SUSTAINABLE LODGINGS

One of the most significant aspects of making a tourism activity sustainable is the lodgings that are built and maintained within an ecosystem.  To qualify as sustainable, the lodgings must not have a negative impact on the environment.  This would require the construction of the building and the other infrastructures of the lodgings to be made of eco-friendly materials, such as natural products that can be found locally.  In addition, the clearing of the land initially is also significant, as its impact on the surrounding forests and other natural aspects of the region depend on the disturbance to the environment kept to a minimum.  For all of this to happen, it is essential that the builder, architect and developer are all on the same page in this regard.  A total commitment is necessary for all interested and involved parties to the concept of sustainability.

Once that hurdle has been overcome, and it is not a small one, then one must consider all the trimmings to the building, such as the furniture, beds, windows, plumbing, and power source.  Again, the use of local materials for the furniture goes a long way in terms of sustainability.  The power source is a big consideration, and it really is essential for a sustainable lodging to use solar energy, as all other forms of power generation are not eco-friendly and have a negative impact on the environment.

The remoteness of most of these lodgings is another big challenge for operators that demand sustainability.  People that understand the need for such commitment do not find the jump a great one, as the whole purpose of tourists coming to these remote locations is all about viewing animals in their natural environment, so protecting that environment would seem essential for their own existence.  As a result, some of the more committed safari lodges in Uganda have some of the leading eco-innovations and efficient techniques found in the tourism industry.  When traveling to Lake Mburu, for instance, there is a lodge just outside the park gates, Mihingo Lodge, which complies with all these sustainability issues.  Even when they built the eco-friendly tent cabins, they did not remove the rocks that were protruding, but build around them.  When you shower, you will notice the rock outcrops that come through the floor of the cabins.  It is most impressive, that commitment to conserving the environment.

In terms of energy, the remote bush lodges have only two options, diesel generators and solar power.  Diesel fueled generators are definitely not a consideration, as the delivery costs are prohibitive, they are too noisy to operate in the bush and they are a serious source of smoke pollution.  So, cutting edge lodges cut their diesel burning generators to almost zero, using them only for emergency backup during maintenance.  Instead sustainable lodgings are totally solar; they have large batteries to store power for cooking, lighting and all the other essentials that are needed to run a lodge.  Hot showers are possible with rooftop solar water heaters that have zero negative impact on the environment.

Solid waste is a huge issue, and the most efficient option is to compost the organic waste and stock pile the non-reusable waste in a locked storage until they can take them to town to dispose of them.  Most sustainable lodgings try to reduce the amount of packaging that they even bring to the bush, disposing of wrappers, boxes and bottles before they take the contents to the lodge.

Watersheds are susceptible to disease and pollution, so isolated lodges have to treat their water before releasing it back into the ground.  Septic tanks are being replaced with cutting-edge bio-digester units that use natural bacteria instead of harsh chemicals to treat water waste.

When it comes to soaps and detergents, both for the clients’ showers and for the operation of the lodge, it is imperative that bio-degradable products are used exclusively; without this added move, there is little sustainability with polluting the ground water supply or lake that the lodge is situated on.  These products are readily available in Kampala as well as some specialty stores in smaller urban centers such as Masaka, Arua and Fort Portal near the National Parks in western Uganda.

All of these techniques help to create a sustainable lodge, thereby having zero negative impact on the environment where the wildlife that people travel to see.  This creates a win-win situation for all.  By building and maintaining a sustainable lodge, the operators are doing their part to help save the wildlife in Uganda.