So what is it? Responsible tourism means different things to different people - eco-lodges, recycling, low-impact, environmentally-friendly to name but a few! In this age of 'green-washing' it's easy to get confused, but it involves a lot more than simply switching to energy-saving lightbulbs.
Our philosophy at Hickatee Cottages is one of minimal impact to the environment, and maximum benefit to our adopted community.
We are committed to providing guests and visitors with a sustainable, quality product that protects the environment and conserves natural resources, while promoting and protecting the local culture and economy.
We reduce, re-use, and re-cycle wherever and whatever possible, and care deeply about our adopted homeland.
We have re-developed only a small portion of our land (15%) which was cleared some years earlier for small-scale farming, and this area was cleared entirely by hand so as to retain the maximum number of trees forming wildlife corridors. Our ‘garden’ area has been landscaped with native plants to minimize soil erosion and eliminate the need for any irrigation, and the lion's share of the property remains in its original natural state. We allow no logging, hunting, or fishing, and actively complain and campaign against any irresponsible and illegal logging, fly-tipping, and the like.
We use virtually no chemicals on our farm, use only natural cleaning products, and compost all organic matter. We provide the use of free bikes for our guests, encourage people to 'tread lightly' and not to remove any items from their home - whether seashells and fragments of coral on the Cayes, pieces of pottery at the Mayan sites, or plants, seeds or flowers from the bush. It may be something of a cliche, but "take only pictures, leave only footprints" is a fairly good start!
COMMUNITY & CULTURE
The many unique and diverse cultures that exist in Toledo are fragile, and have already been impacted through the increasing levels of secondary and tertiary education, migration to town, Cable TV and the numbers of family members living abroad.
We are committed to raising awareness and telling our guests about the different local cultures, but also the impact that their presence may have. We feature regular Garifuna drumming at Hickatee, as part of our effort to help preserve the culture in 'Peini' (the Garifuna name for their original settlement of ' Punta Gorda') and raise awareness of their rich heritage.
We have a small but growing library of books on Belizean and Toledo history and culture, both fiction and non-fiction, feature local and Belizean art in our rooms, and showcase Belizean music at Hickatee.
KEEP IT LOCAL
We operate an equal opportunities policy, and employ only local staff. We consider staff training an integral element in ensuring long-term sustainability of the tourism industry in Toledo, and we are committed to training, empowering and supporting our staff in all aspects of their work.
We are committed to local purchasing, and around 95% of our day-to-day requirements are purchased within 3 miles of Hickatee Cottages. We give preference to local (Toledo) and then Belizean produced goods and services, those that are environmentally friendly and from sustainable resources, and those that are eco-labeled and from socially responsible manufacturers. When we have no alternative but to buy imported goods we purchase these locally first, and nationally second, giving preference to CARICOM produced goods.
Toledo District, Southern Belize
Maroon Creole Drum School, Punta Gorda, Belize
We constantly have to consider the requirements of our guests and the provision of a quality product, while endeavoring to make any impact on the environment and community a positive one.
What we have tried to do is respect and improve the environment wherever possible, and integrate and actively participate in our community.
Renewable energy is an important part of our philosophy and we continually strive to reduce our use of non-renewable energy, with the bulk of our power provided by solar panels and a battery-inverter system.
Unlike many parts of the world, water supply really is not a problem in Toledo! The District averages in excess of 150 inches of rain annually (thankfully the vast majority of it at night), and we have a 100 foot well which supplies us with 10 gallons of water each minute even through the dry season.
We are mindful, however, of our water consumption because whatever is used has to be disposed of.
Our policy is to change linen and towels every three days, unless otherwise requested. We ask our guests to be mindful of their water consumption, to turn off taps when not required, and to report any leaks immediately.
REDUCE, RE-USE, RECYCLE
We first reduce, and then re-use wherever and whatever possible, whether natural products or man-made. We encourage guests to refill water bottles by providing free refills from our larger bottles which are themselves recycled by the bottling plant. Sophisticated waste management systems are not available in Belize, and we are constantly mindful of the 'cradle to grave' principles with our waste management systems.