deal certification for the Hacienda Tijax, second year. Big Deal! One would think that after having:
· planted over 100,000 trees,
· separating and recycling our organic garbage,
· putting double septic tanks on every toilet,
· designing and building in ways to blend into the environment,
· building 2.5 Kilometers of trails by hand,
· conserving over 42 hectares of Tropical Jungle forest,
· making maps, bird lists, list of trees, medicinal plants and
· for over 17 years struggling to keep the poachers out of the land,
· saving the few remaining little beasties,
· returning to the wild uncounted turtles, iguanas, snakes and crocodiles,
· producing over a million pounds of natural rubber
· Conserving our own watershed and water supply system

we should have earned our stripes, or established our “Green Pedigree” so why trouble with the “Green Deal Certificate” ?

First because we (Hacienda Tijax) think of ourselves as members of a wider network of Institutions and business that genuinely want to keep Guatemala “Green” and literally save the planet, we work closely with Alianza Verde, Rainforest alliance the “Green Deal” people and many other Institutions like the CONAP, ECORIO, FUNDAECO, MADRESELVA and many others on issues such as the Mining in Izabal, Garbage Collection and processing, reforestation and more. In fact by being one of the first to sign up and participate we hoped to give the Green Deal Seal recognition and a chance to be accepted as a “brand” with some meaning for the visitors and users of our services.
In order to obtain the Certificate we had to comply with endless paperwork mostly to prove compliance with all existing local laws such as: labor legislation, safety and security, sanitation and cleanliness, taxes and legal framework of the company, land ownership; is it registered? do we have a contract with the government for the shore line? and much more. The “Green Deal” evaluating team reviewed our books, our social security payments, our payroll to insure proper wages are being paid and so on.
So when and if you do visit us you may see we proudly post our “Green Deal” certificates and you should know that our staff is well paid, that we do pay taxes and social security, pick up our trash and try to keep the planet healthy.
I post this to make this point as in the past we have had comments from some passengers questioning our “Green” status. One actually thought another small Hotel was actually more “eco-friendly” than ours, another questioned our having a swimming pool. In the fist case we were being compared to a little Hotel which is quite popular with the backpackers but other than “Invading” a small piece of shoreline on what used to be one of the more pristine rivers in the area and thus changing the nature of the place for ever, they have done nothing for the environment that I know of in the last ten years, no tree planting, who knows what they do with their garbage and sewage what kind of wages they pay, whether they have built in security and safety features like fire extinguishers, first aid kit, etc. They were just lucky that no one threw them out when they should have mostly due to governmental incompetence, now they brag about being Ecological…
Now about having a Swimming Pool, first let me say that the vast majority of visitors DO NOT complain about the Pool, second let me say that no matter what mitigating measures a place like ours implements it will have an impact on the environment. The important thing, I think, is to carry out enough positive actions like the ones mentioned above in order to offset the inevitable negative impact from the presence of humans in a given space. So if the pool is a no-no please forgive us we promise to continue doing a lot more good than harm to the environment.

Eugenio Gobbato