Ewald Biemans, founder and CEO of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba, is a man on a mission.
Biemans wants to convince travelers that a weeklong vacation at his resort is better and kinder for the environment than the equivalent of a drive vacation back home. His mission is to prove that flying to Aruba is more environmentally friendly than driving the same distance on the mainland, and that staying at Bucuti, named by Green Globe in 2016 as the World's Most Sustainable Hotel/Resort, results in far less carbon emissions than a land-based vacation back on home turf.
Biemans has reams of info and studies to back up his claims that a luxury beach vacation and responsible travel are mutually inclusive; for example, Environmental Protection Agency statistics comparing the carbon emissions of air travel versus passenger vehicles.
It's scientific stuff, but the bottom line, according to Biemans, is this: "In working out all of the details of each facet that contributes to a vacation -- travel, electricity and water use, waste management, etc. -- a flying vacation to Bucuti is a better alternative for the environment and Mother Earth. It leaves a lower carbon footprint than even staying home."
It's a tough argument to sell, he admitted, because most travelers think flying gets a bad rap and that it is more harmful than driving from the carbon-emissions standpoint.
His research examines and compares the modes of transportation and a seven-night stay at Bucuti for two (since most of Bucuti's guests are couples at the adults-only resort).
Flying nonstop from New York to Aruba has total carbon emissions of 1,043.2 kg, according to the EPA. Using the EPA's calculations for passenger vehicle emissions, the equivalent car vacation has carbon emissions three times higher, at 3305.23 kg. "Therefore, the environmental benefit of flying with a few hundred people plus the significantly lower carbon footprint at Bucuti & Tara far outweighs the average American two-person road trip," Biemans said.
And once at his resort, guests witness environmental practices really kick in.
"We've made sustainability a real science," he said. "There's no plastic used anywhere at the resort, which has reduced our trash by 60%. All food scraps and leftover food are donated to local farmers for their animals. Guests use an electronic signature at check in instead of paper. We recycle every drop of water. Our state-of-the-art air-conditioning system uses 30% less energy than other systems."
Refillable water bottles are gifted to each guest, perfectly-sized food portions reduce waste; solar panels are used to heat water; motion sensors on lights in public areas and timers on office lights and some public areas cut further cut energy costs, as do insulated windows.
The list goes on and on: laundry bags made of old sheets, newspapers on request only, welcome signs made of used boxes and the fitness center floor covering made from recycled tires.
The environmental focus includes the local community. The resort offers schools eco-tours of the property, and it encourages guests to experience local restaurants because it does not offer an all-inclusive program.
Biemans is aiming for 100% carbon neutrality by the end of the year. "We're at 85% now," he said. "I think our guests appreciate our efforts and feel good with what we're doing. It's a right of life to go on a vacation, and what's happening here gives our guests a dispensation to enjoy themselves and help sustain the environment at the same time."