A couple of night ago I had a chance to talk with a group at the Northern California Underwater Photographic Society monthly meeting. We were talking about what makes an ecolodge “eco”. Here are my thoughts.
An ecolodge should have as one of its main principals “do no harm”. Serious effort should be made to minimize the impact on the natural setting and the local culture. The lodge should also be engaged with the community, hiring locally and working with community members to improve things for the community. That might mean helping to improve schools, helping with health issues or something as simple as organizing the shipping of a new church bell. Notice that there is a partnership here, the community has identified a need and the ecolodge is working with community members to resolve that need.
Ecolodges can come in many forms, but generally there should be a reason for that form. For instance, Kosrae Village is designed to replicate a pre-contact Kosraean village, because our partner, Madison Nena, was (and is) very concerned about the loss of traditional skills and knowledge on the island. Proximity is not enough. Generally a 5 star hotel build near an important natural or cultural site simply as a business proposition would not qualify as an ecolodge.
Besides being designed thoughtfully, ecolodges have a passionate concern about something, the environment, the local culture, the health and welfare of their community or something else, but there is always that passion.
I think that the key points here are that ecolodges are committed to and passionately involved with their world, while making every effort to have a light footprint in all ways.