Itz’ana’s commitment to sustainability can be seen in our on-site garden, solar cottages, and sea-to-table ethos. But it goes much deeper. Our love for this place is built into the very bones of our new home.
We sat down with our Sustainability Consultant Michael Laas to talk about what goes into making a sustainable resort like Itz’ana and what travelers can do to help protect this beautiful blue globe we all call home.
“Belize is the sleeping giant for sustainable tourism and ecotourism” he tells us. And he should know.
From launching both the 1 Hotel brand and Baccarat Hotels as Starwood Capital’s Director of Impact to revitalizing local fishing economies on the Southern coast of Haiti with his own nonprofit, he’s let his passion for the planet guide his career from the very beginning.
“I quickly realized how complex the world can be and what helped me through the process of building my career was staying true to my passion, the environment, and allowing my imagination to do its thing.”
And his imagination has made a huge impact!
He’s worked with some of the most forward-thinking hotels in the business to create environmentally sustainable marvels by staying focused on what really makes a difference. And it’s that difference we value most. The culture, heritage and natural environment of pristine Placencia are precious. We believe that luxury travel need not diminish that which is already there, but can actually benefit the community and environment.
“The core elements of any sustainable project are energy, water, waste, material, and people.”
So how is Itz’ana tackling each of these challenges?
“We need to pay special attention to how much or how little energy the project consumes in order to operate and, in cases like Itz’ana, how much energy the project generates. The solar micro-grid is going to be AWESOME!”
“We work with water as if it’s an invaluable resource by consuming as little as possible and reusing what we do consume in innovative ways. All of the residential units and hotel are being fitted with the most advanced water conserving fixtures that use a fraction of the water while still providing a luxurious experience for guests.”
“The crowning achievement for our water conservation efforts is a fully self-sufficient wastewater system that will clean the water to such a high level that it can be used as irrigation or released directly into the lagoon as fresh water.”
“This was a huge investment that the founders believed in since dirty water is one of largest contributors of ecosystem degradation in coral reefs and mangrove lagoons.”
“Waste management is a challenge. The goal is to reduce the amount of trash and find ways to recycle or reuse the waste that is produced. In Belize there are not any laws that mandate recycling or composting but Itz’ana is voluntarily recycling waste and transporting it to a recycling facility in Belize City.”
“Materials are the things that come together to make the hotel a livable space. This includes items like furniture and even the uniforms used by our team members. Much of the furniture is handcrafted by local artisans who use legally sourced wood from Belize’s forests. From the project inception, our procurement strategy has always been to prioritize whatever is available locally, and design around that. When we haven’t been able to find something in-country, we’ve looked to Guatemala or Mexico before going further afield. The closer to home, the better.”
“People are the most important element in the equation. They bring sustainability to life through the actions they practice and their sustained commitment to the mission of the hotel.”
It’s true, we have the best team in the business. (Not that we’re biased.)
“What excites me the most about Itz’ana are the different types of technologies and sustainability practices that are being brought together into a single project. It’s a very exciting example of how resort development should be done. The developers see it as their duty to deliver a project that sets the sustainability bar at a very high level.”
Beyond these big ideas, what are some small things that guests may not notice on their first (or even fifth) trip?
“I believe the positive impact the resort will have on the surrounding community will be one of the greatest accomplishments of Itz’ana. The team have been working hard behind the scenes, and will soon be launching a great number of community programs around health, wellness, environmental stewardship, and life education. One project involves the development of a health center that will provide wellness education and preventative health care to the team and ultimately also to the local population. Another project focuses towards ocean conservation and focuses on a dramatic reduction in plastics use. I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about that over coming months.”
Our team knows our role is to protect the natural environment that existed before we all arrived. We view Mother Nature as our business partner, we have to treat her with the respect she deserves.
We’ve already begun to implement some of this vision in our community through trash pickups, creating a new basketball court for the local kids, and financial support to local initiatives. In the coming months we’ll be sharing more about how our mission-driven standards will redefine what luxury travel means when it comes to nature conservation, health and wellness, and heritage and the arts.
We believe when the peninsula thrives, we all succeed.
And what has Michael most enjoyed about his journeys through our beautiful country? “When I travel through Belize and engage with our local communities I feel a genuine sense of authenticity that is hard to find in the era of mass-tourism and consumptive travel.”
We think it’s pretty unique, too! Belize may be a small country, but over 50% of the nation’s energy comes from renewable sources, and with help from eco-minded people like Michael we expect that number to increase in coming years.
Adventurers who come to Itz’ana are certainly environmentally conscious. Other than staying at sustainable accommodations, we asked Michael for his tips on making your journey more in balance with nature.
“There are too many to list but I will recommend that travelers slow-down and open themselves up to experience their destination. I’ve always found that when I slow down and clear my mind I can begin to appreciate the numerous truths of the natural world that traveling provides to you. Travel slow, eat slow, breath slow, and live slow…. slow things down and all will be revealed in time.”
We’ll raise a glass to that!
Can’t wait to see what Michael and the team have created here in Placencia?A limited number of residences are still available. And be sure to get on our email list to be the first to know when rooms are available for booking!