Green tourism in India: Holiday at places that run on sun, soil and happy locals

How Indian tourist agencies and properties are doing their bit to minimize their impact on the Earth, and the longevity of green tourism.


Environmental sustainability and eco-friendly are buzz words that are bandied around a lot, but when it comes to travel, there is a lot more to it then just purchasing carbon offsets. Some Indian tourist agencies and properties are doing their bit towards ensuring the impact on Mother Earth is minimized. Here are a few properties that are making a positive contribution towards the environment:

Compost That

While trekking through Ladakh, I travelled with the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company who focus on providing an authentic experience of Ladakh. Guests stay in local homes, allowing them to engage with families and see how they live. It is preferable to camping, which strains the natural environment. The next day, my water bottle was filled with boiled and treated water, ensuring plastic waste was minimized.

While there are several environmental benefits of home stays, one of the biggest in this region is the use of composting toilets. With water being a scarcity in the mountains, using these natural bathrooms both ensure that tourism doesn’t deplete their resources and the waste can also be used to fertilize fields after it has decomposed. The compost toilets I used in Ladakh were easy to use, with dirt used to compost, and they were quite clean.

You don’t have to go all the way to Ladakh to use a composting toilet though; some small hotels also use them, like Yoga Magic in Goa.

Taking the concept of composting and recycling waste a step further, Samode Bagh and Samode Palace in Jaipur takes liquid waste generated from its toilets and kitchens and then treats it, to be used for landscape irrigation. This saves water and ensures there is less effluent waste entering the environment.

Eat Fresh

Nothing could be better than eating produce that has been plucked straight from the garden! My evenings in Ladakh were spent helping my host pick vegetables from their garden and preparing the meal with them.

While it is now common for hotels and home stays to grow their own sabzi, few go further and use their gardens as an opportunity to improve the farmland around them. At Nirvana Organic Farm in Rajasthan, organic farming techniques have revived the earth that was left barren due to the harsh Rajasthan desert and constant commercial farming. The owners now use their farm to teach local farmers how to rejuvenate their land through organic and traditional farming techniques. The same organic farm also feeds guests who come to enjoy fresh organic produce cooked on an open-air chulha. Visitors enjoy the fresh organic produce that is cooked in front of them, washed down with milk from the resident cows and goats.

Nirvana Organic Farm

Furthermore, they can learn how to cook with the chulha or see local artisans at work, educating themselves on the culture of the region. The accommodation has traditional thatched-roofs and is coated with mud to assist with temperature control in the heat of summer.

Embrace the Elements

There is certainly no shortage of sun in India, but it is only in recent years that there has been an increased focus on using it to generate energy. In the middle of Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Samode Safari Lodge has made a concerted effort to channel solar power to reduce their reliance on electricity and other forms of energy. All hot water on the property, including the swimming pool, is heated by solar power.

All of their properties use solar energy water heaters to channel power and reduce reliance on electricity and other forms of energy, while the water (including the swimming pool) at Samode Safari Lodge is heated by solar power. Better yet, much of the water has been conserved through rain-water harvesting.

Samode Safari Lodge

Similarly, they use water saving sanitary ware, fixtures and faucets including dual flush WCs and sensor operated urinal flushing systems. Samode Bagh and Samode Palace in Jaipur also takes liquid waste from its toilets and kitchens, treating it to be used for landscape irrigation. This saves water and ensures there is less effluent waste entering the environment.

In addition, the Samode Safari Lodge uses natural materials for its buildings and landscaping. Waste wood was used to make railings, sustainably harvested Sal wood for roof structures, timber taken from old houses for flooring, and hand moulded bricks utilized in construction. No trees were cut down when building the lodge. The focus on nature extends to the safaris, where in-house expert naturalists educate visitors on the wonders of Bandhavgarh National Park and surrounds.

But it isn’t just the luxury properties that have found solar power cost effective. At the Organic Farm Stay in Coorg, the majority of their electricity is generated through solar power, and there are plans to erect a wind turbine soon to sustain the energy needs of the farm.

Organic Farm Stay in Coorg

In Coorg, this farm stay aims to be self-sufficient, with the majority of its electricity generated through solar power, and there are plans to erect a wind turbine. Indigenous technology is used to recycle wastewater and locally grown organic food is used to nourish guests. Better yet, the farms rice paddies are fertilizer and pesticide free.

The guest huts have been handcrafted with recycled fibreboard roofs and the furniture has been locally sourced with natural materials, including bamboo, wood and even pumpkins. Local artists’ work is also displayed. Guests are encouraged to participate in the farm, and can choose to plant the rice paddies or help harvest them if they wish.

The chain of ITC Hotels has also made concerted efforts to generate its own power, and now boasts the largest self-owned wind farm of any hotel chain in the world; this is used for captive consumption in Bangalore, Jaipur, Mumbai and Chennai.

Like all things worth doing, making tourism more eco-friendly won’t happen everywhere overnight, but initiatives like these are huge leaps forward that will hopefully be adopted into mainstream tourism sooner rather than later.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rakhee Ghelani is a natural traveller — taking her first overseas trip at the age of 6 months — she has visited 48 countries in the world and still has plenty more on her bucket list. She abandoned a successful corporate career in Australia to backpack across India in 2011 and now calls Mumbai home. She is a travel blogger, writer and business consultant who likes to spend her spare time plann... more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rakhee Ghelani is a natural traveller — taking her first overseas trip at the age of 6 months — she has visited 48 countries in the world and still has plenty more on her bucket list. She abandoned a successful corporate career in Australia to backpack across India in 2011 and now calls Mumbai home. She is a travel blogger, writer and business consultant who likes to spend her spare time plann... more

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